Just off Thanon Henri Dunant – which borders the highly exclusive Bangkok Sports Club…I hear you can’t even get on the waiting list for membership these days – is the Thai Red Cross society operating on the seven fundamental principles of the International Red Cross. Across from it is the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute that specializes in both the research into and extraction of snake venom. Within its grounds is the “Snake Farm” where many types of viper, krait, python and other snake breeds are kept for the tourist to goggle at. Costing a scant 200Baht for adults, 50Baht for kids, you can wander round this small museum that is akin to many I have seen on my travels. Basically, they were all built 30-50 years ago but have had brand new wings added in the past five years. The result is the same – a hot wander round a fading visual oasis of white walled concrete cages/pens/pits with a scrub and whatever animal or statue or plant resides within, followed by stepping into a new, blissfully air conditioned building with state of the art visual graphics, HD screens, interactive displays and up-to-date information. It is as though the best wine is kept to last in true Cana style.
Stepping over the threshold we found ourselves artfully steered around several pits and cages with a mesh so tight you literally had to shove your face up to them to peer inside. Why? Because a lot of these snakes are venomous, and lethally so. We saw a female Anaconda that was easily 5 meters long; Boa constrictors; Burmese pythons – those get to be six metres long, Reticulated pythons, Lesser Sundas pythons; all kinds of vipers like Malayan, Mangrove, Kanburi, Yellow-lipped Pit vipers, Chain vipers….literally dozens of snake breeds. We found out later there are over 180 species of snake in Thailand, but less than a dozen are venomous. All are bred here because the Institute is also a hospital specializing in treating snake bites.
They also had krait – these snakes were blue, banded and red-headed snakes. What was fascinating was to learn the physiological effect on the human anatomy. Snakes like pythons have a venom that works on the nervous system, vipers affect the blood stream, krait tend to affect the musculature.
Inside the new section of the Snake Farm was a darkened room – as the effects of light on exhibits are now better understood in many museums – housing more snakes, an upstairs section with details on snake life cycles, reproduction, growth, affects on humans, and place within the myths structures of ancient civilizations. There were also exhibits of snake skeletons, eggs, skins, and many preserved snake bodies.
All in all a fascinating place and one that will keep the kids amused for a couple of hours. There are two interactive shows of about 5minutes – one on mythology, one on the birth of snakes, a room with as large Q&A picture board and an auditorium where you can be “lectured” on all things snake. Outside they have two shows daily where they handle snakes and extract venom for you to “ooh” and “aah” over. I highly recommend it to any farang and it’s very close to the Gem Museum down on Thanon Silom which is another must for a 45min visit.
I’ll leave you with the highlight of the visit which, as ever, is the slightly odd music the Thais seem to blare over their tannoy systems at these places. The Snake Farm may not do everything, but what it does do, is everything for you. Bryan Adams would be proud.
Is this what diplomacy is all about?