Tag Archives: Kids

Farm Chokchai Farm Tours

One of the best agro-tourism projects in Thailand is undoubtedly Farm Chokchai in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. In fact it has won many awards. Farm Chokchai is situated on the Friendship Highway in cowboy country and is only 159 km from Bangkok. You can either come here as a day trip from Bangkok or as a stopover on your way to Khorat. The highlight is undoubtedly the farm tours. Farm Chokchai was started by Chokchai Bulakul back in 1957. The farm began with beef cattle but later turned their attention to a dairy heard. Today the farm covers an area of 8,000 acres and has 5,000 head of cattle. In recent years, the farm started their agro tours where people can learn about the running of a dairy farm which also includes hands on experience of milking a cow, making ice cream, petting farm animals and watching a cowboy show.

You can join farm tours from Tuesday to Sunday. During the week they only have two scheduled tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. However, at the weekend they have six rounds starting at 9 a.m. and the last one at 3 p.m. The tours start off with a short movie. Then you are taken outside to see the Machinery Museum where you can see the original vehicles used at the farm. Our guide only spoke Thai but there were signs in English. Our next stop was the Milking Parlor. Apparently, the Friesian cows have a high yield of milk and so they are milked three times a day. On my father’s farm, we only milked the cows twice a day. The milking procedure is fully automated with enough room for 192 cows to be milked at the same time. Our tour guide gave us a demonstration on how the machines work and also how to milk the cows by hand. If you are keen, you can change into some Wellington boosts and have a go at milking the cows.

We were next taken into the Dairy Plant. This is where they produce four milk products: milk, yoghurt, ice cream and milk toffee. Interestingly, the brand name “Farm Chokchai” was sold some years ago so they call their milk products “Umm…milk”! In the dairy plant we watched a movie which showed us how the milk is pasteurized. We were then taken on a tractor and trailer ride to tour the rest of the farm. Each tour is limited to 80 people due to the size of these trailers. This part of the tour doesn’t have any English subtitles so you just have to admire the views of cows grazing in the fields and farmhands working the land. At least there is no two price system and so foreign tourists enjoy the tour for the same price of 250 baht for adults and 125 baht for children. We also passed a sunflowerfield though strangely they didn’t pause for us to take any pictures. A short while later, we reached our first destination. A kind of Wild West Town.

At this first stop, you basically have some free time to wander around. There are souvenir shops and shooting games to play. These cost 30 baht a game. For older children, there is a chance to ride a horse for 40 baht or to take your whole family on a horse and cart ride for only 100 baht. I went for a walkaround to take a closer look at a dragon fruit plantation. I have eaten this fruit before but have never seen the cactus like plant growing on a farm. Next to this there is an ATV Track where for 180 baht you can take a ride along their course. When you arrive at this stop on the tour, your tour guide will tell you how long you have to hang around here. If you don’t speak Thai, make sure that you ask her how long you have.

When we arrived, there was already one tour group that had been there for a while. They were waiting for us to arrive so that the two groups could see the cowboy show together. We had about 15 minutes to wait before the show started. This was of course the highlight. In a small arena, we were treated with some stunts where a horseback cowboy lassoed a cow and then showed how they would then brand it. Another cowboy showed us tricks with a lasso and then one more impressed us with his dexterity with a gun. Well, it would have been impressive if he didn’t drop it at one stage. After the show, the first group left straight away but our group stayed around longer so that everyone had a chance to try all the activities.

After another half an hour, we were back on the trailer to continue our tour. A short while later we paused by the side of the track to see a demonstration of how a sheep dog can successfully heard sheep into a pen and then up into a truck. We then moved on to our last and final stop. This was the petting zoo and animal show. This is a great place for the younger family members. They have smaller ponies here for the younger kids to try their hand at riding. In the petting zoo you can buy food to feed the animals. Here they have some camels as well some deer and rabbits. You can also give some milk to the baby calves. We had about 15 minutes here before the animal show started. This had the usual acts like a parrot doing simple arithmetic and dogs jumping through hoops. I guess I am a bit jaded as I have seen this kind of thing quite a few times but the audience loved it. Once this was over we were ushered back onto the trailer to finish our tour.

I did enjoy this tour even though I was brought up on a dairy farm. I am not sure if foreign tourists would find Farm Chokchai of interest as it isn’t what you see as “traditional Thai”. However, the highlight of any stop here is the Chokchai Steakhouse which had the best steaks I have had in a long time. Whenever I drive to Khorat for a holiday, I always stop here on the way home. I think the tour itself is more of interest to Thai families and expats living in Bangkok. However, if you are on your way to Khorat then it might be worth a small stopover. They even have a boutique camp where you can stay the night in “tents”. If you do this then there are more activities that you can take part in including ice cream making. I will go again as I think Nong Grace will enjoy the farm tour and the petting zoo. However, she might not like the idea of being rushed around as I think she would want to spend more time with the animals.

