When they were living in The Midlands of England, my parents took my two-something brother to Twycross Zoo for a close encounter with the lions. Before she turned two, my sister got the opportunity to be up close and personal with the koalas at the stupendously breathtaking Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Needless to say, my brother tagged along too.
As some of you may know, I celebrated my second birthday recently. Alas, I have never been to any real zoos, until yesterday. My parents finally remedied their remissness just before they wrapped up the two-week school holiday. No, we did not fly to England or Australia to see the animal kingdom. We all went to Taiping Zoo, which is equally remarkable, although nothing can top the elevated Taronga Zoo with its panoramic view of the Sydney Cove, Opera House and the so-called coathanger bridge.
But, the bonus is, on the way there we stopped for buffet lunch at the Sarkies Corner. It is the same old story. The place has a distinctly Chinese feel. I ate lots of strawberries and other dainty deserts. My parents were complacent with the consistently perfect grilled salmon fillets, so much so they were not tempted to try the very long and slender Japanese fish.
In the middle of the long lunch, when I was getting restless, Papa took me out for a stroll along the promenade of the Eastern and Oriental Hotel. As usual, I had to strike a few poses. Not that I am complaining.
Now, back to the zoo thingy. It is situated in the picturesque, serene and verdant Taiping Lake Gardens, famous for its luxurious rain trees with fat trunks and shapely branches, near the foot of Bukit Larut (formerly Maxwell Hill). As soon as we entered the zoo, a long queue for the mini trains was already building up, despite the trains coming and going at frequent intervals. Although the location is not as perfect as Taronga Zoo, the animals seem happy and contented here, especially the orang utans who monkeyed around mischievously. It is very rare to stumble upon unoccupied kandangs, unlike the “zoo” at the Terengganu State Museum that we visited in 2007. All the kandangs there were virtually empty. Have the animals too been mistreated, not unlike what happened to rambling and exquisite mosques in the land of keropok lekor? On our way out, Papa uprooted one or two exotic plants hoping that they will grow and bloom in the wee gardens or “conservatory” of our pondok in Suasana Permai.
We then drove slowly and leisurely round and round the Taiping Lake Gardens to soak in the atmosphere and indulge in a spot of people gazing, with intent. The invigorating place was teeming with serious joggers more focused on their power running than taking in the scenery, relatives and friends throwing shuttlecocks at each other playfully, peddlers exercising vigorously with their upper or lower limbs on the strikingly eclectic boats and grandparents (could be parents) indulging their cucus (could be children) at the many playgrounds scattered around the tranquil lake. Hmm, when people saw Papa carrying me on his comfy shoulder, did they perceive a young modern grandfather indulging/spoiling/taming his romping cucu too?
Another unmistakable vision of Taiping Lake Gardens is of course the scene of perfectly groomed young couples all dressed up in their glamorous wedding attires, posing for that obligatory wedding photos. That evening we saw a couple who came complete with hulubalangs and dayangs. Psst, in 1995, Mama and Papa also stopped by here before honeymooning in Cameron Highlands. But to an impressionable toddler like me, the most vivid sight of all at the Taiping Lake Gardens is the unbearable sight of monkeys consuming ice cream and that covetable fizzy drink enthusiastically, which Mama wouldn’t let me have a sip.
With the zoo outing out of the way, I am now harbouring the thought of dreamy Paris Disneyland and Windsor Legoland. Here are some old photos of my parents and siblings having a whale of a time at the Twycross Zoo, Disneyland Paris and Taronga Zoo.