SHOWS, ENTERTAINMENTS AND ATTRACTIONS IN BANGKOK
For some, the term 'Bangkok shows' still has - to put it mildly - a rather dubious connotation, which usually brings up images of very scantily clad ladies (or even scantily clad gentlemen dressed up as ladies!) performing for the tourists in one or two designated streets around town. But there are shows, entertainments and attractions of a rather more wholesome kind for all the family in and around Bangkok - some in very surprising locations - which anyone staying in the capital may wish to check out.
This page looks at just four of these attractions - all very different in nature - and gives an honest, albeit personal appraisal of their merits. The attractions selected for review are Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, Siam Niramat, Safari World and Madame Tussauds.
Dancers at Siam Niramat
One of the residents at Ocean World
The Entrance to Safari World
Will Smith at Madame Tussauds
* N.B: Viewpoints expressed are personal, and based upon the author's visits to these attractions at various times in recent years. Shows and entertainments develop over time, and of course prices and package deals change. This page should only be taken as a general guide to what can be seen - if you are interested in visiting any of these attractions, my advice would be to visit the official websites for up-to-date details *
SEA LIFE BANGKOK OCEAN WORLD (FORMERLY SIAM OCEAN WORLD)
Big shopping malls in Thailand are among the most modern and well laid out anywhere in the world. In many of the larger complexes there's not just retail shops and restaurants, but also bowling alleys and multiplex cinemas. However, even in the very finest of accessorised malls, one would not expect to find poison dart frogs, boa constrictors and live, nine foot long sharks - but that is exactly what exists in Siam Paragon Shopping Plaza in Central Bangkok!
Down in the basement of this expensive new mall lurk denizens of the rainforest, cave dwelling salamanders and an ocean of fish, turtles and coral. Indeed this new attraction in Bangkok is called 'Ocean World'. One enters via one of several turnstiles and is then taken past a wide variety of aquaria and terraria featuring some of the planet's strangest creatures from wet and semi-wet environments, and including some you may be very hard pressed to find elsewhere. Particularly interesting for many are the aquaria featuring the 'living fossil', the pearly nautilus, as well as moray eels and archer fish, the exotic sea dragon, penguins and otters, pythons and lizards and the aforementioned poison frogs. But these large tanks are only part of the attraction. Passing them, one eventually enters a perspex tunnel surrounded by a vast aquarium in which swim many hundreds of truly big fish including stingrays and sharks of many kinds - nurse sharks, black-tipped reef sharks and hammerheads. At set times during the day, visitors will be treated to the spectacle of feeding time when a couple of divers descend into this tank and brave the sharks to deliver their food.
Ocean World is the biggest aquarium in South-east Asia containing 5 million litres of water, and covering an area of 10,000 square metres. The main tank is 8 metres deep. More than 30,000 animals of 400 species are to be found in the whole complex.
There are other attractions too which can be added on to the price of entry for a reduced cost package. These include a brief glass bottom boat ride, and a behind the scenes tour - neither of which impressed the author of this article greatly. Rather more interestingly there are opportunities for visitors to receive dive training, don wetsuits and enter the water to be in direct contact with the fish. There is also a novelty fish cleaning service not to be missed - visitors sit with their bare feet in a pool and allow them to be picked clean by little fish - a ticklish sensation! Finally there is an adjacent '4D' cinema screen showing a short film (3D but with added sensations too), and a children's show and other entertainment experiences.
Siam Ocean World - home to strange fish .....
...... and pretty fish
Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World Details
Standard tourist entry to Ocean World at the current time (2019) is 990 baht for adults and 790 baht for children. Prices for Thai residents and expats are cheaper. However, there are many other deals available including cheaper tickets online, concessions and package deals taking in additional attractions such as nearby Madame Tussauds (see below).
Sea Life Ocean World is open from 10.00 AM until 9.00 PM. Sited in a major shopping complex it is accessible to taxis and buses and adjacent to the BTS skytrain Siam Station.
Another of the colourful fishes on display
Not what one expects to see living in the basement of a shopping mall
The beautiful but poisonous scorpion fish
The pearly nautilus, a 'living fossil' - unique survivors of an entire subclass of cephalopods common in the Earth's seas before the Age of Dinosaurs - thousands of fossil species are known, but only six living species remain
Siam Niramit is a spectacle themed around the historical and mythological cultural life of Siam (the old name for Thailand). It is a song and dance extravaganza, a piece of theatre in three acts dealing with the various provinces of Siam through the ages (Act 1), the Thai concept of Heaven and Hell (Act 2), and Thai festivities (Act 3). For visiting tourists, much of the story and the symbolism of the characters, will pass by without comprehension, but no matter - the show is to be enjoyed for the special effects, the music, and the set design, featuring a water course at front of stage, a thunderstorm with lightning, flying 'spirits' and a pair of elephants - plus goats and assorted chickens!