Many thanks to the management of Farm Chokchai for showing us around for free. Thanks also to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for taking us there. They also paid for our delicious steak and hotel accommodation. If anyone has a tourist attraction or a hotel that they would like us to do a site inspection of, then please contact us through the www.paknamweb.com website.

Siam Park City

There are a number of amusement parks around Bangkok that are ideal for families of all ages. These include Safari World and Dream World which I have recently visited. Another large amusement park that I went to this week is Siam Park City (Suan Siam in Thai), a short distance north-east of Bangkok. It is very similar to Dream World with its rollercoasters and other rides. However, a large part of the 120 acre park is taken up with a water park. I went there with young Nong Grace to do a site inspection. I haven’t been here for about ten years and I must say that I was impressed with the large variety of things to do to keep everyone amused for the whole day.

We arrived at the park shortly before 10 a.m. when it was just opening its doors for the day. If you go at the weekend then it will open earlier at 9 a.m. The entrance to the park is through a large recreation of a Disney-like castle. At the ticket office they give you a bilingual map of the park where you have to make a decision of where to go first. Even if you stay all day until the park closes at 6 p.m. you will probably find it difficult to experience everything. However, as many of the rides weren’t open when we arrived, we decided to catch a ride on a golf cart for 10 baht each to the large water park on the other side of the park.

There is no doubt that for many families, that the water park is the highlight of any day at Siam Park City. In fact, you can easily laze around here all day. You don’t even need to feel pressurized to get your money’s worth by playing the other rides. This is because you can buy an admission ticket that includes only the water park. This is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. When we arrived we weren’t planning on doing any swimming. However, when Nong Grace saw how much fun people were having splashing in the water we had to go to the shop to buy her some swimming gear. Apparently you can also rent. There are a number of different areas to the water park. Some were ideal for younger children who cannot swim as the water wasn’t that deep. However, it is advisable to keep an eye on young children as there are some rock pools and they could slip and hurt themselves if they get too excited.

The water park has three main features. First is the action river which flows around the park like a real river. Nearby is a giant waterslide with several levels depending on how brave you are feeling. The largest area is taken up by the artificial sea which even has waves. One area has shallow water with water fountains and waterfalls for the youngsters to play. The artificial sea section starts shallow but gets deep quite quickly by several meters. This area isn’t safe for young children to play alone. There were quite a few lifeguards on duty and one kept calling out in Thai to young kids who tried to play there alone. If your children are competent swimmers then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. But, I fretted a little with Nong Grace as she is only five years old. She kept running off. There is actually a fourth feature which is the 3-storey high spiral slide. However, this was still closed after an accident earlier this year when 28 children were hurt, four of them badly, when a section of the slide broke and they fell two metres to the ground.

We spent nearly three hours at the water park. There were plenty of places to eat and buy food. You can even rent a deckchair for the day for only 10 baht. I think it is nice to come here for the day just for the swimming. However, there is also the theme park and amusement rides. If you bought an entrance ticket for the water park then you can pay as you go with each ride. The prices for these ranges from 30 baht for a boat ride for kids up to a whopping 300 baht for the Vortex rollercoaster where you are hanging beneath the tracks. The boomerang rollercoaster is 150 baht and Giant Drop is 120 baht. These are all new rides from 2007 and weren’t here during my last visit. If you are planning on doing a lot of rides you can buy a Silver or Gold combo ticket for 350 baht and 500 baht respectively. These give you discounts on many of the rides. However, the best value ticket is the Day Pass for 600 baht which gives you access to the Water Park and unlimited rides at all attractions. If you want to play everything then you should go for this one. However, if you are planning on coming more often then you should consider a Year Pass which is only 1,000 baht which gives you unlimited access for the whole year.

A new section that has just been opened this month is Africa Adventure. Nong Grace was really excited to go and see this one as she liked the drawings on the map. However, once on the boat ride, she kept saying, “They are not real”. But, she still enjoyed the boat ride through the jungles of Africa. The highlight was the waterfalls with the hippos and elephants. The most puzzling section was the African village where a white man was being burned alive over a fire. I am not sure what the story there was. At the end of the boat ride, we then switched to the train which took us around the jungle again. However, this time we had an unobstructed view of everything which made it easier to take pictures. The problem of the boat is that it has a low canopy and it was difficult to see anything high up. From my side of the boat I only saw the feet of elephants.

Near Africa Adventure there is a large building called Dinotopia. This is a kind of a dinosaur museum but it was a bit poorly maintained and really not worth a visit. We also felt let down by the Jurassic Adventure. Here we took a jeep ride through a park much like the movie of the same name. However, the dinosaurs were a bit pathetic. There was a commentary but only in Thai. The nearby Big Double Shock is a bit like a Ghost House. But, as Nong Grace was scared stiff of the one at Dream World we didn’t go in this one. However, she enjoyed the rides for kiddies in Small World. The park has two rollercoasters, a Viking Ship, a swinging Flying Carpet and 75 meter Giant Drop. We didn’t go on any of those but we did go up the 109 meter high Siam Tower which gave us some grand views of the park and surrounding countryside. We could also see a new area of the park which apparently will open in 2009. Grace also enjoyed the two-storey high Merry-go-round and feeding the fish on the lake.

