doin’ the zoo in (ho chi minh)

One of the top sights to see while enjoying a stay in Ho Chi Minh, is a quaint stroll about thesaigonzoo zoological gardens, my heavens I’m sorry, zoo, for the laymen folk. This zoo you see, happens to be, under some weight of confusion, somewhere within the top ten oldest in the world. Commissioned by the French in 1864, a veterinarian by the name of Louis Germain was appointed director and on February 17th 1869, it opened to the public.

Let’s plié 144 years, 5 months, and 12 days ahead to when Katie et moi marched up to the gates and paid the admission- something to the tune of 70 cents us both. Inside, after making a left, we found ourselves zoomgiraffebeing ogled by a stout pair of giraffes. Having an eidetic memory, I am easily able to describe the words that sprang to heart upon gracing these two altitudinous creatures, they were nothing more than awwww & they’re so fluffy!

Onward one must march to embrace all the spectacles of the zoo, and we ended up in a reptile district where it seemed each glassed-in room held perhaps the brother or sister of the reptile before it. It was the obvious; snakes, tortoises, gecko’s and lizards- all adorable nonetheless.


Stricken by the call of wild, we carried on to the most pathetic bunch of elephants, which in the moment reminded me of a story about a rather normal boy administered to a psyche ward and within but a moments time, he too was acting in a similar manner as those that had been severely diagnosed. It was that awful swinging motion that tends to manipulate the body, out of boredom, out of stress, out of confinement. And it was that exact motion that I saw in the elephants. I carried on begrudgingly.

After sussing out an enormous pit of deer, fawns and elk alike- we embarked onto more serious of matters: MONKEYS! Having always been a fond of the monkey and all of its primate associates, I pushed my distaste of confinement away and went viewing with giddiness.

After watching one giant cage housing a solid twenty-or-so primates at play, I moved over to a cage beside which housed a howling yellow-cheeked gibbon, whom I soon befriended. Grabbing a shell from a discarded piece of fruit, he cocked back and threw it past the bars, which landed somewhere near my feet. In return I picked it up and threw it back to him- twenty minutes later and I felt like I was in my backyard tossing a ball around with my pops. With a crowd of enthusiasts gathered around, a Vietnamese man picked up some fruit shell and tossed it to the gibbon. The gibbon catching it, threw it directly on the ground below him, sparking a rage of laughter from the crowd.

During our game of catch, four little monkeys slipped past the bars from the cage beside and climbed a tree above our heads and played as monkeys do. Each monkey taking turns climbing a the top limbs extremity and with its weight used it spring itself onto an adjacent tree below. Flying through the air, free, cage less, it brought a smile to my face in their simple pleasure.

jailbird monkeys 3jailbird moneys 2jailbird monkeys

Having to carry on we passed some flamingo’s along a path that led to a railing resting at about knee height. One foot beside the railing sat a pool about ten feet squared, inside unknown to us at the moment, for it seemed empty, was a hippopotamus that you could reach out and touch, had you the guts to do so. At the time I imagined Canadian officials in their denim suits scrutinizing every detail with clipboard in hand, boasting all of the infractions that this exhibit has incurred- I say nay… for perhaps as much as Vietnam is aloof, Canadians are too uptight- and in that sense both are disastrous!

hippo love

The rest of the animals after that were either sleeping, being fed, or busy getting busy- so we missed out on a few gorillas, lions, gators and such. Although for its 35 cent price tag, I was left feeling like a kid again.

(Although I genuinely find zoo’s rather saddening, I have heard that the conditions at the Saigon zoo are increasingly becoming more up to date, and I am told that the elephants are walked around the entire zoo grounds prior to the zoo opening in the morning. It is not ideal- but at least it puts a heart on the matter.)

KT Edit: Louis was clearly reading some Oscar Wilde at the time he wrote this. We also enjoyed the botanical garden, full of pretty flowers and FAKE deer and FAKE birds, I guess in case you didn’t want to go see the real things. The state of the animals was disconcerting, though.