Prior to the show commencing, visitors who arrive early have a chance to dine in the theatre's thousand seat buffet style restaurant, go for a short elephant ride, or enjoy dance entertainments in the grounds of Siam Niramit. Also in the grounds is a small lake surrounded by wood buildings representative of a traditional Thai village, and in these buildings, arts and crafts including silk processing, weaving, Thai cooking and massage are practised for the benefit of the tourists. A long boat on the lake will take visitors for a gentle excursion around the grounds.
The show, of course, is the main event, and it takes place on a stage which has acquired an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest in the world - it needs to be to accommodate both the dramatic sets and the aerial displays. The scenery changes, the performers' costumes and the beauty of some of the artistry makes this a show unlike any you will have to have seen outside of Thailand. For anyone spending more than a couple of days in the capital, and looking for ideas on how to spend the evenings, Siam Niramit is well worth a visit and makes for a good evening's entertainment.
(Unfortunately all photos here had to be taken outside of the show - for a flavour of the show itself please visit the website or watch YouTube videos)
Siam Niramit Details
There is only one show per day, and it starts at 8.00 in the evening, and lasts 80 minutes without intermission. It is very much an evening only event, with the gates opening at 5.00 pm for all those who wish to take advantage of the restaurant and the entertainments in the grounds. The basic price is 1250 baht, though one can opt for the show with a meal for 1550 baht, or pay extra for premium seating. Again, there are other tour packages and options available via internet booking. Probably the best way to get to the show is to use the Bangkok MTR (subway) system to Thailand Cultural Centre Station, from where a free shuttle bus service takes you direct to the show, and a fleet of these vehicles is also lined up to take you back again afterwards).
Welcome to Siam Niramat
Part of the pre-show entertainment at Siam Niramat
One of the beautiful dancers who entertain the crowd before the main show
Safari World, which is to be found on the outskirts of Bangkok, is actually two parks in one, 'Safari Park' and 'Marine Park'. The entire complex covers about 200 acres.
The 'Safari Park' is a drive-through reserve, and is quite nice, though perhaps not special to most foreign tourists, as the landscaping is not particularly exciting, with relatively few trees or greenery. Most of the route takes one through an enclosure which includes a small lake and a wide variety of animals such as zebras, rhinos and camels, an assortment of deer and antelopes, and huge numbers of pelicans, storks and herons. Two fenced off areas feature lions and tigers.
The drive-through Safari Park surrounds and embraces 'Marine Park'. Marine Park is a misnomer, as most of the exhibits are not marine animals. The park features a number of caged exhibits, animal performance shows and souvenir shops, funfair style amusements and restaurant services. This is very much an entertainment spectacle, rather than a wildlife spectacle. The main part of the show park has some attractive landscaping with natural looking rivers flowing through luxuriant tropical vegetation, which of course flourishes beautifully in this climate.
That is, however, almost the limit of the praise which the author of this review could offer. Perhaps in other circumstances, experiences would be much better, but the author took in the park as part of a tour group with a guide intent on racing everyone from one themed show to the next. The shows in question featured orang utans in a boxing ring and playing musical instruments, sea lions and dolphins doing what sea lions and dolphins always do in these shows, and - somewhat incongruously in a safari park - a cowboy stunt show. All entertainments tend to feature raucously loud music, tinny public address systems and presentation only in the Thai language. More seriously, in the West many of us have come to view animals performing for laughs to be somewhat distasteful, and these acts are rarely original and may lack appeal even when conducted with expertise. But that's my opinion only and to be fair, this does appear to be a respectable establishment if one accepts the legitimacy of animal acts and I suspect the animals are well looked after. All the human entertainers work tirelessly and enthusiastically, particularly those performing as stunt cowboys. No doubt many who visit - particularly young children - will find the whole thing enjoyable and memorable.
The dolphin show - a main attraction at Safari World
Deer and maribou storks in the Safari Park
Safari World Details
Safari World lies on the outskirts of Bangkok. The park is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, 365 days a year, and entrance is 1500 baht for adults, 1400 baht for children, but again there are many different packages including the option to visit just one park - Safari Park or Marine Park - or to include a buffet lunch in the price. Because of the location many visitors will find it most convenient to book a tour from their hotel, but tour groups of the kind the author went on are not the best way to visit unless they allow you the freedom to do your own thing in your own time. It's probably also best not to visit on week days because the place is then overrun with huge parties of school children!
A packed audience - largely consisting of children - attend the shows .....