We finally left the park six hours after first arriving. I think she wanted to stay longer but I was exhausted. We did have a great day and I am sure we will return again next year. Nong Grace certainly wants to play in the water park again. You can go to the park by public transport such as Buses no. 60, 71, 96, 115, Air-conditioned buses no. 168, 519, and Micro Buses no. 8, 17. We drove there easily via the outer-ring road and turned off for Serithai Road and headed towards Minburi. The signs were easy to follow for the park. From the new airport, I reckon it is only 30 minutes or less. So, if you have a day to waste then you might consider going to Siam Park City for a swim while you are waiting for your flight. Just take a taxi to the park. It is easy to find one to take you back.

We wish to thank the management of Siam Park City for sponsoring our visit for the day at the park. If anyone reading this runs a tourist attraction or a tour in Thailand and would like to invite us on a site inspection, then please contact us through www.PaknamWeb.com.

Dream World, Bangkok

One of the major theme parks in Thailand is Dream World in Pathum Thani Province, just north of Bangkok. If you are on holiday in Thailand with your kids and are looking for an entertaining day out, then I would seriously consider Dream World. It is a bit out of the way but there is certainly a lot there to entertain kids and adults of all ages. However, if you are expecting something of the standard of Disney World, then you will surely be disappointed. It really depends a lot on what you have seen and experienced before. I have been to many theme parks on four continents and I would say that this one is good value for money. I took Nong Grace there last week. As she was only five I thought that there wouldn’t be much for her to do. But, that was far from the truth. She was kept busy literally all day exploring the park and going on some of the kiddie rides.

The highlight for Nong Grace was definitely Snow Town. Of course, for Europeans, this might not be such a big deal, but Nong Grace has never seen snow before and was really thrilled to play in the snow. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have appropriate clothes to enter Snow Town as you can borrow for free Wellington boots and a parka jacket. However, they don’t give you any gloves and I think the next time we go we might bring some along. Nong Grace wanted to throw some snow balls but her hands were so frozen. The temperature in this giant freezer was a very chilly -3 degrees Celsius. A drop in temperature of about thirty degrees. Really, the snow was more like frozen water and it wasn’t that easy to make snow balls. But, they did have fluffy flakes at Snow Town and you should have seen her face when it started to fall from above. It was a priceless picture moment seeing a child experience their first “snow” fall. For bigger kids there is also a sledge ride down an artificial hill. We spent about 40 minutes there and I think we were lucky that there weren’t that many people during our visit. I could imagine that there would be long queues for the sledging.

Some of the bigger rides include “Sky Coaster”, a rollercoaster where you are flying through the air, “Super Splash”, a boat ride where you will definitely get wet, “Grand Canyon”, where you go on a trip down some rapids, “Hurricane” which does somersaults and flips, and an old favourite “Viking”, which swings round and round. Most queues I saw for these only had a dozen or so people waiting. Most visitors seemed to be school kids. At weekends and holidays you will probably see more families. Other great rides include “Bump Boat” and the more traditional “Bumper Car”. There are even go karts. Nong Grace had plenty of gentler rides that she could play on. If you are bored with rides then there are more traditional fairground games where you can win teddy bears and other stuffed toys. Also for young families, there are plenty of photo opportunities in the Dream Garden and also Fantasy Land where you can see the Gingerbread House and the old lady who lived in a shoe. Nong Grace’s favourite building was the Giant House from the story Jack and the Beanstalk. Everything was extra big which included not only the chairs and table but also things like a box of matches and a spoon and fork.

When we first arrived at Dream World, we first took the cable car ride which gave a great bird’s eye view of the park. This took us more than halfway. We then went straight to nearby Snow Town which turned out to be a good idea as most people were still playing the rides. Afterwards, Nong Grace played on some of the gentler rides and also the Bump Boat. For lunch she wanted to eat at KFC. But there are also other food venues at the park. We spent the early part of the afternoon looking around that area. She tried the Haunted House but closed her eyes for the majority of the time. She also played a fishing game and won a small teddy bear. At 2.00 p.m. we went to watch an Animal Show. Nothing that unique as we had seen it all before many times, but she loved the performing dogs. Straight after this we had to go to the main arena to watch the Stunt Show at 2.30 p.m. At the weekend there are extra shows. It was worth watching but it was all in Thai. We then slowly walked back to the front gates, stopping here and there to take pictures. We had hoped to watch the Parade but it started to pour with rain.

