PHUKET: I'm by no means a bird aficionado. Sure, I enjoy the chirping of birds in the morning and I was pretty stunned to see a tiny, humming-bird-sized sun-bird feeding on some flowers in front of my house the other day, but you wonít find me crawling through a bush with a pair of binoculars in search of a Great-billed Heron or a Red-crested Pochard. Still, I welcomed an invitation to the recently-opened Phuket Bird Park, if not for the birds then...for the walking.
Yes, walking. If thereís one thing I miss in Thailand, thatís it. I used to walk everywhere Ė to the shop, to the office, to visit my friends. But not here. The lack of sidewalks, the scorching sun, the insane drivers racing on Phuketís roads make walking next to impossible. So I donít. Remember how Forrest Gump used to run whenever he walked? Well, wherever I walk, I drive. If your experience is similar, Phuket Bird Park is here to help. Its 12 acres of lush green space is filled with curvy walkways waiting for you to wander around, inhale the overabundance of oxygen and soak in the symphony of birdsong.
To be precise, there are 1,000 birds from 80 different species and 60 per cent of them are local Asian and Thai species. You can watch them in their cages, read brief information about each species (sadly, only in Thai) and for an extra fee, take a picture with some of the birds, including parrots, horn-bills or eagles. Thereís also a cafe selling snacks and refreshments and if you feel like feeding not only yourself but also the birds, you can buy a package of special bird feed. You probably wonít find any hungry birds here though, as 1,200 baht a day is spent to provide the residents of the park with fresh fruits like banana and guava and some pork and chicken for the carnivores but a greedy bird waiting for an extra helping shouldnít be too hard to come by.
The park currently employes about 40 people, including office staff, a university-educated veterinarian and several trainers responsible for the bird show. Yes, a bird show. If gazing at and taking pictures with the uber-colorful parrots and mighty horn bills isnít enough, thereís the three-times-a-day show which demonstrates the skills of the birds (or their trainers). Just take a seat in the spacious amphitheater and prepare to be amazed. Because if parrots racing bicycles to the tune of Star Warsí Imperial March or an eagle diving for a spectator's baseball cap accompanied by the Indiana Jones theme song isnít amazing, then I donít know what is.
Tickets are 500 per adult and 300 baht per kid. And kids will love it... and maybe not only them. In the evening after I visited the park, I found myself getting sucked into the internet resources on Thailandís Phuket. I might be getting that pair of binoculars after all.