As we entered Sriracha Tiger Zoo I was struck by a small group of Buddhist monks who were posing for a picture in front of some plastic tigers as they left the park. If I had known then that my sole source of visual entertainment was departing I would have heeded the warning bells that rang at the sight of the garish, plastic animals. Unfortunately, however, I decided to enter the Zoo and sample 'delights' ranging from the 'Scorpion Queen' to the most inane animal shows I have ever witnessed. The former was especially entertaining as she stood in a dark corner with around fifty scorpions attached to her blouse. Somehow I just didn't feel the need to part with 30 Baht for a picture of a middle-aged woman with a few dozen static animals clinging to her chest. In a similar vein, I recoiled at the sight of two Kenyan women, dressed in "authentic" leopard-skin outfits a la Bet Lynch, who were shut away behind a screen as they played with some baby tigers. Photographs were free from a designated spot, but the sight of some token 'native' people shut away in a small space behind perspex didn't inspire me to start snapping. Nor did the opportunity to have my photo taken holding a baby crocodile in front of a tacky background encourage me to part with another 50 Baht on top of an entrance fee that I was already regretting having paid. Still, I naively thought that all of this was merely a prelude to the real action. Thus, I made my way over to the venue for the much-hype Crocodile show, skirting an empty lake and some overpriced refreshment stands en route. Knowing that the show lasted for thiry minutes, I was slightly disconcerted after taking my uncomfortable bench seat that it took fifteen minutes merely to get the crocodiles onto the central island. My initial amusement at the sight of the crocodiles being cajoled onto land only to slide straight off again as the 'entertainers' paused for applause turne
d to boredom and then anger as the poor animals were dragged, kicked and repeatedly prodded with sticks. After witnessing this exhibition of incompetence and cruelty, I then endured ten minutes of utter boredom as both particpants merely wandered around attempting to collect tips-their sum total of one US Dollar was generous in the extreme-and occasionally teased the crocodiles by again poking them with their sticks. At on point the male did put his head into a crocodile's mouth, but the animal was so docile that it's jaws probably remained open until after the show had ended. As the only things that were in danger of closing suddenly at this point were my eyelids, I left before the end, joining around a quarter of the audience and more than one of the crocodiles in slipping away in search of better things. Assured that the 'Tiger Show' was great entertainment, I took my seat next to a cage that resembled that surrounding a discus thrower in the Olympics. Suffice to say if your idea of fun is to watch a man sit on a tiger and repeatedly pull its ears, a monkey try to jump over the cage only to be pushed down with another of those ubiquitous sticks or unwilling animals being hit until they climb onto precarious tightropes then this is the show for you! As for myself, I took my leave well before the end of the sad exhibition. Thankfully the sole disappointment of my time in Thailand, Sriracha Tiger Zoo is located in Chonburi Province and was opened in 1997. Further details, should you feel the need, are available at www.tigerzoo.com.