The best thing about the Dusit Park zoo is clearly the hippopotamuses. Actually I should be more specific: they have both regular and pygmy hippopotamuses, and the pygmy hippopotamus was not up to much. And the sign on the regular hippopotamus enclosure promised three hippopotamuses, but there were clearly only two. But we arrived right at feeding time, and if you give the good man twenty baht, he will give you as many bananas and long beans as you can toss into the gaping maws of the two hippopotamuses, who have clearly been eating well in this fashion for years:
They are fine and jolly beasts. A sign says that one of them came from the Netherlands in 1967, which seems impossible to believe; she has had 14 piglets (this term is almost certainly wrong) since then. Maybe she was the missing third hippo? One worries. But these ones were happily eating, and let themselves be patted on their bristly jaws, which feel like rubber.
The other nice thing at the zoo are the paddle boats, which can be rented for not very much money. They are, it has to be said, somewhat dangerous, especially if you are taking a baby on them – there are no guard rails, and our boat did list in my direction a great deal, though I only noticed that after I ran into the side of an island while trying to photograph a water monitor. The attendants do give out life preservers, which is heartening: the water teams with enormous swimming lizards, to say nothing of the carp and catfish maddened by being overfed, and one hesitates to think what unseen horrors might lurk under the nearly opaque waters.
The water monitors here don’t seem to be quite as big as those in Lumphini – the longest was maybe a little over four feet – nor as thuggish in nature but they do seem slightly more energetic. Wikipedia has a terrifying image of one in a tree, taken, it says, in Bangkok, so I kept checking the trees; I did not see any there. But the paddle boating! It’s pleasant, and the baby didn’t fall out, so that was fine.
The reptile house in general was frighteningly thorough – more snakes than anyone would know what to do with – a few Midwestern corn snakes looked a little lost amidst the cobras and kraits – as well as a pleasant selection of turtles and tortoises, and some fine crocodilians, including a gharial. Also a stuffed crocodile! who seemed to have been stuffed some time in the late nineteenth century and given a coat of lacquer every year since, leaving him with a fine finish indeed. Around the zoo are sculpted animals, some more fanciful than others; this one, in front of the puma cage, is either a puma or a hyena or a demon:
Some of these statues promise more than they deliver, like the dinosaurs in front of the reptile house. Oh well.
The seal show is also pretty good. There are only two seals, or only two were on view, but they do tricks and they have a hype man who explains things energetically in Thai, which I did not understand, though Harriet clapped and clapped. The trainers wear white boots, which seems suitably fashionable, and everyone came out to the strains of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, though I didn’t manage to get that on camera.
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The zoo also has an air raid shelter from WWII which you can go into, though it is not explained very well if you don’t read Thai.
What is not so nice at the park: the chimpanzee enclosure, which is not extremely small, though the chimps did look unhappy with their lot in life. There appeared to be only a single ostrich, which seems a little sad? Though it did have a single zebra for company. The map claimed penguins; we found no penguins, though that might have been my failure to understand the map.
But all in all, it’s a pretty good zoo.