Me, Ti-ti, and snake.

“Nak” is one of Christian’s newest words. (He adds to his vocabulary hourly. This morning he woke, smiled, then pointed to my eyes and said, “eye”.) “Nak” means “snake” and reveals how much he was impressed by the snake farm we visited yesterday.

Well, okay, the snake farm may not be so impressive to grown-ups, but it is worth a visit to see venom being extracted from REAL COBRAS at 11 am.

The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (10 min walk from Saladaeng BTS, but it’s not so easy to find, so we jumped in a tuk-tuk – don’t let them overcharge you: a tuk-tuk to the snake farm from the BTS should only cost 30 baht) was opened in 1929 as the second snake farm in the world. It is a research and treatment facility that produces several kinds of anti-venom. There are only six venomous snakes in Thailand out of the 180 species there, and most are on view at the snake farm.

When we showed up we thought perhaps it was closed because everything was so quiet, but that’s just how the place looks. The ticket price was quite a bit more than the guidebook stated – 200 baht instead of 60 baht, but still that’s only $6 so we didn’t complain. There is a much cheaper ticket price for locals, but so be it.

I headed to the restroom right away to give Christian a potty break, and just outside in the hallway was a sleepy looking Thai guy in a white lab coat handling a snake. He immediately wanted me to hold and handle the snake, which I could see was mild-mannered, small, and I hoped, not venomous. When I did, he wanted to take our picture with my camera. It was all very informal and friendly in a Thai way. No words were exchanged.

Whispering sweet nothings to his pet snake during the demo.

Whispering sweet nothings to his pet snake during the demo.

He turned out to be one of the lab techs who handled the milking of the venom during the demonstration. That pet snake of his was in his pocket and kept creeping out as the woman speaking explained the lofty goals of this institution run by the Red Cross. And it was there while he was handling 5-foot long cobras too.

The demonstration of venom extraction was fascinating. You sit in a small stadium-seating auditorium facing a windowed white room – it looks like a hospital room or research lab with a plain white bed/table with a simple contraption featuring a glass funnel, tubing, and glass jars at one end. Note: for the best view, sit in front of this contraption (the security guard, who had already taken a hankering to Christian, ushered us there). The assistants took a large writhing snake out of a white plastic bin with their bare hands and with the help of a metal hook succeeded in getting the head over to the table. Then using the flat end of wooden rod, one assistant firmly squashed the snake’s head down on the table, so he could then hold the snake directly behind its jaw with his bare hand.

The kids look more interested than they really were - they preferred the close-up views of snakes in the glass terrariums.

The kids look more interested than they really were - they preferred the close-up views of snakes in the glass terrariums.

Then he brought the snake over to funnel and tried to get the snake to bite the funnel’s upper lip. Like a petulant toddler, the snake twisted his head back and forth with his lips sealed tight, in a firm NO. Finally the pressure of the funnel edge made him mad and he suddenly lunged and bit. Once those jaws were open wide the handler pressed the cobra’s mouth against the funnel’s edge and several teaspoons of pale yellow venom ran down the side of the funnel, through the tube and dripped into the jar below. It was spine-chilling to see that much cobra venom run out of his mouth. The procedure was repeated for another snake, and then the FIRST snake was brought back, and more venom was extracted from him. I’m sure that the woman talking was saying some interesting things, but I was all eyes.

Venom flowed like honey from this snakes mouth.

Snake reluctantly giving up all his venom to make anti-venom.

That was the best part of the snake farm. Upstairs though, was interesting too with live snake eggs (only three??) in an incubator, chilling real-life photos of snake bite injuries, and “bottled” snakes of all types.

Most of the preserved snakes were too distorted to be of real interest.

Most of the preserved snakes were too distorted and gruesome to be of real interest to me.

The kids enjoyed exploring the the grounds. It was not huge, but practically arranged: there was a boardwalk that you followed around various outdoor snake compounds. Here are two vids: one of Sue and Noi naa looking for snakes and another of Noi naa helping Ti-ti walk up the ramp.

In sum, this isn’t a tourist activity I would recommend to somebody with only a few days in Bangkok, but it was a nice outing overall for the kids.

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