Nong Grace had a great time and said she definitely wanted to go again. The park has a two price system; however, the foreigner’s ticket is actually better value for money if you play everything. The Thais have a choice of paying an entry fee of 150 baht and then pay for the rides as they go. These range from 20 baht to 80 baht. They can also buy a saver ticket for 365 baht which allows them to play everything once. There are several tickets for foreign tourists. The super value one is 450 baht and gives you unlimited rides on all the attractions. The price is the same for kids. I think that is good value for people who are planning on doing everything more than once. You buy your ticket from the Information Office instead of the normal ticket window. They speak excellent English and they will clearly tell you what is included or excluded for each kind of ticket. The park is open daily from 10 a.m. You can reach there by bus numbers 523 from northern bus terminal and 538 from the Victory Monument. You can also join tours to go there for about 1,000 baht each. Alternatively, take a taxi.

Click here to see pictures of Nong Grace at Dream World.

We would like to thank the Public Relations Department at Dream World for sending us a VIP Pass. We genuinely had a great day out and we will be going back again in the future. If you are a manager of a tourist attraction, then please feel free to contact us to arrange a site inspection. We are also interested in tours and homestays. However, we reserve the right to print negative reviews if we feel that the public won’t get good value for money.

Khao Kheow Open Zoo

There are a number of zoos in and around Bangkok that are ideal destinations for people on holiday in Thailand with their children. One of the better zoos is Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chonburi Province. It is about half way between Bangkok and Pattaya. The journey took us about 90 minutes and so it makes it an ideal day trip from either Bangkok or Pattaya. However, it is not easy to reach there by public transport so you might have to rent a car or hire a taxi for the day. But it is certainly worth the effort. I went there yesterday with Nong Grace and she had a really great time. She certainly wants to go back again.

In some ways Khao Kheow (sometimes spelled Khao Khiew) is similar to Safari World in Bangkok. It has all the regular animals that you would want to see such as giraffe, elephant, tiger, lion, chimpanzee, camel etc. It also allows you to get up close to these animals. There were many opportunities where you can feed the animals. Food was available for the animals at a very reasonable 20 baht a bunch. Like Safari World you can also drive through the park. However, at Khao Kheow you can get out of the car at most places and get quite close to the animals. You wouldn’t want to walk around the whole park as the animal exhibits alone cover an area of 400 acres.

If you don’t have a car you can always take a guided tram ride or rent a bicycle or even hire a golf cart for 300 baht for two hours. When we go again we might just do that. There are several places within the park where you can rent golf carts. We spent most of our time feeding the giraffes so next time we could park the car there first. Then when ready to explore more, we could go and rent a golf cart. The advantage of a golf cart is that you will see a lot more. Also, we were sometimes a bit lazy to keep getting out of the car to see all of the animals. Having said that, we did spend an incredible six hours at this zoo!

In the afternoon we went to see a Bird Show which was quite good but the parrot named “James Bond” didn’t always want to perform on cue. But, it was an enjoyable show for the youngsters. At the end of the show, Nong Grace wanted her picture taken with a parrot which only cost 20 baht. Nearby there was an adventure playground and a Children’s Zoo. Nong Grace spent several hours here playing and feeding the animals such as rabbits and goats. In fact I think we probably fed most of the animals at the zoo several times over. Luckily this wasn’t as expensive as at Safari World. Nong Grace wanted her picture taken with some of the animals such as tiger like she did at Sriracha Tiger Zoo. But, we didn’t see any opportunities for that which was a shame.

When we went to Safari World, the price of the tickets for foreigners was a really expensive 700 baht. This was mainly due to the shows. Nong Grace said she wants to go there again but I have told her it is too expensive. In contrast, Khao Kheow Open Zoo is far cheaper though obviously more challenging to get there. They have a two price system but the difference is very minimal. Thai adults are 70 baht and foreign adults 100 baht. Thai children 15 baht and foreign children 50 baht. Nong Grace is only four and they let her in for free. I then had to pay another 50 baht for taking my car into the zoo which was also very reasonable. As there wasn’t much difference between foreign and Thai price I didn’t bother to ask for local price. But they gave it to me anyway. It is nice when they do that without asking.

If you are a parent with children, you will probably find Khao Kheow Open Zoo much better if you have your own transport. This meant that Nong Grace didn’t have to walk around so much and we had a mobile base where we were able to keep drinks and snacks. The reason we ended up staying there six hours was probably because we drove around the zoo twice! Which is something you cannot do at Safari World. On the first round we skipped a few places which were too near to each other. Then saw these animals on the second round. We also went back to see some of her favourites like the giraffes and elephants. She also liked throwing cucumbers into the open mouth of the hippos. They apparently have a night safari here which might be worth investigating. I also noticed that they have a camping ground though I am not sure if that is mainly for schools.

Sriracha Tiger Zoo

People often ask us for family friendly tourist attractions in Thailand where they can take their kids to have some fun. Sriracha Tiger Zoo is a great place for kids on holiday in Thailand. It can be done as either a day trip from Bangkok or as an excursion from Pattaya which is slightly closer. We drove down there this week to visit the zoo and it took us only 80 minutes from the Bangkok area. I took Nong Grace again as she enjoys visiting zoos and animal parks. Up to now, she has been quite nervous about getting close to any of the animals. However, for the first time, she wanted her picture taken with a tiger cub. This cost 150 baht for an instant picture in a nice frame. You can also take as many pictures as you like with your own camera. She even posed again later with two baby crocodiles for another 150 baht. She could have also posed with an orangutan, kangaroo, snake and even scorpions. But you have to draw the line when it costs 150 baht per picture.

