Review: Zoo Negara (Day 3)

Zoo Negara – Pandas in Malaysia!

It may be becoming clear to readers of this blog that I’m a fan of Pandas.  Not obsessively, but lets just say I think they’re awesome.


Getting There:

While Bukit Bintang may be more centrally located in Kuala Lumpur Zoo Negara certainly feels a little out of the way.  I used the MyTeksi “GrabCar” Service which hustled me to the Zoo for 30RM.  The car was clean, driver friendly and the trip was a little quicker and more comfortable than the Mono-rail-Train-Taxi combination recommended by some.

I was dropped off at the carpark entrance so a short walk up to the main entrance was in order.

Zoo Negara – Addressing the TripAdvisor Forum Posts

After paying the 85RM entry fee I pushed through the turnstiles and entered the zoo.  It was finally my chance to form my own impression after reading hundreds of reviews and forum posts on TripAdvisor which were less than complimentary.

Malaysias Zoo Negara is not the most modern zoo, not is it the best maintained “old style” Zoo I have seen but I would not say boycotting attendance over this facts is in any way an effective strategy, I would counter that more International Visitors, more support and more encouragement are in order.

You’ll still find some of the animals in small exhibits, you’ll still see “pacing” and other traits of boredom, but to be honest you can see that at just about every zoo in the world.  A rare exception may be the open range zoos where the sheer size of exhibits counteracts it.  There are signs throughout the zoo indicating that there are changes underway, and I certainly saw no signs of outright abuse that some of the TripAdvisor forum posts talk about.

Getting Around

Like most zoos you end up walking along a number of paths that loop and wind around the park, it’s not a massive zoo so you can take time to look at the animals, take photos at a relaxed pace and still not consume a full day.  Starting early – closer to the 9am opening time – will give you an hour of two in the relatively “cool” part of the day.  As the sun starts warming up there’s adequate shade but the animals are also keen on staying out of the heat.

Young Lion @ Zoo Negara

The standard exhibits are all there, many looking a little ramshackle or run down, the usual array of big-cats, African savannah “game”, Malaysian & Asian Locals as well as some representatives from Australia.  My pictures certainly don’t cover all the animals, but I was there for one of the most exotic animals, the Giant Panda.

How ’bout them Pandas?

After I saw my first Giant Pandas in Hong Kong I hadn’t really expected to see more (well maybe the pair in Adelaide) until we’d be able to make the journey to Chengdu in China.  So when I made my trip to Kuala Lumpur in 2014 I kind of overlooked the opportunity,so this year I was going to set that right.

The Giant Panda “enclosure” is built at the back of the Zoo and is a completely separate building/exhibit which has it own entry fee that can be purchased either at the Zoo entrance (as I did – making my total entry fee 85RM) or at the Panda exhibit.

Around the exterior are a number of less life-like Pandas you can use as photo props, a wandering Panda suited photo opportunity and the typical stands of bamboo to complete the very panda-centric environment.

Once you’ve been scanned in, you enter a “briefing” area where groups are given an introduction to the exhibit, reminders of the rules (no loud noise, no flash photography).  The intent seems to be groups run through the exhibit in 30 minute blocks, however thanks to my early start I was able to stay much longer in the air-conditioned exhibit, as the crowds never built up to a point where the staff had a need to move on groups.

The exhibit itself is small, and follows the pattern of a raised walkway dividing the exhibits with the Pandas relaxing on either side.



After I’d taken and sent a bunch of Selfies around to people back home the path through the exhibit enters a small gift-shop of Panda Merchandise and finally a cafeteria where I had to try a Panda CupCake.

Last stop is picking up the souvenir photo with the suited Panda out the front before emerging back in Zoo Negara to wind back to the front of the park.

In Summary

Zoo Negara is not the most impressive zoo I’ve been to, some visitors may find the exhibits run-down and in the style of zoos of old.  The range of exotic animals is fairly typical, however the addition of the Giant Panda exhibit makes this a “must do” activity in Kuala Lumpur.  There’s only ~51 Pandas on exhibit outside China and this is on of the best value opportunities to see two of them!

Day 2: Petronas Towers Tour Review

Petronas Towers Tour (Finally)

Since 2012 I’ve made a few journeys to Kuala Lumpur and on every occasion I’ve completely failed at making my way to Petronas Towers and joining one of the tours to the top.  For my 2015 Formula 1 trip I decided I was going to book ahead and make sure I got to finally tick off the experience.

What’s the big deal?

Petronas Towers are the icon of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, probably the architectural feature of the city that will be remembered most frequently and the least likely to be “just like the one in xxxx”.

