Friday, June 10, 2011

The Shoushan Zoo (壽山動物園)

We had a very long day of walking and sight-seeing yesterday! The stars finally aligned and we made it to the Shoushan Zoo. We were able to take the train to a certain point, then walked the rest of the way.

The first half of the walk was in the sun with no shade on a 34 degree day (the weather site said it “feels like 40”), and the second half of the walk was in the shade but uphill. My left arm is now so crispy red that it peels when I glance at it. My chest and nose are impressively red as well. I was relieved when we reached our destination.

Shoushan Zoo has received a lot of bad press over the past few years because of alleged mismanagement and poor conditions for the animals. In response to those allegations, Shoushan demonstrated in 2007 that the government funding provided to them was abysmal when compared with funding provided to the Taipei Zoo. Figures then showed that the Muzha Zoo in Taipei had an annual budget of NT $440 million and the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung’s annual budget came in at approximately NT $14 million. Ouch. No wonder they were having problems.

The zoo was overhauled after that and while it still has less space and a smaller budget than Taipei, it seems to be doing a bit better. The entrance fee was very low and it was nice to wander through the grounds without having overpriced souvenirs and concessions shoved down our throats. Weekdays at any tourist attraction in Kaohsiung are usually very quiet and today was no exception. It was peaceful to snap photos and take our time with only the sound of piped-in flute music in the background.

We saw some pretty exciting highlights. I got within five feet of my favourite animal ever, the red panda. We also saw two male lions napping and cuddling which was adorable. The lone orangutan at the zoo approached the glass and rested his chin on a window ledge, staring at us sweetly and gazing at the camera while Brett took his photo.

Another cool yet scary thing was seeing a HUGE scary spider on its web. We were peering into one of the primate enclosures and I was about to steady myself by putting my hand RIGHT BESIDE HIM! He was NOT a part of the exhibit! After we both freaked out and I did an embarrassing scared little girl dance, Brett snapped some very cool photos, but it’s terrifying to think of more spiders just like that potentially moving into our apartment.

The absolute best part of the day, in my opinion, was when we went into the bird enclosure. It was the most authentic habitat in the zoo and was filled with ducks, beautiful tropical birds, an elegant stork who posed nicely for Brett, and over a dozen peafowl. A few of the peacocks were displaying their plumage as we walked through the enclosure, and I was very impressed by an albino peacock and peahen they had as well! I’ve never seen anything like it! Brett is going to post some photos below!

Something we thought was cute was how excited all the children at the zoo were when they saw us. A small boy, when held six inches from the staring orangutan’s face, was too preoccupied watching Brett to notice the posing primate. Little girls ran up and shouted “Hi! Hi! Hi!” and parents grinned and got their children to wave and say, “Bye-bye!” as we passed. We felt like part of the zoo exhibit ourselves!

After the zoo we went to nearby Lao Song Beef Noodle for dinner. We’ve heard a lot about beef noodles and beef noodle soup from Taiwanese and Canadians alike. These are apparently a signature dish in Taiwan and involve a lengthy seasoning and stewing process.

As this was our first experience with beef noodles, chose the straightforward, signature dish (which was only NT $110 per person or about $3.50 CAD) with medium noodles (vs thin or wide). B got the soup, and I chose to have mine “dry” with the broth on the side. They did have some soups that included organs and tripe, which probably would have been a lot like what we had in Beijing.

This is the best local food I have eaten here so far. The beef was so extremely tender and the noodles were thick, chewy, and perfectly cooked. The blend of seasonings used to make the thick broth was fantastic. The whole thing was covered with a liberal sprinkling of chopped spring onion as well. There were a variety of different seasonings and sauces on the table we could have used, but the dish was so flavourful already I couldn’t imagine needing to add anything else. We’re definitely going back and I’m going to remember to take a photo next time.

Oh and post script - I followed Brett’s suggestion to use a liberal amount of BioOil on my sunburn and it looks and feels way better today, though I am now going to have an embarrassingly stark farmer’s tan.

(Post post script - This is Brett here. Today, June 15th, I learnt that Shou shan means "Mt. Longevity". Thought it was worth adding to Amanda's post)

Tile Mosaic Mural
Alaskan Brown Bear
In 2007 one of the zoo's veterinarians accidentally gave a salt water crocodile antibiotics instead of anesthetic and then got the fright of their life when the crocodile bit their forearm off.
Yellow-billed stork
An Albino Peacock

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