Thailand - Safari World Bangkok Review
As I described in my write up for Dream World in Bangkok, now that I have children my main priority when choosing to visit places in Bangkok is that my children will be entertained. This rules out visits to shopping malls, markets, temples, museums, etc, which they would find boring.
Having already visited Dream World we looked for another suitable venue and chose Safari World. It has actually been around for a long time (since 1988) and sits on a large area of land. It's a big business and it is the only entertainment venue to be listed on Thailand's stock market.
Naturally, being a safari park, most of the animals come from Africa originally and Thailand's hot climate seems to suit them.
You can drive your own car around the park or pay Bt30 and get a ride on one of the park's coaches. I would recommend the latter. Services at the park include storage facilities, lost and found, and first-aid. Baby strollers or wheelchairs are available to rent.
The park is open every day of the year from 09:00 to 17:00, although there may be occasions when it is closed at the discretion of the management.
I am quite a keen photographer and when visiting somewhere like Safari World I would normally take a lot of photos. However, this didn't happen. Most photo opportunities came while aboard the bus as it trundled around the park. It was my responsibility to hold our son, who was one at the time, and holding a small child on a very bumpy bus ride while taking photographs at the same time was almost impossible.
Nonetheless, I did manage to get a few photos.
Giraffe at Safari World, Bangkok
Getting There And Back
Safari World is located about an hour's drive outside of Bangkok to the north-east in the Minburi district. Like Dream World, it is in an area that mainly consists of residential housing developments. These are referred to as moo baan in Thai, which translates to village in English.
As far as I can make out, there are no train services from Bangkok. It may be possible to go by bus or van, but because taxis are so cheap in Bangkok I would highly recommend just taking a cab. It is by far the easiest and most convenient way to get there.
In the UK, taxi fares are exorbitant and I would definitely not recommend taking a one hour taxi journey because it would cost a fortune, but this isn't the UK.
I took a taxi from the Victory Monument area of Bangkok all the way to Safari World and the fare was just Bt300 plus a Bt30 tollway charge. That was for me, my wife and two children. Thailand gets more expensive every year, but hotel room rates and taxi fares in Thailand are still great bargains.
The metered taxi fare for the journey back into Bangkok cost Bt320 plus Bt65 in tollway fares. You only need to pay to use the tollway if there is a lot of traffic, such as during the morning and evening rush hours. Taxi drivers normally ask if you want to take the tollway or not.
My children with some colourful sun conures at Safari World
I'm sorry if this comes across as negative, but it is something that I feel quite strongly about.
The following two photos that show admission prices illustrate something that you will find at virtually every tourist attraction, museum and national park in Thailand.
Safari World entrance fees for foreigners
Safari World entrance fees for Thais
The information in the second photo will mean absolutely nothing to most foreigners, and that is the intention. Foreigners will only understand the information in English and most foreigners will probably assume that the details written in Thai are exactly the same. They aren't.
Thailand operates a widespread system of dual pricing, in which there is one price for Thais and one for foreigners. The system is unfair, unjustified and simply wrong. If this was done in a Western country there would be an outcry. The strange thing is that Westerners would be complaining loudest, even though such a system would be to their advantage. In addition, there would probably be legal proceedings because such a system clearly violates laws that help to protect against racial discrimination.
There are no laws to protect against racial discrimination in Thailand and Thais don't complain when something is done to give them an advantage or preferential treatment. They just keep quiet and don't tell foreigners what is happening.
Thais do not think the same way as farangs and as far as they are concerned nothing could be more natural than giving Thais an advantage over foreigners in Thailand. Lots of Thais travel abroad these days and if they experienced the same behaviour abroad they would probably get quite upset, but dual pricing doesn't occur in most other countries.
Malaysia is even worse. Not only do Malaysians discriminate against non-Malaysians, but Bumiputra Malaysians discriminate against non-Bumiputra Malaysians and there are laws to enforce the discrimination. Western countries would condemn such practices, but in many parts of Asia it is perfectly normal.
One Thailand blogger says that Thailand should at least give foreigners the option to choose. If it was made clear to foreigners that they have to pay a lot more than Thais, some may choose not to visit the attraction. However, they cannot choose because they aren't given the necessary information. Thai prices are hidden from the vast majority of foreigners because Thai script and Thai numerals are used.
I can read Thai and when I encounter this type of thing, as I often do, it makes me quite angry. Speaking Thai, and with a Thai driving licence, I can quite often manage to get the Thai price unless they insist on a Thai national identity card, which I don't have and can't get. Nonetheless, even though I can normally avoid the high price it's still not right.
Just in case you were wondering, the Thai prices shown above are as follows:
Safari Park: Adults Bt350, Children Bt250 (Foreigner price: Bt800/Bt700)
Marine Park: Adults Bt480, Children Bt380 (Foreigner price: Bt1,000/Bt800)
Both Parks: Adults Bt580, Children Bt480 (Foreigner price: Bt1,200/Bt900)
As you can see, the differences between the Thai and foreigner prices aren't small. In most cases, foreigners pay more than twice the Thai price.
Children are classified by height rather than age. I can't quite remember for sure, but it was either 90cm or one metre. My daughter was just short enough to get the children's price.