The main feature of the zoo are the 200 Bengal tigers which can be seen at various locations. To their credit, the zoo has been able to maintain a successful breeding program for these tigers and so many of them were born at the zoo. In the Tiger Tunnel you can get quite close to the tigers. This picture was taken through the perspex glass and it came out quite well. Strangely, in this same enclosure was this African guy dressed in classic Tarzan gear. I am not sure what his purpose was as he was just sitting there smoking a cigarette. I guess when coach parties pass through he will get up and wrestle the tigers or something. In the same building there is a nursery where you can see one of the most remarkable sights at the zoo. This is the tiger cubs drinking the milk of a large mother pig. And then, in the neighbouring cage, there were piglets dressed in tiger skin shirts running around with a full grown tiger!

As well as observing the animals, there are also a number of shows that you can watch for no extra charge. Our first show was “Amazing Circus” which was a kind of Big Top show. It started with an act by an intelligent pig that was able to successfully sort coloured pegs into the correct coloured boxes. I guess this proves that pigs are not colour blind. Next came the highlight of the show with a performance by the large Bengal tigers. A word of warning before I continue. The tigers sat in a semi-circle with their backs to the audience at the start of the show. I would strongly suggest that you don’t sit in the front row as when they go to the toilet they can squirt backwards a couple of meters. The tigers did all the usual tricks such as jumping through hoops of fire and walking on their hind legs. It was certainly entertaining for the youngsters in the audience, but honestly, I am never that impressed with performances done with animals in Thailand. There are three of these shows per day at 11 a.m., 1.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m.

From here we followed the crowds to the Elephant Show. This one wasn’t actually too bad. The tempo was quite fast and the elephants with their trainers kept running on from stage left and stage right. Although many of the tricks were the usual fare, the fast tempo managed to keep our attention and Nong Grace enjoyed the show. The highlight for her was the basketball match between two elephants. Take a look at this picture of one of the elephants doing a slam dunk! I have seen them playing football before but this was a first for basketball. The trainers also asked for two volunteers from the audience. They then laid down on the ground while two elephants walked over them several times. One of the elephants did the usual trick with its trunk by prodding the male volunteer in places he didn’t really want to be prodded. However, the young female elephant was the funniest. When it stepped over the volunteers, it lifted its hind leg as if it was just about to take a leak. There are three elephant shows per day at 11.40 a.m., 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.

Our next show was the pig racing which I was actually looking forward to. I had heard about it before and just wanted to see what it was all about. This show started with an amazing pig that could do some really cool party tricks. Believe it or not, the pig could do simple arithmetic sums. To prove it wasn’t fixed, the audience were invited to call out numbers. The equation was then read out aloud in Thai, English and Chinese. The pig then picked up a marker with the correct number. After this came the pig racing. These were piglets that basically just ran from one end to the other. The second race was then their return trip. Not as exciting as I thought it would be. The show certainly has more potential. These shows are every half hour from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

In the building next to the pig racing is a place where you can feed the baby tiger cubs. A bottle of milk was a little expensive at 50 baht. However, Nong Grace really loved feeding the tiger cubs and I think it was her highlight. In fact, after we had finished walking around the zoo, we had to come back here for a second round. Nearby here we also saw deer, giraffes and a few other wild animals. There was also a section with dozens of rabbit that seemed to be suffering a bit from the heat. Again, Nong Grace enjoyed feeding them which fortunately only cost 10 baht this time for a bunch of long green beans. Nearby we went into an artificial cave to see the advertised Scorpion Queen who apparently is comfortable with scorpions covering her whole body. Though we didn’t see any action as she didn’t want to perform for just the two of us. But she said she would if we paid 150 baht. I declined her offer. On the map, there were a couple of places marked that Nong Grace wanted to visit. First was the pig swimming and second the ducks that apparently swam with the crocodiles. But, unfortunately both of these shows have been discontinued. Nong Grace said that maybe the crocodile ate the duck!

Our last show was the Crocodile Show. Our third in three weeks. All of these crocodile shows are much the same as each other. It usually involves sticking limbs – either hands or heads, into the mouth of a crocodile. What makes or breaks these shows is the personality of the performers. Our show had one lady and one man. The guy actually looked quite young and he hammed it up a bit which made his performance a bit funny. He slipped over a few times while trying to pull the crocodile out of the water which earned him some nervous laughter and applause from the audience. The show was alright if you haven’t seen that kind of thing before. It ended when an obvious stage plant came down and threw them a 20 baht note as a tip. No-one picked up on the hint so the cleaning lady was then told to throw some money too. Then other people started to tip them. There are seven crocodile shows per day.

