Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"

Day 4 (Wed, 22 Dec 2010)

Just a quick note about breakfast. The place Lilian is staying offers a buffet breakfast spread so we were fortunately able to enjoy a hearty breakfast every morning before we started our day.

I'll be honest, I only added this pic cos it's such a delectable one!

This was our last day in Bangkok and the destination was Safari World. Yet another local gem, this animal leisure park is like a zoo and safari rolled into one. Entry is not cheap, tickets are THB 800 (S$35) per adult and THB 500 (S$22) per child, but you do get entry to both sections. It's worthwhile to hire a car and driver for the trip here so that you can view the animals in the safari segment at your own pace. If you take a cab here, you'll have to ride on one of the park's coaches which I imagine would limit your viewing somewhat.

We've never been to a safari so it was a real treat seeing the animals up close and sans boundaries. An ostrich even sauntered up to the car and pecked at the side mirror!

Why did the pelican cross the road?

The animals looked pretty comfortable despite being in an artificial habitat. Scores of birds were building nests in the trees.

We then drove past a Jurassic Park-like gate to the enclosure for dangerous animals. There were rangers strategically parked, probably to make sure no dummy turns himself into life bait by getting out of his car.

After we had completed the safari section, we went to the zoo portion and honed in on the next highlight - giraffe feeding.

Did I mention that Lilian's elder son, Brian, came along with us for this outing?

The Safari Terrace is a specially designed, two-storey platform where visitors can view the gentle giants. These are the same giraffes we saw at the safari but now, we get to see them up close. The giraffe is Lesley-Anne's favourite animal of all time - for her, this was the highlight of the whole trip.

For THB 40 (about S$1.80), you can buy a bucket of giraffe food to feed the many that will instantly come a-gallivanting. It's a very clever way of earning some side cash cos it's so fun, you'll end up buying multiple buckets! The three kids went through 7 buckets.

You can even pat them, they get so close.

Ever seen a giraffe up close? They have dreamy, shiny eyes ala Japanese manga characters and long, fluttery eyelashes. They also have long, creepy, lizard-y tongues though and drool a lot. Don't let their placid demeanours fool you, some of the males can be quite aggressive. One of the alpha males was head-butting any other giraffe that got in his way of a meal.

Giraffes feeding. By the way, a group of giraffes is commonly referred to as a herd but it can also be called "a tower of giraffes". Appropriate, don't you think?

The rest of the zoo was so-so. Not quite an open-zoo concept as Singapore's but way better than Beijing's. On the way out, we passed by a bird enclosure with hundreds of brightly hued lories, a concept similar to the one at Jurong Bird Park. Brian managed to get his hand on some bird feed.

We drove back to Bangkok to meet Lilian for lunch at Greyhound - a fusion cafe at Siam Paragon. Very interesting dishes like the squid ink pasta and complicated noodles (below) where you wrap this kway teow type pastry and minced meat in lettuce.

The food is on the pricey side (by Bangkok standards) but it's definitely tasty!

Kenneth and I dropped by MBK (another popular budget shopping centre) for some last minute shopping while the kids went back with Lilian to enjoy the rest of the afternoon before we left for the airport. Pic on the right is a view from the apartment. Check out the notorious Bangkok traffic.

All in all, it was a great holiday. Lots of shopping and eating, peppered with fun activities for the kids. Some of our family and friends were concerned about the red shirt commotion but we never saw a single protester during our time there. It really is a pleasant destination, especially at this time of the year where the weather hovers at around 27 degrees celcius, so it's like walking in air-conditioned comfort. If you're looking for a short and cheap holiday, Bangkok is a great option.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dream World - a local theme park

Day 3 (Tue, 21 Dec 2010)

Few people think of going to a theme park when visiting Bangkok. In fact, most people would be surprised to learn that there's even a theme park in Bangkok. But that's the perk of having friends living in the city, they have the insider information.

Lilian and her kids had previously visited Dream World and thought it a fun day out for families with kids, so she recommended it to us. It's about an hour's drive from Bangkok city and it's quite large with a wide variety of rides. We took the promotional package where for THB 1,000 per person (about S$43), you get unlimited rides in Dream World, entry to Snow Town, a buffet lunch and most importantly, transport to and from any Bangkok hotel.

The entrance looks suspiciously like Disneyland's Small World, doesn't it? The park is quite well maintained, considering it's a local theme park, definitely much better than the one at Genting, Malaysia. The decor, well, all I can say is, it looks familiar. Imagine a mashup of Disney, Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network, except without using the actual names of characters.

The first ride the kids took was near the entrance, the Speedy Mouse coaster. It's like a blast from the past, didn't we used to have these old-style rides in the 1970s at the now defunct Wonderland?

Paddle boats.

Then we came across the big one - the Sky Coaster.

This coaster works on shoulder harnesses and your legs are left dangling.

Andre immediately wanted to take the ride. The rest of us were not quite as courageous so he decided to brave the adventure alone.

After the guinea pig had gone and emerged unscathed, he told his sister it was very fun, so she agreed to go on it with him.


This next one was a ride the whole family enjoyed tremendously. It's called Bump Boats and it's the same concept as Bumper Cars except it's on water.

Grand Canyon, which is a rapids ride. You'll definitely get wet so wear your ponchos! We bought ours inexpensively at the park.

Another ride that Andre went alone - Super Splash. The rest of us were too chicken to take the plunge.

There's no subtlety to this ride, it's just a ride up up up, and then a very steep drop and a giant splash!

Everything within a 50m radius gets wet. I foolishly ventured too close with my camera in an attempt to get a better picture and got soaked. Not to mention, not much of a photo!

Snow Town is an attraction in Dream World that costs extra but our package had entry included. It's probably similar to Snow City in Singapore. You experience sub zero temperatures - always a novelty in tropical cities.

They give you boots and a jacket to shield you from the cold but unfortunately, as you can see from the picture on the right, we were wearing bermudas so our legs were freezing!

The highlight of Snow Town is the snow slope, where you sit on an inflatable snow tube and slide down. It's fun but pulling the snow tube up the stairs is quite a chore, especially when you have frozen hands and the handles of the snow tube are ringed with ice.

There are many other rides in Dream World, but some of them, like the go-kart and bumper cars, have a height requirement that Andre didn't meet so he was pretty disappointed about that. There's even a section with rides for toddlers and little kids so I guess there's something for everyone!

The lunch buffet that came with the package is apparently a standard for tour groups so though the food was ok, the typical kiasu rush and queues were rather off-putting. However, it did save us the trouble of finding our own lunch (didn't see many great options in the park) so I can't complain.

As we were walking towards the exit, we came by the Giant's House which was quite interestingly done and obviously based on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

The only drawback of taking the package is that you have to leave by 3pm to catch the free transport. On the other hand, it probably beats leaving later and getting caught in the horrendous Bangkok traffic for a couple of hours.

We were back at Lilian's place by 4.30pm, leaving us plenty of time to rest and shower before dinner, which was at Je Ngor - a restaurant Lilian also previously blogged about. I didn't take many pictures of the food but what we had was pretty good. I think Lek Seafood was better but this was still a worthy contender. The sweet and sour pork, as well as the morning glory (again!) was excellent.

We finished the day on a sweet note - bagging a couple of slices of cake from a nearby cake shop, Secret Garden. This is their famous crepe cake. It's thin slices of crepe sandwiched between dollops of fresh cream and topped with strawberry syrup. Heaven on a plate!