Exploring Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum in San Francisco

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I grew up on a steady diet of bizarre facts narrated by Dean Cain, so it was nice to pop into the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.  It is housed in a narrow three-storey building that looks plain on the outside but is quite spacious on the inside. The place looks old though – it has that dusty, musky smell of rotting wood and silverfish infested books that are the signature of old museums.

To those who have never encountered the Ripley’s franchise, Believe it or Not was founded by American entrepreneur Robert Ripley, and deals with bizarre items and events. The concept was so popular it was adapted to radio, TV, books and museums.

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Random facts and exhibits sit at the entrance to entice the curious onlooker, even before we paid for our tickets.

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The place was empty, even though the streets outside were full of people. That’s for the best though – we took our time looking and reading up on the exhibits. When I was a kid, I used to swallow all the ‘Believe It’ stuff hook, line and sinker…but now that I’m older some of the claims seem quite outrageous. As PT Barnum once said… “A sucker is born every minute.”

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An ‘authentic’ headdress from Tibet, apparently used by their priests. I like how the labels always say that the stuff is “real/authentic” and yet they put them in simple glass cases with no protection whatsoever. lol

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The Fiji Mermaid, which had everyone in the early 1800s fooled into believing a monkey torso sewn onto a fish tail was an actual mermaid.

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Oh look, my city gets a special mention

Tbh, I don’t even know if KL has annual spinning tournament. I’ve certainly never seen one nor read it in the news. Or maybe they’ve just discontinued it after this info was put up.

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A funky tunnel made to look like a periscope.

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More exhibits. It was interesting to look at and read up on, but as how odditoriums go, take everything with a pinch of salt.

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Why you should never trust me with a gun.

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Fancy a fortune telling?

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An earthquake simulation room which moved at intervals.

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Our Malaysian university can give the creator of the vampire killing kit a run for their money with our own anti hysteria kit.

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Portrait of Madonna compiled from magazine ads. Creative!

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Spinning psychedelic tunnel had us all dizzy in our tracks.

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Heat sensing camera.

There’s this funny thing when you first step into the museum. A mirror asks you to stick your tongue out at it as part of an experiment. Naturally, the visitor would do so. Andddd the funny part comes much later, when you’re almost at the exit and realise that it was a one-way mirror!

Ripley’s was fun to visit, but I think it needs an upgrade because the exhibits are old and static. There is a laser tag and mirror maze at the exit but you have to pay separately for that.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT ODDITORIUM

75 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Phone: 415 202-9850

Ticket: 20.99$ (2$ off if you buy online).

Travel Diaries: Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

FISHERMAN’S WHARF in San Francisco is a charming tourist enclave located way north of the Bay Area. Founded in the 1800s by Italian fishermen, the place retains many traditional seafood restaurants, along with attractions such as an aquarium and several museums.

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Parking is a bitch and expensive, so I’d recommend taking the public transport. Buses and tram services stop here regularly.

It was early evening when we got to the wharf and there was a crowd milling about watching a street dance-off. They scattered once the performers started handing out collection cups.

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Fishing is still done at Fisherman’s Wharf. You can even pay a boat to take you out fishing, and the catch is all yours. There are also tour cruises and yachting activities.

Visitors can get a closer view of the infamous prison, Alcatraz, from the pier. It looked super foreboding and gloomy in the distance.

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The iconic Fisherman’s Wharf sign is surrounded by seafood restaurants, both the street-kind and bigger, classier establishments.

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The main street along the wharf houses souvenir shops, museums and cafes.

We popped into a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, which I will detail in the next post because there are too many pictures. After emerging from the attraction, it was already dark. All the boats had already retired to their docks for the night.

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If you’re coming here in spring (or any time for that matter), bring a thick jacket and a beanie because the wind here doesn’t just scream.. it howls. Especially when you’re walking along the pier. While I enjoy being in a cooling place, the freezing gale was a little too much for my tropical blood lol and I quickly looked for a place of refuge…

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Said hiding place was the Boudin Bakery, which specialises in sourdough bread. Downstairs is the cafe and bakery area, while upstairs is the restaurant and mini museum.

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The animal-shaped breads are very popular. You can also join their daily baking classes for a fee.

Travel tip: Come during the night if you want to be a scrooge and not pay their museum entrance fee of 3$ – minus the tour guide and crowd. If you’re lucky, you’ll still be able to see some of the staff + machinery churning out bread.

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View of factory from the museum on the first floor.

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It was packed with people on the inside so we had to huddle under a heater on the patio seats with a bowl of clam chowder in their signature sourdough bowl.

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We also drove down Lombard Street, the place where Bruce Lee used to live with the zig-zaggedy stairs. The photos weren’t good because we were inside the car, but it was a good experience anyway.

