How to draw a map

This seems to be a skill that has eluded the people who design parks.

In Kuala Lumpur, this inability is taken to its illogical extreme. There’s the park almost slap bang in the city centre. It’s spectacularly pretty, with a wonderful butterfly house* and aviary. There’s a lake. All the right things. But they sure as hell aren’t in all the right places.

There’s a large map near the lake, with one of those ‘You Are Here’ markers. You know the score.


But here’s the thing. You are not here. You can’t possibly be. According to the map, you’re on the other side of the lake completely. It’s 180 degrees out. You’re pretty much on your own in navigational terms.


I was reminded of this in the course of our peregrinations around Chester Zoo last week. The entry fee entitles you to a ‘free’ map. That’s handy, Harry. Now the thing is, I’m generally good with a map. I spent a lot of time in my distant youth strapped into the navigator’s seat in rally cars, and accurate cartography means the difference between getting home for breakfast in one piece, and immolating yourself.

The map of the zoo is rubbish. There are marker stations around so you can orientate yourself. However, according to the map, there are two ‘O’ markers. That seemed frankly unlikely to me, but as time went on I began to think it just might be true.

Good luck with finding some of the big cats too. We found the jaguars where they’re meant to be, according to the map, but the tigers you just have to find off your own bat. I have no idea where the lions were, and even the pedestrian signs to them took us to a tropical house. This was OK, since as Susan pointed, ‘You can never have enough hornbills.’ I agree on that point, but if I were an easily disappointed child, things might have taken a turn for the worse, mightn’t they?

I’m also going to wager the staff have to do a sweep at closing time to make sure nobody is simply walking round in bemused circles. Getting out takes more skill than shark wrangling. You think you’re cooking with gas, and go, ‘Hang on. We were here about five minutes ago.’

It’s like navigating Amsterdam when you are stoned off your head, and if you’ve ever done that you’ll know just how tricky it is.

*In there you’ll find a small shop that sells bottled water so cold it’s like a Slush Puppy. There’s a stall in Ulura Park in Nairobi that does that too. Since both cities are very very hot indeed, that’s quite welcome find.