Day 32: Today was a planned recovery day, having walked 30km yesterday. However our recovery plans didn’t work out too well, as we somehow managed to add another 20km today. So in total we’ve now walked over 92km across four days. Go us.
This morning after breakfast, we caught the sky train towards the city and walked across to the Red Cross Snake Farm at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute . We’re both big wildlife lovers, and have a fascination with snakes (though Lil’s fascination is sometimes mixed with equal parts anxiety, particularly if we encounter snakes while we’re out trekking through the countryside).
The snake farm is affiliated with the Thai Red Cross Society, and is the second oldest in the world (the oldest is in Sao Paulo, Brazil). The farm opened in 1917 to produce venom for snakebite victims, together with vaccines for diseases like rabies and small pox. Today, it continues to produce antivenom for hospitals and clinics around the country, is home to over 70 different types of snakes (many from Thailand), has a snake breeding program and an excellent informative exhibition plus snake demonstration. The Institute’s goals are to save lives, promote education and understanding and hopefully help to break down some of the fears people have with snakes.
We arrived at the farm early to get front row seats for the venom milking demonstration, which was carried out behind glass in the auditorium. A narrator impressively switched between Thai and English, as a team of three guys pulled on visors and released five feisty cobras one by one, and conducted the milking process right in front of us. In addition to watching the demo through the glass, there was a close up screen right in front of us, so we got to see it all in more detail. It was fascinating and we felt incredibly lucky to get so close to it all. Our only suggestion would be that a bit more protective clothing might be a good idea – the guys didn’t even wear gloves. Yikes.
We had heaps of fun walking around the farm, peering into cages to view a large range of snakes, everything from king cobras and massive Burmese pythons, to smaller species like pit vipers and cat-eyed snakes. A sign requested visitors not to put their fingers through the open mesh of the king cobra cage. No reminder needed.
The snake demonstration takes place in the afternoons, so after a morning at the farm, we headed to Lumphini Park for a couple of hours for something to eat and to watch more giant sized lizards.
We got back to the farm early to get front row seats again – the snake demonstration is held in an outdoor auditorium. It was one of the most incredible experiences ever – the snake handlers brought out around 10 snakes, one by one – everything from highly venemous king cobras, banded kraits and pit vipers to a very feisty but not so dangerous copper headed king snake.
The demonstration was only a metre from where we were sitting, with no major barrier between us and them other than an open mesh fence – it was both nerve racking and fabulous. The host gave a very informative and at times amusing talk, explaining each snake in detail and its behaviour and level of toxicity as the guys walked around showing off the creatures. Lil was frowning as she listened to the host reeling off snake facts:
“There are around 200 species of snake in Thailand” (Argh)
“However only 16 of those are really dangerous” (Sounds more positive)
“Still, lots of people die every year in Thailand from snake bites”. (Hmm, perhaps not so great after all)
And again, we were really amazed that the guys handling the snakes wore so little protective clothing – wellington boots was it.
One of the snakes was a green pit viper – it didn’t look too dangerous, in fact it looked pretty cute. The guy explained it’s venomous, can’t be handled directly as it senses heat and so strikes its prey if it’s picked up AND it’s very common and can be found throughout Bangkok in parklands. Too much information for Lil.
At one point a cleaner decided it was a good time to start mopping the floor – the demo team didn’t bat an eyelid as he swept his mop back and forth around their feet. Anything goes as they say.
And then a very special moment when we got to hold an albino python – a seriously gorgeous creature, weighing 10kg.
Today was a special day for another reason as it marks 4 years since Jim proposed to Lil. It’s become a tradition for us to return every year to the Indian restaurant in Sydney where he popped the question. We found a great local Bangkok alternative – a very small local pavement side eatery in Little India by the banks of the Chao Phraya river, with just a few tables and a tiny open fronted kitchen.
The food was sensational – chicken masala, butter chicken (cooked as it should be), aloo bindi (okra with potatoes – delicious and unlike anything we’ve had before), freshly made roti and paneer paratha, and a side of lime chilli sauce. It was one heck of a find, and definitely one to remember.
Then we walked a few kilometres through town and across the Memorial Bridge to the sky train, through the rush hour traffic.
On the way home, we stopped for a beer at the Ekamai Beer House, where we’d spotted they had live music on Mondays. The band set up – the initial number was a jazzy instrumental which sounded great, but they quickly broke into some renditions of old over played 70’s pop songs, so after one beer we decided to head home for an early night. We stopped off at a store to check out some local beers and bought some Weissbeer which the marketing blurb says resembles snowfall when poured. It tasted fine but we didn’t spot much snow.
Tomorrow we really are having a recovery day – Jim’s plantar fasciitis is niggling a little and Lil has lots of research and planning to do, plus a little shopping to do to top up basics like sunscreen and insect repellant.