Friday, June 8, 2012

Trip Report, Part 11: The Million Year Stone Park

One small portion of the Million Year Stone Park gardens show in this panorama shot
[This is part 11 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

The park mascot. Tourist
photo opportunity?  You bet!
One of the main reasons I've returned to Thailand time and again are the students I've been fortunate to be able to help build a better future through the Pattaya Street Kids Support Project. The reasons behind that have already been covered here and here, but the most rewarding part for me is having the opportunity to actually see the kids and take them along for a day otherwise out of their financial reach; a reward for working hard at school, so to speak.

Most of the time I'm at a complete loss as to what someone that much younger than myself would find entertaining on an outing like that, but naturally the kids themselves aren't. They've heard of places from schoolmates, friends and television and often have an idea of what they'd like to do on "their" day, although sometimes they're self-conscious about asking for what to them is a large extravagance.

Camels, zebras, giant catfish and peacocks are just a few of the hundreds of  creatures to see around the park

The boys all loved feeding
the crocodiles from above
This trip three of the kids asked if they could go to the Million Year Stone Park and Crocodile Farm, and one wanted to see the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum in the Royal Plaza Garden Mall.

I confess that seeing the Ripley complex (it dominates a huge portion of the top floor) once was OK, five years ago, but it's not anywhere on my list today. Nevertheless, it wasn't my day, so I put on on a smile and went along, enjoying seeing others enjoying it - so it was still one of those "win-win" situations.  I'll address Ripley's another time soon.  You've been warned.

The Million Year Stone Park is a fairly short ride from Pattaya - maybe 20 minutes or so - and covers a lot of ground: 70 acres, according to their web site.  It's a mix of gardens, zoo, showplaces, rock formations and it can be brutally hot in the mid-day sun.  There are places to eat and plenty of places for souvenirs. Admission ran me about $30 for three Thai and one Big Pink Guy.

While busloads of tourists are undoubtedly the bread and butter of the place, it's also a spot for the Thai; much like a theme park would be here in the USA.  I'd say the day I was there the mix was 75% Thai and 25% foreigners.

Yes, there are hundreds of these there. Nothing like at the Samut Prakan farm near Bangkok, but still plenty

The kids have all grown older over the years, naturally, and now - mid-teens - the boys were much more interested in feeding raw chicken to the crocodiles below them with a string on a pole or sit within easy mauling distance of a tiger to have their picture taken than they were some years back.  What is it about our teenage years that gives us that unreasonable feeling of invincibility, anyway?

Whether the tiger's been slightly sedated or not, it doesn't seem like a good idea to sit there like this kid did.

While they'd have covered their eyes in the past, this time the guys leaned forward with smiles on their faces when the crocodile handler did what are supposed to be the riskier moves. Vicarious thrills, I suppose.  I watched, too.

Looking for his keys, maybe...

The park just passed its 20th anniversary, having opened in February of 1992. Touristy? Absolutely - but what's wrong with that?  Ask a Thai friend along with you. If they haven't been there themselves already I'll wager they'd have fun.

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