Snakes in Bangkok

I'm no longer in Bangkok, but I have a backlog of things to write about. The subject of this entry refers to the first definition of snake (a long limbless reptile that has no eyelids, a short tail, and jaws that are capable of considerable extension), and not the second (a treacherous or deceitful person), though there are more of the latter in Bangkok, I'm sure.

The Thai have their own version of the Hindu epic, The Ramayana. I think theirs is called The Ramekein, and from what I understand it was actually written by King Rama I, the founder of the current dynasty. Royalty, religion, and myth are all very mixed up in Thailand, but that's not the point. The point is just to note that one of the characters in the story is Naga, a snake who has a variable number of heads depending on who's telling the story or sculpting the statue. It's always an odd number, though. I've seen and heard 1, 3, 5, and 7. Naga adorns many temples and homes, and was featured prominently in a traditional Thai puppet show we saw. Here's a priceless, very old Naga head that I saw at the National Museum.

A statue of Naga, the mythical snake from Hinduism and Buddhism

This is very tangentially related, but while in Bangkok we also visited a Snake Farm (actually Queen something-or-other Memorial Snake Farm). The sign outside and guide books said that they milk the snakes every day at 11am, and so we went to see a milking. For those who don't know, I think this refers to extracting the snake's venom in order to make anti-venom from it. However, I can only suppose, because there was no milking that day. Instead there was a sort of edu-tainment show that involved a young hostess describing snakes and explaining their attributes while young men displayed the snakes.

Sometimes this went a little bit beyond just holding the snake up for the crowd to see. They intentionally provoked various snakes, ranging from non-poisonous to very deadly ones, for my entertainment. Here're two videos of what I'm talking about:

One of them actually got bitten! Luckily it was by a non-poisonous snake, but I imagine it hurt a lot. Considering we were at the place that manufactures anti-venom, the snake-handlers probably weren't in any real danger, but it just seemed like I was watching poor Thai people put themselves in mortal danger for the amusement of the largely caucasian crowd. Here are a few more pictures of the snake show:

A King Cobra:

Siamese Cobra close up:

The snake handler holding up a snake for the audience to inspect:

Me holding a boa constrictor, I think. I was the first to volunteer: