After some cajoling from me and compromise from Carmel, we decided to visit the Bangkok Snake Farm located right in Bangkok. Set on the grounds of the Thai Red Cross Institute (also referred to as the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute) I initially thought it was an odd location to host a snake farm. However, I discovered that the institute was supported by Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand and fellow benefactors in 1929 to treat patients hurt by venomous animals. They also funded the construction of the neighboring Simaseng Building designed to keep venomous snakes, fish and insects as well as other poisonous animals for public education. Today, the institute is one of the leading research facilities in the world for the production of anti-venom treatments (snakes are ‘milked’ for their venom and anti-venom is created from it, then shipped all over the world to help treat potentially fatal snake bites) and hosts the world’s foremost snake specialists and scientists for research.
I read the farm had a comprehensive display of snakes, including King Cobras and various pythons, and was immediately sold with taking this “field trip.” The scarier the snakes the better. The “farm” is divided into two sections: an outdoor garden display and a two-story indoor facility. We walked to the garden first, which was composed of large cages and deep pits. Paths led us to these cages, each housing some of the more heavyweights of snakes: King Cobras, giant pythons and smaller water snakes. I was giddy, I have to admit, peering through the small holes in the caged area, looking for a cobra, and staring at the immensity of the pythons that were curled up in their cages. As we peered down into the coverless pits that housed the smaller water snakes, bountiful in small pools, and barely hidden in the branches of trees, I joked about jumping inside. Carmel was not amused, however. The outside garden had about a dozen cages and pits in all, but there was much more inside the Simaseng Building.
A giant python at rest
This little guy took a liking to Carmel
One snake out of many that were in one of the outdoor pits
Inside, there are over thirty-five species of snakes, including more cobras, pythons, boa constrictors, vipers, and other beautiful creatures, large and small. All the snakes inside were safely kept in glass enclosures, but some of them were conspicuously missing, which again, Carmel was not amused at my jokes about the “escaped snakes-on-the-farm.” The second floor was reserved for interactive, educational displays and information, including jars of preserved snakes, displays of the skeletal structures, as well as interesting information about the evolution of snakes, anatomy, life cycle, reproduction, toxicology and snake bites first-aid. All the information was posted in Thai as well as in English and displayed coherently. Although the snake bite first aid videos were informative, and…well…Asian in their presentation. While explaining the various ways venom can affect the human nervous system including paralysis, kidney and liver failures, and possible death, a soundtrack consisting of upbeat, video game-styled music accompanied cartoonish flashing graphics of snake fangs and body parts. There was also a display of a small human dummy splayed out on a slab, but had no accompanying information on the reasons why it was there…just the dummy laying there, looking grotesque with its face ripped in tattered layers and body twisted and disheveled. It looked like either a zombie had gotten to it or the dummy was mauled by rabid dogs. Either way, for me, it was the only thing in the farm that I found genuinely disturbing.
My look of confusion here is genuine
Something right out of Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
I read that there was a live snake handling demonstration so we scheduled our visit to include it. I was glad we did. The hour-long demonstration wasted no time with the snake demonstrations, displaying their “heavyweights” including the King Cobra, which was brought out first. As our presenter gave us information regarding the cobra, a handler kept it busy and distracted. It was very cool seeing the cobra shoot up with its prominent hood and strike at the handler, especially since we were at a safe distance in the elevated seating area. For the next hour, they brought out several species of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. My favorites were the Siamese cobras, which they brought out two at the same time. The handler expertly “handled” both of these snakes at once, distracting them with his waving boots and gloved hands as they swayed and finally lunged at him.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the King Cobra
Nice to meet you, Mr. King Cobra
Next up: a pair of Siamese Cobras. Notice their magnificent hoods
The handler is distracting them with his boot as they’re poised to strike
This particular snake was luckily non-venomous as it bit the handler after this dramatic lunge
At the end of the presentation, they brought out a cooperative six-and-a-half foot python to drape over audience members’ shoulders for a free-photo-op. And, yes, I couldn’t resist and Carmel was more than willing to be the photographer for this one.
I wonder if I can fit him into my carry-on luggage?
We spent over two hours there, and decided that it was well worth it. It’s a great in-city venture for those curious about snakes, informative and friendly for adults and children alike. If you’re looking for something to do that is both entertaining and cheap for the day, we highly recommend the snake farm. Enjoy.
Enjoy the video we put together of the highlights from the snake handling demonstration. Tips and what to know before you go are below the video.
KNOW WHEN YOU GO
- You can get to Bangkok Snake Farm by both BTS (Sala Daeng is about 5-10 mins walk) or MRT (Sam Yan is about 3-5 min walk). The snake farm is located at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, which is part of the Thai Red Cross Society. The entrance is on Rama 4 Road, next to the very tall DTAC building.
- Address: 1871 Rama 4 Road, Phathumwan, Bangkok, 10330
- Tel: 01-252-0161
- Website: saovabha.com or redcross.or.th
- Opening Times: Mon-Fri 9:30-3:30; 9:30-1:00 on weekends and holidays
- Entrance Fee: 200 baht (around 6 dollars) for adults, 50 baht for children
- Venom Extraction Demonstration is at 11: 00 Mon-Fri (no demo on weekends or holidays)
- Snake Handling Show is at 2:30 Mon-Fri; 11:00 on weekends and holidays
- A short menu is available through a few vendors at the farm’s cafe. We ate a good lunch of beef and noodle soup for a very reasonable 30 baht each. Entrance fee is good for a full day, not just one entry if you are inclined to leave and come back for the demonstrations.