Did you know that a king cobra has venom powerful enough to bring down an elephant? Were you aware that snake anti-venom is produced by injecting venom into horses? How about about that snakes have two penises, called hemipenes, that they alternate?
You can learn all these crazy serpent facts and more at Bangkok’s Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute and Snake Farm, as well as take in a snake handling show, a venom extraction demonstration, and check out about 40 different species of snakes endemic to Thailand.
The Snake Farm was started in 1923 under the patronage of the Thai Monarchy after it was discovered that imported anti-venoms were ineffective for many local snake species. In cooperation with the Thai Red Cross Society, the facility produces anti-venoms for South East Asia and educates the public about the more than 190 snake species found in Thailand.
The outdoor serpentarium provides visitors a chance to see pythons and cobras in large recreations of their natural habitats. The king cobra was easily the largest snake I have ever seen at several meters, which is especially terrifying when there is only a thin metal mesh between you and its beady little eyes.
There is also an arena outdoors where the daily snake handling show is held. If you feel up to it, you can even touch some of the critters yourself.
▼ A python takes a dip in the outdoor serpentarium
▼ They come in red too.
▼ And green.
▼ A lot of the snakes were surprisingly active, making them easy to spot.
▼ Lunch, I presume …
The indoor facility has two floors, with the first floor housing live specimens of about 35 different snake species, along with detailed information in Thai and English. Some of the world’s deadliest snakes, including cobras, vipers and kraits, can be found here.
▼ Moving indoors, the glass cages allow you to get quite up close and personal with your slithery friends.
▼ The paradise treesnake waves its oversized head around in the branches, looking like a dancing fool.
▼ Water snakes! Just in case you were thinking of going for a swim ever again.
▼ The Indochinese spitting cobra can spit venom up to two meters into the eyes of a threat.
Visitors can also observe a venom extraction at set times from outside of a glass-walled room. The procedure is explained in both Thai and English.
▼The venom extraction demonstration. At this point, I am more interested in the speaker’s fabulous hair.
▼ The handler has trouble wrangling this cobra. He has my full attention after he drops it once.
▼But in the end, he gets it under control and milks the venom.
▼ The venom produced from three snakes. Small doses will be injected into horses until they produce antibodies. These will then be extracted from their blood and turned into a species-specific anti-venom serum.
The second floor has an excellently curated, if frightening, exhibit on snake biology and anatomy, as well as information on first aid treatments for snake bites.
▼ Moving upstairs to the museum portion, the first thing you will see is a whole lot of creepy bottled specimens.
▼ The second thing you will see is a dead man.
▼ Just kidding. It’s a dummy showing the effects of venomous snake bites. Still, yech.
▼ The pictures ain’t real pretty either.
▼ Key lesson: don’t get bit.
▼ The shape of a snake’s jaw helps it to swallow proportionally massive food.
▼ Meanwhile, the snakes themselves don’t make particularly good eating, because you have to pick out so many tiny bones!
▼ In case you’ve ever wanted to see what the inside of a snake looks like (including the hemipenes!), they’ve got you covered.
The educational section was really well-presented and interesting, and what I figured would be an hour’s diversion ended up taking up the better part of my day. I left with a lot of new information, an appreciation of the difficulty of producing anti-venom, and a wicked case of the heebie-jeebies.
Hours: 8:30-4:30 weekdays, 9:30-1:00 weekends and holidays
Venom extraction: 11:00 weekdaysSnake handling: 2:30 weekdays, 11:00 weekends and holidays
Price: 200 baht for adults, 50 baht for children
1871 Rama 4 Road, Pathumwan Bangkok