Our last stop was the crocodile nursery. Here we saw hundreds of crocodile eggs in the incubators. Apparently they have an egg breaking festival in May where the public can help with the hatching of the eggs. Nong Grace then surprised me when she said she wanted to have her photograph taken with a baby crocodile. She was very nervous at first but was determined to do it. She had seen a photograph of her father posing with a big tiger and I guess she wanted to outdo him. So, she now had two framed pictures of her holding animals. Something to show her friends at school. On the way to the exit, we passed one more pen where we saw a tiger that seemed to be living happily with some dogs. Pretty unusual so it excited Nong Grace. But she was still disappointed that she hadn’t seen the duck with the crocodile.

As usual, there is a two price ticket system at the zoo. The foreigners price is 300 baht for adults and 200 baht for children. No sign of the Thai price which makes me presume that they are embarrassed about having two prices. I managed to get the Thai price of 120 baht by asking politely in Thai. Someone also told me that a work permit also does the trick. Nong Grace was free as she is less than 140 cms. But that sign is written in Thai and so I am not sure if that includes foreign children. The price for Thai children is 60 baht. To reach the zoo, just take the main highway from Bangkok towards Chonburi and then Pattaya. The zoo is in the Sriracha district. Big signs tell you when to turn off so it is quite simple.

Samphran Elephant Ground

On the Western outskirts of Bangkok is the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo. They label it themselves as the “greatest elephant show in Thailand” and I think they are probably right. I went there yesterday with Nong Grace and she thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. In addition to the elephant show, they also have a crocodile show. Surprisingly I had never been before. In Samut Prakan, we have the “largest crocodile farm in the world”, which in addition to crocodile wrestling, it also has an elephant show. So, I couldn’t really see the point to travel out to Samphran as well. It is also a lot more expensive. But, I am now glad that I did make this effort.

The highlight is undoubtedly the Elephant Theme Show. I have seen quite a few elephant shows now and many of them have a similar theme. This usually invovles elephants doing unnatural acts such as walking a tightrope (Safari World) and disco dancing (Crocodile Farm). Some of the best shows I have seen so far were on the outskirts of Chiang Mai where they did demonstrations of how elephants were used for logging. But, the show at Samphran was all encompassing and gave better value for money. What I particularly liked from the start was the use of English narration and dramatic sound effects. One of my pet peeves are the tourist attractions that charge foreigners 400% more than Thai people and then don’t make an effort to give the foreigners value for money. Take Safari World as an example. Despite having to pay a lot more than Thai people, all of the shows were in Thai language. Samphran is a rarity in that they catered for the foreign tourists.

During the show, we saw how the elephants are not only revered by the Thai people, but how useful the elephants have been throughout their history. We were given demonstrations of how they caught elephants in the wild. Then how they were used for logging by picking up tree trunks with the help of their tusks and then pulling them along the ground. Next came some light humour with the Elephant World Cup. A herd of elephants came on wearing team colours for various countries. They did some various party tricks like picking up objects on the ground while racing down a course and dancing to disco music. They also tried some head stands. But the highlight was a penalty shootout using giant balls. Some of the elephants were pretty good at scoring while others were hopeless and knew it. The elephant with Ronaldo’s name on it was pretty funny. After scoring a goal, it got down on its knees and did a good impression of a footballer doing a victory dance.

The climax of the show was the big battle between the Siamese and Burmese armies. In the olden days, the kings fought on elephant back. Everything was recreated for the show in fine detail from the battle gear of the elephants to the uniforms of the soldiers. The show was certainly dramatic with not only the sword fighting but also the loud explosions. If you are going to the show with young children, you should get them to cover their ears for this part. At the conclusion of the show, there is an opportunity for you to go closer and take a picture with the giant elephants. Apparently, the elephant with the tusks in the picture at the top is father to twenty other elephants at this zoo. If you like, you can also buy sugar cane or a bunch of bananas to feed the elephants for only 10 baht. Compare this to the rip-off price of 40 baht over at Safari World for a small bucket of leaves for the giraffes. There is also an opportunity here to ride around the arena on the back of the elephant for only 70 baht.

Around the back of the park is a new area where you can have a longer elephant ride which lasts about 20 minutes. They take you around the garden and then passing through a dramatic waterfall and along an artificial river. This has been beautifully created and together with the colour flowers gives a colourful backdrop for any photo. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a friend who can take pictures for you. Just give your camera to one of the trainers and he will follow you around taking some beautiful shots. I think the price is a bit expensive at 400 baht per person. If you are planning on going to Chiang Mai or Kanchanaburi and want to do the tours that include elephant riding and bamboo rafting, then I would give this a miss if I was you. Better to do it in the real jungle. However, if you have limited time on your holiday, or you want some better controlled opportunities to have pictures of yourself on elephant back, then you might like to do it here.