Unlike the KL Tower a short distance away the tours of Petronas Towers need to be booked in advance as there’s almost no chance of walking into the visitor centre and getting on the next tour.

The Tour

Starting in the visitor centre below the Twin Towers you collect your ticket and await the set meeting time.  There’s some displays and a gift-shop to browse before you pass through a basic security check (x-ray and metal detection) passing into a lobby where you’re given a safety briefing.  The briefings are offered in a couple of languages – but are also visually self explanatory, in short they amount to “Follow Instructions”, “Don’t be stupid”, “It’s really high, don’t look down if you don’t like heights”.

From the briefing we’re loaded into the elevator to ride up to the SkyBridge, be warned the elevators are loaded to capacity so it can be a little cozy, however a smile and a joke with my fellow riders broke some of the awkwardness.

At the Skybridge you’re given a quick introduction to the area and left to wander the bridge taking photos.

Petronas Towers SkyBridge
Petronas Towers SkyBridge

Thanks to the small group sizes and well managed timings it never feels crowded and there’s more than adequate time to take photos.

On the day of my visit (19th March 2015) there was a heavy haze – while it detracts from the view it’s a very real aspect of Kuala Lumpur and a good reason to come back again in the hope of a different weather condition!

After you’re shepherded off the SkyBridge (you are given a coloured lanyard so the staff can identify you as part of the group) it’s onwards and upwards.

Effectively at the peak of Tower 2 there’s a few models of Kuala Lumpur, videos and that stunning view.

As your time on the tour winds down the guides gently advise it’s time to return to ground level.

The courtesy and competence of the staff need to be commended, with multiple tours overlapping slightly as a visitor I never felt rushed.  There’s no calling out for groups to reassemble, just a personal approach, almost apologetically, that it’s time to move on.

The Petronas Towers tour isn’t the cheapest attraction in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s good value with limited numbers ensuring that there’s no crowding for photo opportunities.  It offers a view that is both spectacular and ever changing.

I can see this visit being the first of many.

Petronas Towers Tour eBooking

It seems I wrote too soon about the Petronas Towers eBookings not being available due to the upcoming (1st April 2015) GST implementation.

Booking a Petronas Towers Tour

I jumped onto the Petronas Towers website a couple of days ago and tried a date in March 2015 and “bam” it worked.

So I’ve made a booking!

Petronas Towers eTicket
Petronas Towers eTicket

Here’s hoping for good weather on Thursday the 19th of March!  Why not watch the official Petronas Towers Milestones video for some information about this feat of engineering!

Some extra background:

It turns out that while you can book the Tours online, they’re not really set up for booking the same time as you’d normally book your holiday. The best you’re probably going to manage is 28-45 days in advance – although this does seem to vary at some parts of the year.

I would say popping a diary entry in to do a weekly check in the lead up to your visit would be wisest.  In some 4 years of looking at these tours they’re still as “in demand” as ever!

About the Tour!

Around 8am on the 19th of March I shook off the lack of sleep from my late arrival in Kuala Lumpur and walked from the Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang to the Pavillion Mall and onto the covered walkway to KLCC.  By the time I’d enjoyed a coffee in the Suria KLCC mall I was still comfortably early for my tour.

Making my way through the mall to the

My Panda Story

Pandas I have seen previously: 2 (Ying Ying & Le Le)
Pandas I will see next: 6 (Xing Xing, Liang Liang, Kai Kai, Jia Jia, Wang Wang & Funi)

That will take my tally to 8/49 of the Pandas living outside of China – and perhaps 0.4% of all Pandas in existence (based on middle estimates of Panda population).

Giant Panda & Why I like them…

“Pandas, mate why are you so fascinated by Pandas?” I get asked this all the time (well ok I’ve been asked once), and I thought I’d explain.

I was born in 1975, by the time the early 1980’s rolled around I was old enough to watch and understand the documentaries on the fate of Pandas in the wild. At the time Pandas in captivity wasn’t really a “done thing” and in the wild they were “rare”. The WWF (Not the Wrestling mob) had kicked conservation efforts in gear and raised the profile of the Panda and so this young impressionable kid in Sawtell/Toormina thought he’d never see a live Panda, ever. 

For me the ability to see a real live Panda (even if in captivity) represents in one tiny way just how life can change, and just how things we thought we’d never do/see can still happen.

The Pandas for me also serve as a reminder to take the opportunity to do things when the opportunity arises, to do while I can, not complain when I can no longer.

So yes that’s the Panda story.

Giant Panda I have seen:

2012 – Ocean Park Hong Kong.  I’m fairly sure I trekked the whole park but I only recall seeing two Panda despite there being supposedly 4 in the Park.  I will have to check the pictures more carefully to ensure I’m not missing any!