When Pata built a department store in Pinglao, they werenít content with installing the usual multiplex cinema. Incredibly, they turned the roof into a zoo full of gorillas, hippos, tigers and bears. You can even stuff your fingers through the bars. Itís surely the work of a madman and has to be seen to be believed.
Pata is just over the river from Kaosan Road, so getting there is no hassle. Admission is 200 baht (40 if you can speak Thai) and you enter a true concrete jungle. The cages arenít very spacious, so you can get up close and personal with the inmates. Heaven knows what the animal rights activists would make of it.
At weekends, they also have a stage show. You can handle a python, see the cycling orangutan, join the chimpís tea-party and laugh yourself to death as two overweight but underdressed ladies perform pitiful magic tricks. Thereís also a fella with a swollen cheek who gets his hair groomed by monkeys. Forget the Royal barge procession Ė this is real Thai entertainment.
I brought my Thai girlfriend along too. We started on the sixth floor, where they keep the snakes and creepy crawlies. They donít do much for me but, having eaten the things as a child, my girlfriend reckoned that they looked quite tasty. Itís lucky for them that they live behind thick glass.
The section with the big animals is on the roof above and the most interesting bit is the monkey house. Every one of them has a different coloured arse, a permanent erection and no inhibitions. Their antics are hilarious. An orangutan beckoned my girlfriend over, pursed its lips and then spat on her blouse. My laughter was cut short when it gobbed on me too. I wonder who taught the red-haired freak how to do that.
The tiger paces its small cage in a rather psychotic way Ė following the same path time after time. It obviously needs to get out more. You have to feel sorry for it but how else could you get this close without risking your life?
The zoo has a fully-equipped bear pit with half a dozen residents. You can throw them bread rolls at 5 baht a go and they do some amazing mid-air catches. We aimed a little behind them in the hope that they might tip-over backwards but they are obviously wise to that trick.
Some years ago, there was a fire in the shop below which rapidly spread to the zoo. Unfortunately, the firemen couldnít save the animals. It must have been quite a barbeque.
Pata zoo is popular with Thai families at weekends but I was the only farang there Ė perhaps because it doesnít feature in the guidebooks. Some westerners might be concerned at the treatment of the larger animals. If you want to take a look before making up your own mind, leave your vegetarian buddies at home.