We arrived at the park at about 11.45 a.m. During weekdays, the first scheduled show is the Crocodile Wrestling Show at 12.45 p.m. So we had timed this right. On Sunday and public holidays you will find that there is an extra round of shows in the morning starting at 10.30 a.m. While we waited, we wandered around to see what else was on offer. Near the entrance, there is an opportunity to have your picture taken with two tigers that were born at the park. This costs 100 baht for up to four people in one photo. They give you one print for this though you can use your own camera to take as many pictures as you like. Nearby were about half a dozen young elephants that were chained to the ground. Each elephant had a keeper to look after its needs. However, I did notice that one elephant was thirsty and without waiting for its trainer, it used its trunk to turn on a tap to get a drink of water. It even turned off the tap afterwards. Nong Grace was a bit nervous to go near them at first, but the trainer encouraged her by saying that they wouldn’t hurt. Surprisingly, she even went on an elephant ride around the park which she never wanted to do before.

The crocodile show lasted about 20 minutes. It was very similar to the one I had seen many times in Samut Prakan. The audience certainly loved it as there were gasps of horror and nervous laughter at all the right times. However, it wasn’t as good as our local one. Plus, there was no seating so you had to stand around for half an hour. But, if you haven’t seen anything like this before then it is worth watching. The ending was a bit disappointing. It kind of fizzled out and some people started to wander away without realizing they hadn’t actually finished. Maybe they should send some of their people over to Samut Prakan to get some tips on making a better show. As soon as the show finished, we then made our way over to the elephant ground for the show that I already talked about. Before this, they put on a magic show which was entertaining for the kids. This started at 1.15 p.m. and then the elephant show at 1.45 p.m. So, you basically go from one show to the next without a break.

After the last show, we wandered around some more, looking at the crocodiles in the pens and also the beautiful orchids. Nong Grace also had a great time playing on the swings in the playground. We were about to go home when she heard the dramatic music starting again for the second round for the elephant show. As she enjoyed it so much, she insisted on dragging us to go and watch again. However, I didn’t really mind as it was a good performance. Both the elephants and the humans were very enthusiastic and didn’t look a bit tired. Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.

The entrance fee for the park is quite high at 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children. The Thai price is 80 baht for adults and 40 baht for children. It is a little sneakily that they don’t show the Thai price at the ticket office. I did actually stop here last month on the way back from Nakhon Pathom. But, I didn’t go in as I was a bit shocked about the high price. I did ask for local price like I normally do, but they would only offer the discounted price of 300 baht if I could show a work permit. I declined as I didn’t think at the time it was worth my trouble. But, I am glad I went back as it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. In the end we spent over five hours there! Take a look at my pictures and then make your own decision whether you want to pay as much as 500 baht admission fee. In their defense, the elephant show would have cost them a lot to put on. Also, I liked it that their prices for drinks and snacks were very reasonable. A small bottle of water was 10 baht compared to 20 baht at Safari World.

Samphran is on the main highway out of Bangkok on the way to Nakhon Pathom. It is very near the Rose Garden and Don Wai Floating Market. You could visit here after going to Damnoen Saduak in the morning. Or go to Nakhon Pathom in the morning and then stop here on the way back. You can either go here by yourself by bus or join tours from Bangkok.

Safari World

One of the largest theme parks in Thailand is Safari World, on the northern outskirts of Bangkok. According to their brochure it is “Thailand’s greatest and most popular open zoo and show park”. They also claim to have “world class shows” and an “oasis for animals” which is probably going a bit too far. It is certainly a great day out for the family and that is where I took Nong Grace yesterday as her school has now broken up for the summer holidays. As she is only four years old I didn’t think she would survive the entire day. However I think I collapsed from exhaustion long before her. But, then she spent most of the day being pushed around in a stroller.

Safari World is split into two sections. Namely Safari Park and Marine Park. You don’t actually have to visit both as there are separate tickets for each. However, a combined ticket costs 700 baht for foreign adults with another 200 baht for the boat ride which we didn’t do. For an average sized family, that works out to be an expensive day out. We decided to first visit Safari Park which was probably the highlight. This is an open park area with hundreds of wild animals roaming around. If you don’t have your own car like us then you can join coach tours. However, having your own transport means that you can take your time and stop anywhere to take pictures. You can also wind down your windows to get better pictures.

Nong Grace loved this area. It was a great opportunity to get up close to some of the animals. Though, after an incident with a group of ostriches that tried to eat the car she was a bit nervous about winding down the window. But, she enjoyed taking pictures of animals such as Zebras, camels, storks, rhino, giraffes, deer and bears. We then passed through double gates to the area where the tigers and lions lived. However, as it was quite hot they were lazing away in the shade of a distant tree so we couldn’t get really close. These are mainly nocturnal animals so you would have to visit a night safari to see more action.

