Friday, April 06, 2012

The Birds

Red, on the heard
After a 6-hour coach ride (which felt more like a 4-hour coach ride punctuated by two hours of the coach sitting in various random car parks) I got to Kuala Lumpur, and walked from the Berjaya Times Square mall to our hotel. Along the way, I had taxi driver after taxi driver ask me if I wanted a ride.

As I got closer to the hotel, three women scuttled out of a doorway to ask if I wanted a ride. "Hey baby, do you remember me from Australia?" one of them lilted. I considered stopping and asking whether she'd served me a Thai green curry in the Gold Coast in 2008, or if she'd been queuing up for a delayed flight to Hong Kong with Qantas, but I had to assume she was just guessing I was Australian. After all, I was a solitary male, who needed a shave and a bath, and I was wearing shorts and pulling a suitcase. This was just the latest ignominous misidentification of my nationality (after the Singaporeans guessing I was French or Dutch) so I trundled along to my hotel, where the check in staff didn't believe my passport and had to wake up my wife before allowing me into the hotel room. That I had booked and paid for.

(I can't be too annoyed, because at the same time that this is going on, HSBC are continually texting me whenever my wife uses her bank card, as if she can't be trusted and her husband requires full financial oversight. It's strange living in the 1850s, it surely is.)

Anyway, today we got up and after I ate my own body weight in croissants, we took a taxi to the bird park. It's big: apparently one of the largest in Asia, and is chockful of peafowl, cattle egrets and blue crested pigeons. There are a lot of different aviaries, including some where the inmates will climb onto you. For a while I was amused as lories stood on a man's bald head, until a cockatoo alighted on my backpack and then tried to eat my camera.

How I laughed. If by "laughed" you mean "shouted 'stop it' at an insensate beast". Not that the parrots are dumb: we got to see a rather frivolous show where a big blue macau played a version of cherchez la femme with some metal bowls, and another one counted to ten.

Later, we got a chance to have our photos taken with birds. In this case, a hornbill sat on our laps, like an enormous avian cat, and although it was initially quite placid, it began to tap its enormous beak harder and harder against my sternum, as though I were a particularly large nut that it wanted to eat.

There were a lot more birds a lot closer to us than when we went to Jurong. Perhaps the variety wasn't as great, but when you have dozens of storks and peacocks and also the obligatory ostriches, cassowary and emus, quantity has a quality all of its own. Plus having animals crawl over you is fun. At least until you lose an eye.

The park is big - we walked for two and a half miles - and very hot and humid. There's certainly a lot to see there, but by the end I was wishing that I was better at shedding heat, and that Mr Canon's exceedingly good cameras weren't quite so exceedingly heavy. It also turned out that after twenty peafowl, you *do* begin to suffer from peacock-fatigue, but I suppose that's the point that you stop and go to the mall to recuperate. If by recuperate you mean "almost drop two grand on a new lens", that is.


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