Sunday, May 22, 2011

Siam Ocean World

Me and my newest friend

Siam Ocean World, in the basement of the Paragon shopping centre in Bangkok, isn't the greatest aquarium I've been to. It's not the worst, or the one with the least fish, but it feels like one of the most expensive, at 900 baht.

The layout isn't very good: most of it doesn't make good use of available space. Instead, there's lots of small tanks quite far apart from one another. Although the signs around each tank are quite good, giving you a better perspective on why some fish protect themselves in one way and other fish in another, the decision to put the food concessions inside the hall is a strange one. Maybe financially it makes sense, but my enjoyment of fish is not enhanced by the stench of popcorn.

However, as I went further through the aquarium I became more impressed. There's a spectacular underwater tunnel which seems to put the fish much closer to you than in KL or Osaka. As I walked into it I was face to face with a shark, and there are a lot of sharks in the lower tanks at Siam Ocean World. I'm not really up to speed on the arguments for and against keeping sharks in aquariums: better than hacking their fins off for soup, worse than letting them swim free, but from a spectator's point of view, this was a real highlight to the aquarium.

Black tipped reef shark

Further along there's a two-storey high tank, including a Maori wrasse and a lot of other fish swimming up and down in neurotic circles. The wrasse is another of those very large fish that look disappointed with their lives; understandable if you spend your time headbutting coral in search of dinner.

Humphead Maori Wrasse

Outside the mall there are some huge paper jellyfish hanging up as advertisements; inside, the jellyfish aren't as impressive: four or five small tanks, and a video playing on a screen which seems to be there to advertise consumer electronics, rather than have you wonder at the beauty of nature. It's the first time I've seen an inside-out jellyfish, mind.

Siam Ocean World has a lot of impressive fish, but for the most part poorly presented. It's as though somebody splurged as much cash as was ostentatiously possible, without thinking about where they were going to put the fish or how they would curate exhibits. The financial largesse required seems to also mean it's hideously expensive to go in; on my own with nothing else to do 900 baht is almost acceptable, but a family would find it horribly costly.

Not wanting to end on a sour note, I must mention the costumes. I came out of the aquarium to meet a ray, two sharks, a mermaid and a very camp blue fish, all mincing around and being photographed with people. Never before have I had the chance to have my photo taken with an enormous plush hammerhead shark, although I suppose I could have done that without paying the entrance fee.


Anonymous said...

And that's not even a real fish... it's just a guy in a suit. You were conned!!

Mr Cushtie said...

You're kidding! It looks so realistic :(

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