Night time in SF is charming, with its tall buildings all lit up with lights. It feels like New York (or how I imagine NY to be). But until I earn enough to  go there, I think San Fran is just as fine a city as any I’ve ever been to.

Getting to Fisherman’s Wharf 

By Tram: Powell-Hyde line on Hyde and Beach Streets (Aquatic Park near Ghirardelli Square), and the Powell-Mason line on Taylor and Bay Streets

By F-Line Street car: between the Castro Neighbourhood and Fisherman’s Wharf. It runs the length of Market Street until it reaches the Ferry Terminal Building on the Embarcadero before turning west to the wharf.

More useful info here: http://www.visitfishermanswharf.com/parking

Why The Legion of Honor Museum In San Francisco Is A Must-Visit For Art Lovers

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Standing on a hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, I look down to the foggy grey sea and think about how pretty everything is. It’s easy to forget that this green city sits on a notorious fault line.. and that all the neat museums, well-paved roads, beautiful trees and houses can all be uprooted in mere seconds. Even so, there’s something about San Fran that captures the heart of the weary traveller.

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The Legion of Honor is a popular attraction in the city. It looks like it belongs more to an ancient European town than a park in San Francisco. That’s because it is a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion in Paris.

Built by a wealthy sugar magnate, the building is now a fine-arts museum housing over 6,000 years of art, culture and history by renowned names such as Baroque and Picasso.

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A statue of the Thinking Man sits in the courtyard.

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I’m not an art connoisseur, but it’s hard not to marvel at the beautiful paintings and sculptures, especially those from the medieval era – before the ‘abstract’ or ‘modernist’ concepts came into place. Back then, paintings were done in minute detailing. Not putting down some modern artists, but these days a couple of splotches can qualify as art. Maybe I’m too stupid and low-culture to understand art today.

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Exhibits are not limited to paintings, but also furniture and sculptures. Some are not allowed to be photographed due to copyright and light sensitivity. Check with the curators if its okay to snap pix, unless you want to be told off in a quiet museum and have all the people stare at you lol.

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A grand tapestry which used to hang in a royal court, featuring gory battle scenes with dead bodies, knights on lions, skewered people and disembodied heads. You can look at it for half an hour and still discover new details – it’s like a story book in painted form.

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On the lower floor is a room housing all sorts of pretty and rare collections. Teapots, ceramic bowls, fine china, porcelain jugs and delicate glass ornaments can be found here.

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Persian tablets and carvings.

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Tribal Bead Necklace.

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An extremely life-like and detailed wood carving of a noblewoman.

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Paintings which you will never see in art galleries in Malaysia.

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Spacious and tranquil gallery rooms. The best way to explore the whole place is to divide your visit by systematic room-by-room order from one end to the other.

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The Legion of Honour is a good place to visit for art lovers and tourists, as there are lots of beautiful/interesting pieces and rich history to uncover. 🙂

LEGION OF HONOR 

100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, United States

Opening hours: Tues – Sun (930am – 515pm)

Admission: 10$ (Adults), children under 12 (free)

Japanese Garden, Golden Gate Park San Francisco

You don’t have to fly to the Land of the Rising Sun to experience Zen in a Japanese tea garden – you can get that right in the heart of San Francisco! Located within the Golden Gate Park, the Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden was founded by Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant and gardener.

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After the Pearl Harbour bombing, Hagiwara and his family were relocated elsewhere and the park fell into ruin. Today, thankfully, it is a popular tourist attraction and well maintained.

Upon stepping into the compound, one is greeted by a beautiful landscape full of carefully trimmed shrubs, shady trees and aesthetically-pleasing blooms. Some of the plant species and even the pond’s goldfish are native to Japan and were brought in many years ago. It does feel like you’re in a pretty Zen garden somewhere in Japan and not in the middle of a park in San Fran!

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The wooden gazebo overlooking the pond is where visitors can buy souvenirs and enjoy green tea and other Japanese snacks.

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To add to the Japanese feels, there are also statues and shrines scattered all over the area.

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Mushroom trees and cherry blossoms.

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A tranquil pathway lined with tall, shady trees. Some of the small gardens are Zen-style: meaning the rocks, water, trees and shrubs are done in a carefully placed and composed way. It is the same concept of ‘control over nature’ that drives the development of bonsai trees.

We were lucky because during our visit there were not many people around, so it was a peaceful stroll around the park.

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Pagoda atop a hill. Some students were doing graduation photoshoots here.

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A rather naked cherry blossom with sparse blooms.

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A scary bridge.

That is E’s “Don’t be a coward, Eris” face.

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And more blooms!

I think the Japanese Tea Gardens are worth their entry price, because the flowers and plants are beautiful especially in spring time. Also a good place to take your girlfriend on a date.