We then drove back to the main entrance where we parked the car and walked into the Marine Park. Here you can rent dolphin shaped strollers for young kids that cost 120 baht for four hours. This is when we realized that we had made a mistake by doing the Safari Park first as we had already missed the Orangutan Show that had started at 10.20 a.m. We were also late for the sea lion show which had started at 11 a.m. and was about to finish. I asked when the next show would be and they surprisingly said that there was only one showtime per day! For the bigger shows I could understand this, but surely for the smaller ones they could repeat throughout the day like at other parks. We next had the option of the Bird Show or the Cowboy Stunt Show that both started at 11.40 a.m. We opted for the bird show. To be honest I wasn’t that impressed and I think the show I saw at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore was far superior. This was mainly in Thai, though a few times they spoke some pretty bad English in order to get some foreigners to hold up a 500 baht note for the bird to fly to and bring back to the show’s host. Nong Grace enjoyed it though I was a little bored. When we finished she said she wanted to see the cowyboys but I had to tell her it was too late.

We next strolled around the park to visit some of the attractions while we waited for the Dolphin Show to start at 1.30 p.m. One of the first we visited was a new attraction called Mini World with many birds. The budgerigars here were very friendly. If you buy an exorbitant priced envelope of bird seed for 20 baht you could then easily attract the birds to your outstretched hand. You will soon find half a dozen birds on your hands, arms and shoulders. Nong Grace was a bit scared of this but she enjoyed the little birds. when we later went into the bird aviary the birds there were much larger and when they came swooping down at us it felt like we were on the set of Hitchcock’s horror movie The birds. Take a look at the bird in the top left picture for an idea how scary this was. For obvious reasons we fled this deserted aviary as we feared for our lives. Though I am sure it wasn’t really that dangerous. From here we went to see more animals such as monkeys, kangaroos, crocodiles and giant fish. Here we could buy food to feed the fish. Nong Grace enjoyed that though I wasn’t happy the price was double compared to other parks.

Nong Grace was excited when she saw a poster advertising polar bears. But then she said, “polar bears like cold”. Maybe someone should have told the park management that as the bears didn’t look that happy. They had set up a fine mist to spray on them but it was doubtful it was having much effect. It is good that Thai children can get to see animals from around the world in real life, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the animal’s health. Our next stop was the Safari Terrace which I think was my highlight. Here we went up a ramp which brought us to the same height as the giraffe’s in the neighbouring Safari Park which we had toured earlier. For 40 baht, you can buy a small bucket of leaves to feed the giraffes. Luckily, Nong Grace didn’t want to feed them, as this was quickly turning into an expensive day. We had just bought a bottle of water that was 100% more expensive than the regular price. So, we just sat there and watched a group of school children feed the giraffes. Nong Grace said she had never seen tongues so long.

Our next destination was the Beluga and Dolphin Show which started at 1.30 p.m. This was going to be the highlight for Nong Grace as she had never seen a dolphin before and was really excited to get a chance to see them jumping in and out of the water. The day before I had shown her a brochure for the park that showed the dolphins jumping through hoops, shaking “hands” with the trainers, and jumping up to hit a ball with their nose. Unfortunately, apart from swimming around the pool a few times we didn’t get to see much action. The dolphins refused to cooperate and several times the trainers had to dive into the pool to retrieve the hoops and then the balls. It looked like this was then cut short and they brought in the next act which were the more cooperative beluga. These are small white whales. I am not sure how often this happens, but I must say the place is looking very rundown. The backdrop desperately needed a paint job. It is nice they have been adding new attractions, but they should spend time renovating some of the older and more established shows.

Our next show was Spy War which started at 2.30 p.m. Like all the shows, everything was in Thai. Which of course is strange as the foreigners are paying a lot extra. You would think they would cater for this market if that is where most of their money is coming from. However, as it was an action show based on James Bond it didn’t really matter too much about the plot line. It was pretty thin anyway. Nong Grace sort of enjoyed it though she spent most of the time with her hands over her ears. The last show at 3.30 p.m. was more enjoyable for her. It was the elephant show. They did the usual stunts such as tightrope walking and playing football. She did like it but by this time she was starting to get a bit tired. I think Safari World is a good day out for the family if you are not too concerned about the costs. For me it was an expensive day out and we certainly won’t be coming back in a rush even though Nong Grace said she wanted to come again. The shows certainly weren’t world class and I don’t think we got good value for money. Not only is the entrance fee expensive, but they take every opportunity to take more money from you. Like the 200 baht for the boat ride and the photo opportunities with the animals. I believe Singapore is cheaper as they don’t have the two price system for foreigners.

From Bangkok you can join tours to Safari World. There are no direct buses, but you could try and catch a bus first to nearby Fashion Island shopping mall and from there maybe a taxi. From Samut Prakan, I drove on the outer ring road to Ram Intra Road and in total took me less than one hour. With the bad traffic in central Bangkok, it could take you much longer than that by bus. It is basically a full day of your holiday so you will have to decide whether it is worth it. My sister is coming to Thailand in July with her family and I doubt she will take them there. With four of them we will be looking for places with better value for money. I will talk about the planning for this trip later.