Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bugs in Bangkok 17th March 2012

Chatachak Park
Butterflies and bugs...

Butterfly park and insectarium, spotted that on the new tourist map acquired a few days ago and since I like to see some of the native wildlife, this is todays destination. It's close to the Mor Chit Sky Train station and the Chatuchak weekend market and is situated somewhere within the park lands. A brief look at a related website states 500 species of butterflies can be seen amongst all the other bugs and creepy crawlies,  but exactly what kind of bugs, well, they don't say. Directions seem a little confusing though, but I'm sure my natural geographical instincts will serve me adequately - its north and then west from the Mor Chit bus stand.

Bus number 3 again, comes up regularly, and apart from that first bus trip attempt, has been a reliable route ever since. Bus number 3 rolls past as I walk up from Thammasatt. The driver ignores my frantic waving, perhaps because I'm still way off the bus stand. 20 minutes and the next number 3 pulls up, virtually empty on a hot Saturday lunch time.

Oasis in the Metropolis
'Welcome to Chatuchack Weekend Market' is the sign on the left as the bus nears its stand by the station steps. It's a fight to get through the crowds making their way down from the Sky Train, locals and tourists heading south to the market, whilst I'm going North to the butterflies. Through Chatuchak park, nicely landscaped with plenty of trees for shade, a lake and more trees and bushes around it. Locals, sitting around chilling out in the shady spots, all very serene in the middle of a metropolis. No sign of the butterfly park though, not yet anyway.  Time to ask someone and they point straight ahead. Ok, so a little further. Another park opposite, maybe it's in there but no indication, or signs or anything to say that there is a major public attraction around here. Ask again, yes it's in this park, pointing, but where in the park. Numerous pathways leading in various directions! A bit of guess work and intuition, follow those people hugging expensive looking cameras. Through another nicely landscaped park, this one looks much bigger, with more natural features. There it is after what has been quite a long walk since getting off the bus at Mor Chit.

Butterflies and Insectarium is the sign in English above the door of this rather large metal and mesh dome structure. Deceiving, because inside its not really that big. Well laid out though, with water falls and features supposedly reconstructing the habitats that these butterflies and bugs thrive in. It's rather odd then that so far I've only seen about 10 different butterflies. And as far as other insects, well, ants by the thousands, some flies and 1 caterpillar. Interesting to see a bird, well 3 actually but all the same kind, with long beaks that poke into flowers. Maybe it's that the birds have an appetite to satisfy leading to the lack of bugs! In the couple of hours here, about 20 butterflies are spotted, big and colourful native to Asia I would think. It's hard to know because all the names and wording on the explanation cards are in Thai.  Consolation is the place is free to get in and reasonably close to the Weekend Market, which right now sound like a good idea.

10 minutes Southwards and onto the fringes of the market, renowned to be the biggest and the best. This is the place to stock up on fish, live fish I mean! Every conceivable marine creature can be purchased from regular goldfish to baby sharks and even stingrays. Little green turtles, shrimp and lobsters, black and orange eels, every exotic and colourful fish imaginable. Not sure how I would get a stingray back into the Uk though!

About an hour, and still just on the fringes of the market. A shopping complex emerges, time to cool off, get a drink.  Not as smart as the all glass affairs in the city, and the prices reflect this with more bargain basement stuff. The place is more the old style, brick warehouse, but with 3 floors and a massive food court - JJ's is good enough for me. The place is packed out with locals, not a tourist in sight. The food area being especially popular with most dishes priced around the £1 mark, and of course the variety of food available just beyond comprehension for most westerners. Rather worrying though, one dish is described as containing 'live pork'!

Stingrays here..
Further into the market and more live animals. Rows of cages containing puppies, a few weeks old but some obviously just days old. 3 sometimes 4 to a cage and the majority of them are inactive, sapped of energy probably. Conditions of the show cages are actually quite clean, with one or two exceptions where pups are rolling around in poop. About 50 or so of these pups, all very subdued. It's hard to get photos and handling the animals generally isn't allowed - vendors clearly have some sort of consciousness about their dealings here. It's not really a place for tourists to be, especially those with a camera hanging around their neck! And so it go's on. Rabbits stacked up, squirrels clinging to their cages, snakes, lizards, anything that can be turned into a pet is available here at Chatachuk Weekend Market. A sneaky photo here and there but again their exists a climate of 'not for tourists', among the narrow, dark channels. Time I got out of here, as several vendors scowl, frown and are probably spitting dust.

Through into the food area, a considerable variety and lots of it. It's been nearly 3 hours and still not anywhere near the end! Getting dark, and it's a retreat back to the bus stand and the number 3 rolls up, 20 minutes later. it's packed to the roof, standing room only as I'm pushed towards the driver, at least I'm under the fan. Can't see how the money collector can get to me, a free trip maybe. Glancing at the drivers bay, cautious to see how upto date these buses are. The speedometer isn't working, neither Is the rev counter! Jumping off at Khao San, it was a free trip, albeit 15p.

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