HAGIWARA TEA GARDEN

Golden Gate Park, 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr,

San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Open daily: Summer (3/1 through 10/31): 9:00 am to 6:00 ; Winter (11/1 through 2/28): 9:00 am to 4:45 pm

Free admission before 10am on Mon, Wed, Fri.

Adults: 8$ (non-residents), 6$ (SF Residents).

 

 

Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco

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I never liked getting flowers, because I hate the idea of wasting money for a bunch of blooms that will wilt in a couple of days. I’d much prefer going to a park or garden where you can see them in their natural state. 🙂

Our next stop in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is the Conservatory of Flowers.The oldest building in the park, it was completed in the 1870s with a large central dome and ‘wings’, reflecting Victorian-era architecture. The surprising thing is that the greenhouse’s frame is made from wood and glass; and it still keeps well even after a century.

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The Conservatory sits on a short hill overlooking a vast green field. In some travel photos online, the field is shown to be filled with flowers. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case while we were visiting. Still pretty though!

Forgive the face.. because it was cold and I looked like hell from the early morning trip.

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Home to about 1,700 plant species, the greenhouse is not very big but is divided into several sections. The main one houses the tropical plants. The air becomes immediately humid and warm upon stepping inside, as one’s lungs fill up with the smell of moist dew, leafy plants and earth. It reminded me of the rainforests of home.

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Moving on to the less jungle-y part of the greenhouse, there are many beautiful orchids and garden-variety flowers. This section exudes a feeling of zen and calm tranquility, with flowing water features and the smell of florals.

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Never been much of a green finger..but I think plants are an essential component of a home. They just breathe life and colour to an otherwise dull and drab front, don’t you think? 🙂

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The Malaysian national flower, Hibiscus or ‘bunga raya’ as we call it in Malay. The ones here were very healthy and the flowers were as big as a man’s palm.

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My mum calls these ‘dancing lady’ orchids.. and the name has stuck ever since. I think they do look like dancing ladies in yellow gowns, don’t you?

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The greenhouse is not very big and we were done in an hour, but I think it was a warm respite from the winds outside, especially in the colder months in San Francisco.

Adult ticket price: 8$ / Children: 2$.

CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS

100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco,

CA 94118, United States

Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 4:30pm;closed on Mondays

 

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park San Francisco

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IT was late afternoon after our visit to the California Academy of Sciences, but a little too early for dinner. E and I decided to hang out a bit at the Music Concourse, a large, open air plaza located just across the street. Built in 1894, the place has lots of shrubby trees and a bandstand where many prominent musicians and bands have played before.

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There are three fountain features from one end to the other. Only one was on during our visit because Cali is having a drought and they are trying to save on water.

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Seats facing the bandstand, which is done in a Roman/Grecian style with fat pillars.

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Some naked ladies with trumpets.

This is the dome above the focal point of the plaza, called the Spreckels Temple of Music (also called the ‘Bandshell’) which was built in 1899. It has served as a stage, from classical performers such as Luciano Pavarotti to the Grateful Dead.

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The weather was rather cloudy and cold, but the trees and flowers were all blooming in a soft, green spring. This is one thing I like about parks in the US (and Europe, for that matter) because they have such beautiful scenery and its nice and cool to walk around even in the afternoon. In South East Asia, people don’t really go to parks because it is so hot nobody feels like doing anything other than hide in air conditioned buildings.

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The Japanese Tea Garden from the outside. We only took pictures from the outside on that day because it was late and they were closing.

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Academy of Sciences view from behind the bandstand.

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MUSIC CONCOURSE

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr San Francisco, CA 94118

Getting here: 

The #44-O’Shaughnessy bus which goes directly to the California Academy of Sciences. Walk opposite to the Music Concourse.

The #5-Fulton bus stops at 8th Avenue and Fulton Street, just outside the park. From 8th Avenue, walk into the park and turn right on John F. Kennedy Drive. Then turn left onto Music Concourse Drive.

A good place to relax in between visiting the many attractions inside San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park 🙂

Angel’s Flight/Central Market/Broadway, Los Angeles

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WHILE walking down the streets of LA, one might notice a bright pink funicular train and a short stretch of track heading up to Bunker Hill. Originally built in the 1940s, Angel’s Flight was dismantled and rebuilt several times – the most recent being 1996 – but is now permanently closed after a passenger died in an accident involving two colliding trains.

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The old structure is surrounded by a small park and looks out-of-place but charming amidst high-rise, modern skyscrapers; like a secret garden in the middle of a concrete jungle.

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Just across the road is Grand Central Market, another old landmark that has been operating since 1917. Besides groceries and fresh produce, one will be spoilt for choice with food stalls, ranging from the mom-and-pop variety to hipster joints.

