Sunday, January 20th marked the 28th anniversary of the best day of my parents’ lives: the day their favourite child arrived on this terrestrial sphere. Sadly, they were not in Bangkok to personally thank me for being born, but T-bone stepped up to the plate quite nicely. He planned a celebration that included two of my favourite things: food and crocodiles. I’m not sure why I like crocodiles so much, but something about their snaggle-toothed grins just does it for me. A group of our friends from school were kind enough to humour me on my birthday, and joined us for an afternoon at The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. It claims to be the biggest crocodile farm in the world, and after a day of traipsing around its lagoons, I believe it.
We spent a lot of time staring at the baby crocodiles, simply because we didn’t yet realize that the zoo had other exhibits. Besides, it took awhile to fully take in this reptilian goodness.
The exhibits were quite strange – the various enclosures clearly contained different varieties of crocodiles, but there were no interpretive signs except this:
It also looked like the crocodile pits were located next to the employee housing. I’d have a hard time sleeping if I lived next to these fellows.
After awhile, we made our way to the crocodile wrestling show. It was pretty lame and mildly depressing. The crocodile wrestlers dragged bored looking crocodiles out of the water, and made them open their mouths and snap them shut.
We left part way through the show, and boarded a toy train that looped around the park.
We soon realized that the park is huge, and contains a variety of large animals. Some of the enclosures seemed fairly well designed, but others were cramped and dirty. It was sad to the see the conditions that some of the animals had to live in, and particularly sad to see chimpanzees dressed up and chained to tables so that tourists could take pictures with them.
One of the craziest parts of the experience was how close you could get to the animals. There was only a chain-link fence separating us from full-grown tigers and lions, and you could feed and touch (if you’re insane) adult hippos. Actually, you could feed pretty much any animal you chose. I had a small heart attack watching unaccompanied small children near open cages.
I hardly saw any zoo employees in the whole place, which felt pretty sketchy, especially when we discovered the adult crocodile lagoons.* A wooden bridge wound its way over multiple lagoons filled with hundreds of MASSIVE crocodiles. At several points, we were only a few feet above the crocs, and the bridge was not what you’d call “sturdy.” If you so desired, you could also drop raw chickens in the water for the crocodiles to eat.
Perhaps the strangest part of the zoo, though, was the – and I quote – ‘Handicapped Crocodile Exhibit.’ This was a series of small cages that contained crocodiles who were ‘damaged goods’ in one way or another. One had a wonky mouth, another had a forked tail, another was albino. The craziest part was that you could easily reach over the bit of fence and stroke the crocodiles should you desire to do so. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the exhibit.
I finally had my fill of crocodiles, and we left the zoo for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Awkwardly, I managed to get a photo of the food, but not the friends. Oops! Thanks for coming!
And one last birthday moment: Cute Patriotic Texas Beth made this adorable tea towel for me. I feel that crocodiles will be the next trend in home decor.
* Speaking of sketchy, during the monsoon floods in Bangkok last year, a bunch of crocodiles escaped from the farm. There are photos on the internet of people checking on their submerged cars. They glance behind them, and BAM! Massive carnivores out for a playful paddle…