Some of the best memories I took home with me from my travels in Bangkok were from my visit to the city’s renowned snake farm. This is not a typical tourist attraction where the animals are in cages and drugged so the tourists can get a good Facebook picture (tigers, anyone?), but rather the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute has a real purpose: to educate people of the dangers of these highly venomous snakes, while at the same time using them to create much-needed antivenin.
I have always been scared of snakes, but at the same time this fear has made me very, very curious about these slippery serpents. I do not know which kind of snake I fear the most – the venomous ones, such as this giant king cobra pictured above, or the huge pythons that constrict its prey to death. In my neck of the woods in London, we don’t have any snakes at all, but on my travels around Asia, I have to deal with the threats of snakes all the time. I cannot walk through jungle terrain without fearing that I may have trodden my last step! So it was with intrigue that I visited the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute one balmy Sunday morning on a free day in Bangkok. It took me about 15 minutes to walk there from Silom MRT station (this is NOT the nearest MRT, though; I was just hanging around Silom…as backpackers do!). The institute researches snakes and provides antivenin for their victims, yet there is also a popular snake farm that is not only popular with the tourists, but also provides the institute with some much needed revenue. One down side, is that they charge 70 Baht for admission for us “foreigners”, whereas Thai nationals get in I think for about 20 Baht! Hmmm, I swear I could be in Sri Lanka, right now…
Once every morning, and once every afternoon, there is a display put on here at the institute, where experts will come out and inform the audience all about snakes and TRY to assure us that our fear of these creatures is usually misguided. I am not sure the spiel worked on me, but nevertheless the passion and dedication of these guys was infectious. I have great memories of just standing there entranced (you can sit, but everyone else was standing before me, so I had no choice) as the snake handlers seemed to have everything under control, although obviously in the presence of the ferocious king cobra it only takes a momentary lapse and it could be curtains! Although, I mentioned above that people do not come here for photos, well that’s not exactly true, as people can pay a nominal donation of 20 Baht to pose with a boa constrictor around their neck – but whatever floats your boat, I guess!
The colours of the snakes on show was amazing, from green mambas to albino pythons. The presentations are given in English, which makes it very popular for young backpackers, but there were also lots of families there, too – the kids loved the show, but at the same time I hope their parents were learning a thing or two! There is also an opportunity to take a little guided tour inside the institute where they have, among other things, giant dead snakes inside specimen jars, snakes eggs, and snake skins. I wish I had taken more photos of this great little tour, but nevertheless the memories will last a lifetime!