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Colourful displays of juicy fruit and vegetables abound, while the smell of food and cooking fills the air 🙂

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The place is a melting pot of cuisines from different cultures – Asian, Mexican, American, you name it, they got it.

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There was also the quirkily named ‘Eggslut’, specialising in all things eggy. It had good reviews but we didn’t get to try it coz they were closing for the day.

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Home made preserves and jams!

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Treats from the four-corners of the world right here in LA.

Central Market is open daily from Sun – Weds (8am – 6pm) and Thurs – Sat (8am – 9pm).

317 S. BROADWAY
LOS ANGELES, CA 90013

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Moving on, we made our way to another historic part of Downtown: one where dreams have lived and died for generations of actors, actresses and entertainers. Broadway is considered one of the oldest parts of LA, having been founded as early as 1847. It was America’s first theater and cinema district.

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I imagined that in its heydays, the place was full of colourful characters, bright lights and glitzy theatres. Sadly, Broadway is now a shadow of its former self. Although still a busy part of town, the shops have been replaced with ones selling cheap goods and dusty prom dresses,  and homeless people line the street pushing carts that hold all of their worldly possessions.

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Many of the buildings looked run-down. Some had windows which had not been cleaned in ages. Once upon a time, mannequins must have lined those very windows with fancy clothing and the latest trends – now empty panes stared sadly down at visitors.

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There are still a couple of historic theatres, for the nostalgic tourist.

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Next to Broadway is the Jewelry district – so we passed by many gold and jewelry shops too.

Getting to Broadway

Metro Gold Line – Bus 745

Los Angeles Zoo

I have a love-hate relationship with zoos.

While it’s great that I get to see the animals up close, it’s not good to keep them fenced up in cages either. They should be roaming free; wild and happy. But then again, habitat destruction and the eradication of various species is so common that people have started justifying the actions of ‘protecting’ animals by keeping them in zoos, where they are safe, well-fed and cared for.

Is life worth living behind bars?

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Not everything is bad about zoos though. I think it’s a great place to take young children, to educate the next generation about the importance of caring for the environment, lest these amazing creatures become extinct in our time. People learn from seeing, observing and experiencing much better than from reading about tigers in a text book.

Anyway, we visited the Los Angeles Zoo during our stay in the city. Founded in 1966 and sprawled across 54 acres of land, the place is pretty old.  And huge. Allocate at least a day if you’re planning to visit while in LA.

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Palm trees! Why am I not surprised? Palm trees are everywhere in LA.

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Just at the entrance is a large tank with a resident manatee. They look fat and tubby but are super graceful and fast swimmers. I can see why sailors (who were probably dehydrated/famished/hallucinating while on dangerous journeys) would mistake them for being mermaids.

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“Reggie” – a gator that became a media sensation after irresponsible owners let him off in a lake in Cali. He was captured after two years of eluding the authorities, and became an unofficial zoo mascot. They even have an eatery in the zoo named after him.

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Bad composition photo lol.

It was a weekday and there were lots of elementary kids running about on school trips. We (evilly) nicknamed them little zombies because they seemed to go to each exhibit in droves, screaming. I applaud teachers the world over – how do you guys handle it?

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Also within the zoo is a botanical garden with lovely roses.

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It’s Timon!

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“Some day, I shall gaze at the sun from the vast fields of Africa instead of this small excuse of a ‘habitat’.”

Well, a meerkat can dream.

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Flamingoes. The ones here have a healthy colour – bright pink/orange. I’ve been to a lake in Putrajaya back in Malaysia where they kept flamingoes, and their colours were pale and sickly-looking.

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An indoor area with small animals like reptiles and frogs.

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We had to wait for the horde…I mean, the school kids to pass through the area before we could take pictures and look at the animals.

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More gators

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All the way from Down Under, the Kangaroo…

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And fluffy koala bears.

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Bougainvilleas in bloom.

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Mountain goats. They made a hill-like structure to simulate their natural habitat.

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It is hard to see stripey zebras behind foliage. #theoryproven

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Mountain gorillas

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A type of African gazelle which can stand on its hind legs to eat high shoots and leaves. We waited for a long time but they didnt do it ._.

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Okapi – a shy animal that looks like a cross between a tapir and a zebra.

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They also have large animals like hippos, rhinos, giraffes and Asian elephants.

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The zoo is relatively well kept on the most part, but it is old and needs upgrading. I had a nice time exploring the place and there is lots of greenery even when you’re not looking at the animals.

LA Zoo

5333 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027, United States

10am to 5pm (daily)

Admission Adult: 19$
Getting There 
Take the Bus line 96 route, which originates in Burbank and Downtown.