Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daily Report: Nong Nooch

Sorry about the poor picture quality.
We are back to a camera phone for
the time being.

With Epril and Honey Mae new to town, Geoff and I are taking this opportunity to show them around to all of the tourist attractions that we ourselves have either enjoyed in the past, or are yet to see. Today, we were off to Nong Nooch Gardens, a huge botanical paradise and cultural center that lies about 10 miles south of Pattaya. It is Pattaya's best and most well-attended tourist attraction (aside from Walking Street and the beach, naturally).

The cost to get in is the standard 400 baht for white skinned people, 200 baht for dark skinned people. At least in this particular venue with the racist pricing policy, you can't complain quite as much: You do get your money's worth at either price. In nearby "Underwater World", for the same price, we managed to last for 45 minutes before we ran out of things to look at. Here in Nong Nooch, we started working our way through the massive grounds at 1:00 in the afternoon, and at 6:00 in the evening, we finally gave up trying to see more stuff.

Today was a drizzly day, so be brought umbrellas with us, but the rain soon stopped, and although the heat and humidity were oppressive, we managed just fine.

We started off in the butterfly aviary, with monstrous moths and butterflies to view. Then, we walked along the skyways that run through the garden, high up in the lush canopy (you can walk high or low here... it is your choice), ate some ice cream, and wandered over to the French Garden with its nearby salas, mock temples, stupas, and animist totem pole collection. The amount of earth and stone that had to be moved to create this place (assuming the place is not located on some glacial debris field) is astounding. The attention to detail (especially for a Thai-run venue) is very good.

After spent about 90 minutes walking through the gardens, we went and had lunch at one of the restaurants. The food wasn't that good, and the prices were a little high (especially if you buy the 300-baht all-you-can-eat buffet for Epril, who is full after 4 or 5 spoonfuls... ouch), but it wasn't really bad prices overall (100 baht ($3) for a sandwich, 75 baht ($2.25) for soup).

After lunch, we went to the Thai cultural show. It was nice, although at 4 or 5 shows per day, the dancers lacked the ability to keep up the "flash and fire" in their routine, and the smiles were a little taut... but the costumes were great, and the show in and of itself was entertaining.

From the cultural show, you walk straight back to the elephant show. I had heard quite a bit about the elephant show at Nong Nooch, but I was quite surprised at the talent/training of the elephants: The elephants throwing darts with their trunks and popping balloons at 50 feet, painting trees and flowers, bowling a ball 75 feet and getting a strike (or even picking up the spare), and giving massages to people lying on the ground with their massive feet.

Epril had never seen elephants before, and was a little wary of getting close to them at first, but eventually she fed them, and even let two of them pick her up in their trunks so that she could have her picture taken.

After that, Epril had her photo taken with some nearby orangutans, and Honey Mae had her picture taken with a tiger. Unfortunately, I really have to discourage other people from doing this in the future: From the way I saw the trainers and orangutans behaving, I think that the orangutans are smacked around in order to keep them behaved, and the tiger was so terribly drugged that he couldn't even open his eyes, let alone keep his head up. It was really quite sad.

We bought tickets for a tram trip around the park, which took us to some of the outlying gardens which are too far to walk to: The cactus garden, the banzai tree garden, and also around to the front of the park, where a new resort hotel is being built. After that, we stopped and had cappucinos at the coffee shop and relaxed.

Finally, we were going to go see the aviary and the small zoo that is on the grounds, but everything closes at 5:30, and we were just a little bit past that time. So instead we settled for walking through the zoo. Actually most of the animals — now that the crowds had left — were up and about, and getting ready for sunset.

So, finally at 6:00, we called it a day... a most enjoyable and satisfactory day... and climbed into the car and drove home. Without a doubt, Nong Nooch should be at the very top of your list of (daytime) tourist attractions here in Pattaya.


spiiderweb™ said...

Even with the camera phone the pictures are great.

Next time suggest Epril let one elephant pick her up. I've done that and was amazed how gentle they are. They hold just tight enough so as not to drop you.

BTW, aviary refers to a "bird" cage. I looked it up.

Butterflies have pavilions, gardens or hutches from what I could find.

Issarat said...

What a nice day report Jil; my friend went to those gardens and said it was fantastic also.

Thomas said...

Nice report, but sad that you actually took the photo with the tiger and orang-utan and later tell us not to do so.


Jil In Pattaya said...

Yes Thomas... A completely valid point which I thought about when I posted the photos.

However, Epril likes the photo of her with the orangutan, and wanted her mother to see it, so I put it up... even though I don't recommend it for other people.

A moral quandry: Girlfriend's happiness, or standing up for the orangutans.

Of course, once you've compromised your principles that much, the picture of Honey Mae with the Tiger just follows naturally.


(If it is any excuse: I didn't see what went on with the orangutans or tiger until after/while I was taking the photos.)

Anonymous said...

That orangutan is a trip. My friend had a scrape on his leg from dumping his motorbike and the orangutan kissed it. I was sad to see the caged truck with them in it though.