..... and the majority of children seem to love the shows
On the upper floors of a Bangkok shopping centre, Siam Discovery, there is an ice rink and a multiplex cinema. And there is also the Bangkok branch of the world famous Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum. Madame Tussauds, Thai style, is not a particularly expansive, extravagant establishment, but it has a warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. A visitor can take a break from the shopping and just wander in without having to join a long queue and without any great hassle. More than half the models on display are international celebrities, politicians and figures from history - the rest are Thai nationals - the political leaders, soap stars, singers and sportsmen familiar to the home grown visitors.
What is appealing about this Madame Tussauds is the informality. One my visit, it was possible in the heart of Bangkok to join George Clooney at a table and share a coffee with him, or maybe be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her famous couch. You could sit with David Beckham on a dressing room bench as he did his pre-match exercises, and you could even answer a telephone call in the Oval Office, with a smiling Barack and Michele Obama in attendance. (I'm guessing that exhibit may now have been replaced by one featuring Donald Trump? Others may also have changed to reflect changing times) You could also practice your golf putting in the company of Tiger Woods, and sing with Madonna and Lady Gaga. OK, so of course they're only wax lookalikes, but if you wish you can pretend they are the real thing - and have the photographs to prove it! Speaking of which, there are no restrictions on photography, no crowds, and no urgency to move on to the next exhibit. You can take your time and have fun.
Madame Tussauds Details
Situated on the 6th floor of Siam Discovery Shopping Centre, Madame Tussauds is very easily accessible by taxi, bus or by the SkyTrain to Siam Station. Sea Life Ocean World is just a couple of shopping malls away. Open between the hours of 10.00 am and 9.00 pm, the basic adult price is 800 baht, and for children, 600 baht, but online booking at least a day in advance can save a lot on the entrance fee. Alternatively, buying combination tickets for Ocean World and Madame Tussauds can also save on the cost of admission. For many visitors who want to take in several attractions in quick succession this combination ticket - together with a day's shopping in the heart of Bangkok's commercial district - may be a good option
Muhammed Ali in his hey-day
Meet Albert Einstein at Madame Tussauds
You can get up close and personal with David Beckham even if he doesn't look very happy about it! Maybe he thinks wife Victoria will see the photos
Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World 10/10
Ocean World is a great attraction in my opinion. There may be other similar exhibits of this kind in the world, but are there any which are so easily accessible? Right in the heart of Bangkok, in the basement of a busy mall, one can visit this place during the course of a day's shopping. It's like another world - a natural world - and a world apart from the consumerism above. Most of the displays are attractively laid out, captioned in English as well as Thai, truly exotic, and include many creatures you will not have seen elsewhere. Very well worth a visit.
Siam Niramit 8/10
Siam Niramit is almost unique as a show. 'Almost', because there is a similar styled show on the Thai island of Phuket called 'Fantasea', and Fantasea is on an even more extravagant scale (a veritable herd of sixteen elephants rather than just the two at Siam Niramit). If you have seen Fantasea, then maybe Siam Niramit will suffer slightly by comparison, and that is why I haven't given it 10/10. There are however, elements of the stage show here which are unique, and if this is your first show of its kind, then you will find it an extraordinary spectacle.
Safari World 4/10
I hesitate over my verdict on Safari World as I am probably unduly biased against entertainments of this kind, and my experience of this particular show was rushed and lacking appeal. I can only give my own opinion. However, for anyone who enjoys animal shows, and can take the time to tour the parks at their own pace, the experience will be rather better. Particularly for children, a visit to Safari World may be a highlight of a Thai vacation.
Madame Tussauds 8/10
Madame Tussauds Bangkok is not large. It is quite small, and a significant minority of the waxworks on display will be unknown to Westerners. However, I love this place for its informality and ease of access. At Madame Tussauds, London you have to queue for hours. At Madame Tussauds, Bangkok - in a similar way to Ocean World featured above - you can just wander in from the day's shopping. Once inside you can spend a happy hour or two in the company of some of the world's most famous people, whilst the freedom to interact with the waxwork models allows great opportunities for memorable personal photographs.
I do hope this page has been of benefit to some visitors to Bangkok. These are only some of the many entertainments and shows for tourists and other visitors to enjoy during their time in the capital. These are selected attractions which the author of this article has experienced. Others may be added in due course.
The Anemonefish nestles among the stinging cells of a sea anemone at Ocean World
Arts and traditional crafts on display in the grounds of Siam Niramit
Members of the public interacting with dolphins at Safari World
Dealing with the official business of the day while the Obamas stand back and relax at Madame Tussauds
I’d Love to Hear Your Comments. Thanks, Alun