Is it just me or does every gay man have a morbid fascination with snakes? On the one hand they absolutely terrify me, and yet there’s an animal magnetism which draws me to them. What about you? Are you the shriek and run type? Or a lover (of animals…) who can’t wait for the next serpent to be draped over your shoulders?
A great Bangkok outing which will challenge your views of this most important of mythological creatures is the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. Founded in 1912 and one of the leading institutes for snake anti-venom worldwide, the institute houses a museum, thousands of snakes of numerous species and hosts daily shows which are both informative, fascinating and provide a chance to get up close and personal with several species of snake.
We arrived just in time for the 2:30pm show and were immediately shuffled into front row seats. Headlining the show was a massively enormous and impressive King Cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world. This was followed by Siamese cobras and spitting cobras – its thrilling watching the cobras rear up and spread their hoods, lunging at their handlers (and slightly unnerving as there is only a small barrier separating you from the show arena).
Whilst the handlers showed a variety of species, a passionate and perfectly spoken (in English) Doctor from the institute provided us with a wealth of information. No matter what your preferred snake, be it cobra, python or viper, they’re all on display, some of them decorated in beautiful vibrant colors.
As the presentation progressed, I developed a newfound respect for these versatile and important creatures, necessary to help farmers control pests and vermin. We were also treated to a demonstration of snake venom milking – not nearly as sexy as it sounds but interesting nonetheless.
After 40 minutes, we were invited to participate in a slithery photo shoot (for a small tip). I had to stifle a shriek of delight! After first checking whether the snake was venomous (and exiting hair and makeup), I was ready for the shoot. Whilst my snake looked docile enough, I didn’t like the way it kept sticking its tongue out at me. Nevertheless I took the plunge and, with a shiver of excitement, draped the massive python around my shoulders. What a strange feeling – the skin feels cool and silky verging on wet and soggy, which is somewhat unnerving. Its extraordinary feeling the numerous powerful muscles contract as the python settled (and slowly wrapped around my neck – just joking!).
Following the show we had a quick tour of the museum and surrounding gardens.
Whether you’re looking to face your fears, expand your horizons, celebrate the lunar year (2013/14 is year of the snake) or kill a few hours (OR if you’re like me and simply have an obsession with the snake), this makes for a totally different and memorable experience whilst in Bangkok.
The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is housed in a building donated by King Rama VI in the early 1900’s. The snake farm, reportedly the 2nd in the world, opened in 1923. It is centrally located and easy to find, located on Rama IV road close to Silom MRT and Saladaeng BTS stations (see map). The snake shows are at 11am daily and also 2:30pm pm on weekends. There is a 30 minute slide presentation prior to the shows if you arrive early. There is a 200 baht entry fee for adults. I’d allow about 1.5 to 2 hours for the snake farm including the show. Enjoy!