Safari World, like other safari parks, is not a walking attraction. I didn't have my own car and therefore we had to board the Safari World bus, the ticket for which cost a very reasonable Bt30 per person and it is the same price for Thais and foreigners alike.
As I suspected even before we arrived, the park operates a system of dual pricing and this never gives me a good impression. However, I did my usual negotiations in Thai and got the Thai price. We then had to wait a while to board the bus.
Being on the bus was much better than had I driven myself because I could just observe the animals without having to concentrate on driving. However, being on a public bus means that you have to share with other members of the public and that isn't always a good thing.
Most people were fine, but one foreign tourist and his son wouldn't stay in their seats and kept moving around to get the best view of animals. Quite often this meant standing in front of me and blocking my view. They were extremely inconsiderate and ill-mannered. Of course, you will only have this problem if you are unlucky enough to encounter rude tourists.
Once we got inside the park I was quite surprised at the sheer quantity of animals. Even though I have been to one of South Africa's game parks I have never seen herds of giraffe the size of those at Safari World in Bangkok.
Giraffe at Safari World, Bangkok
Not all of the animals are African in origin. Capybaras, the largest rodents in the world, originate from South America. Thailand has no shortage of rats, but fortunately they aren't this big.
Capybara at Safari World, Bangkok
There are also some animals from Madagascar.
Ring-tailed lemur at Safari World, Bangkok
The staff at the park were great. Some elephant handlers asked if we wanted to ride an elephant. I am quite cynical and guessed this would involve a hefty charge, so declined. However, it was all free. They got an elephant to pick up my wife with its trunk and I had a little elephant ride with my daughter.
Elephant at Safari World, Bangkok
Elephant at Safari World, Bangkok
With so many animals in the park, and with the park having been open for several years, I assume that there have been many successful breeding programmes. In one area of the park is an egg incubation centre with glass windows so that visitors can see what goes on inside. It looks as if these parrot chicks have just hatched, despite their enormous size.
Parrot chicks at Safari World, Bangkok
My favourite animals at zoos and safari parks are the big cats, but looking back at my visit to Safari World I don't recall seeing that many. Reviewing my photos, all I have is one photo of a tiger in a very artifical looking enclosure.
Tiger at Safari World, Bangkok
Safari World Bangkok Animal Cruelty
Just after I visited Safari World for the second time a friend in the United States sent me an e-mail about animal cruelty related to the park. This was pure coincidence and he didn't know that I had just visited. The link he sent was from the New York Times.
I was quite shocked.
I think a lot of the problem has to do with Asian people who visit zoos and safari parks. Whenever I go with my family, my Thai wife always makes a big thing about watching the animal shows.
I really detest these shows. I want to see animals in as natural an environment as possible behaving as normally as possible. I don't want to see parrots riding bicycles, seals jumping through hoops and orangutans with boxing gloves, etc etc. However, Asians (certainly Thais) do want to see these things. The animal shows are hugely popular and always packed.
Performing orangutans at Safari World, Bangkok
For as long as there is demand, there will be supply. This applies to everything in Thailand, which is one reason why there is so much prostitution.
What needs to happen is for Thais to be better educated about this kind of thing and for them to start boycotting these shows. The problem at the moment (and I see it first-hand with my wife) is that she sees absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of thing. To her it is simply a little harmless fun.
Only then, once the demand stops, will the supply stop.
I have to say that apart from the animal shows, the animals at Safari World Bangkok looked to be in good shape and looked contented. It is a huge place and to see African animals walking around with lots of space was far better than seeing them in small zoo enclosures.
Generally, the animals looked well fed and healthy. I have never seen so many giraffes in one place in my life and judging by the number of animals present there are no breeding problems. If there were animal welfare problems I assume that this would be detrimental to breeding.
Depending how strongly you feel, this may be a reason why you decide not to visit Safari World, but so many Asians continue to visit that your protest won't make any difference.
Inside the park there are two large buffet restaurants, some fast food outlets, and several places to buy snacks and drinks. Prices are reasonable and there are no extortionate prices for a captive audience.
Whereas Dream World is an attraction primarily for children, Safari World has an equal appeal for adults. My wife, me and my children all love animals and any place where we can see animals is a treat. It's always more of a treat if the animals are kept in a natural environment and look contented.
At Safari World they certainly did. The park is large and the animals have lots of space in which to roam. They looked to be well fed, and Thailand's climate suits them.
My children enjoyed the opportunities to get up close to, and feed, animals but (being very young) looked a bit bored as we were riding around on the bus. If you have very young children and are considering just one day trip from Bangkok, Dream World may be a better bet.
Once again - and I apologise again for beating this to death - the dual pricing policy in Thailand really disappoints me, but it happens everywhere in the country. Foreigners are attracted to Thailand because of low prices, but some excursions for foreign families end up being quite expensive because of dual pricing.
Foreigners will need to pay for a hotel in Bangkok and if they travel to Safari World for a day out they will need to pay for food, drinks, taxi fares and tollways. When they also have to pay over twice the amount that Thais pay for admission into the park it makes for quite an expensive day out.
Having said all that I enjoyed Safari World and would definitely visit again. If you like observing wild animals in more natural environments compared to zoos visiting the park is an enjoyable day out.
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Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
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