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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Bangkok Snake Farm, Thailand.

Snake handler Bangkok Snake Farm Thailand

Bangkok Snake Farm.

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April 2015. It was a scorching afternoon in Bangkok as I made my way through the grimy streets towards Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. When I first heard that there was a snake farm in the Thai capital, I was more than skeptical.

There are snake farms all across Thailand, but they don’t have great reputations. In addition to being tacky tourist traps, most farms shamelessly exploit their snakes and have shoddy safety standards.

Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute Bangkok

Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok.

Happily, the snake farm at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is different! It opened in 1913 as a rabies vaccine facility, but by the mid 1920s had morphed into a small snake farm and anti-venom research centre. In fact, it was only the second such snake farm in the world after an institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Under the guidance of the Thai Red Cross Society, the institute has grown into one of Asia’s largest and most successful production centres for snake antivenom. Moreover, the farm is committed to protecting and breeding endangered snakes. And to the general promotion and education of all things snaky.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Snake venom Research Centre Bangkok

The museum at Bangkok Snake Farm.

Photo courtesy of Paola Di Bella.

On the day of my visit I paid the modest 200 Baht entry fee (arond $7) and began my own educative journey into the world of snakes. The small onsite museum is well worth a wander, with its exhibits on snake evolution, anatomy, toxicology and reproduction. You can also find grisly displays of skin and skeletons.

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If you time your visit for 11:00 on a weekday, you’ll get to witness a live venom extraction from one of the farm’s slithery subjects. Impressively, the centre produces seven types of antivenom and holds lectures on snake venom research and treatment.

Venom extraction Bangkok Snake Farm.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Photo courtesy of Paola Di Bella.

The institute regularly welcomes school groups of all ages to come and learn more about snakes. The idea is to break down kids’ fears and educate them on venomous and non venomous types. And crucially what to do in the event of a bite. (Get to a hospital pronto, I would imagine!)

Bangkok Snake farm children artwork.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

In the outdoor enclosures you can meet some of the farm’s residents. Thousands of snakes live within the compound, which hosts around thirty five species. For the ultimate experience, I came at 14:30 on a weekday to see The Snake Handling Show.

Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok.

Snake handling show Bangkok.

The Snake Handling Show at Bangkok Snake Farm.

Designed to thrill and get people shrinking back in their seats, this is where visitors can get close (but not too close!) to some of the world’s most venomous serpents.

First, they wheeled out a white-lipped pit viper, a bright green creature found in forests throughout Southeast Asia. Next came a  King Cobra, the world’s longest venomous snake at three to four metres.

King Cobra Bangkok Snake Farm.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

For the most part they feast on other snakes, sometimes lizards and rodents. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that The King Cobra is actually shy with humans and unlikely to attack unless heavily provoked. Which sounded great, as I had zero plans to provoke it in any way!

Siamese King Cobras Bangkok.

Siamese Monocellate Cobras.

Even more terrifying, in my book at least, was the above pair of Siamese Cobras. The moment they were released from their caged enclosure, they came zipping forward towards the audience at high speed. They hissed loudly and huddled together, their eyes darting suspiciously from side to side.

The handlers expertly managed to contain their movements, simply by brandishing their wooden sticks to the side of each cobra. No contact was ever made and the cobras stayed put. But for the first time that day I did seriously begin to question what the hell I was doing there.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Snake farm Bangkok.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Another poisonous dude on show that day was the Malayan Mangrove Cat-eye Snake, with its signature yellow and black patterns. Much to my relief, he remained in his handler’s clutches. Although, as the man assured us, “He’s only mildly venomous”.

Bangkok Snake Farm Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute

Bangkok Snake Farm.

That afternoon I also got to see a copperhead rat snake, a Brazilian Rainbow Boa and an Indochinese Spitting Cobra. However, the standout moment came right at the end of the show. When one of the handlers asked if I’d like to have a large Burmese Python wrapped around me, I initially froze.

Visit Thailand Bangkok Snake Farm.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

It took every bit of courage I had to subsequently say ok, I’ll give it a go. The snake was huge and therefore pretty heavy, but gentle and quiet with slow, cautious movements. At one point it twisted its head up to mine, paused for just a moment…. and ever so softly hissed in my ear.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Snake show Bangkok.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

Looking back on that visit, I feel I was probably a bit naive. While their online reviews remain solid, and the farm itself insists snakes are always treated with the utmost care and respect, I can’t help but wonder about the handling show aspect.

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Should I have agreed to hold the python at the end? I have read several reviews claiming snakes are usually drugged for these kinds of interactions. That said, my research during the writing of the article tells me that The Burmese Python is a generally docile creature, so who knows.

Visit Bangkok Snake Farm.

Bangkok Snake Farm.

If I were to come across such an attraction now, six years wiser, I’d probably pass. But I wouldn’t say I regret my visit, as they clearly do great work protecting and breeding endangered snakes.

What’s more, they remain pioneers in the production of antivenom, which saves more and more lives each year. Finally, I was fascinated to read that they also have a department researching the use of antivenom in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. For more info, and all the latest opening times, head to their Facebook page.

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27 Comments

  • 100 Country Trek

    That’s something we haven’t seen Thailand. Didn’t realize there is an antivenom production. Next time we return I will like visit there.

    March 27, 2021 - 10:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Well worth a visit! Thanks for reading.

      March 27, 2021 - 10:26 am Reply
  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    So often it’s a thin dividing line between ethical and exploitative with such places, same with elephant sanctuaries etc. When you find a good one, it’s an uplifting experience, but similarly dispiriting when they cross that line. Still, if you don’t go see for yourself then you can’t make judgments huh!

    March 27, 2021 - 3:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Exactly, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thanks for reading!

      March 27, 2021 - 3:00 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Having grown up with ever present (mostly) harmless snakes, I’ve never had a paralyzing fear of them. Still, slow dancing with a large python is something else. You look amazingly calm. The Burmese Python has become an invasive species problem in the Florida Everglades from pet snakes that were released when they got too big to keep and feed.

    March 27, 2021 - 3:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha calm on the outside, shaking on the inside. I had no idea the Burmese Python was even present in The Everglades!

      March 27, 2021 - 3:35 pm Reply
  • Diana

    Oh boy! I’ve held smaller snakes before but I’m not sure I could hold a python. Scary… but a neat memory I’m sure!

    March 27, 2021 - 4:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha I haven’t held a snake since so I guess this was my moment. Thanks for reading Diana!

      March 27, 2021 - 4:35 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    Wow – I couldn’t do it. That one round your neck is huge – kudos for giving it a go!

    March 27, 2021 - 4:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, he was a gentle giant. I could have lived without him hissing in my ear though. Thanks for reading!

      March 27, 2021 - 4:54 pm Reply
  • yourtravelrecipes

    Although snakes are the only wild animals I am scared by I also find them fascinting. I never held a snake and probably never will, but I saw many in Africa from avery close distance.

    March 27, 2021 - 5:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think if I were to see one in the wild I would probably panic, ha! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      March 27, 2021 - 5:10 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    You were brave to have the snake around your neck. I’m not sure I’d fancy it but another interesting read Leighton,

    March 27, 2021 - 5:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion! Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      March 27, 2021 - 5:31 pm Reply
  • Mixed Focus

    Very cool post! Interesting place to review, very different to the ‘norm’ in travel blogs. Snake around your neck is questionable… fair play ! – Conor

    March 27, 2021 - 10:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Conor, thanks for your recent follow and taking the time to comment. Glad you enjoyed the piece, plenty more from Bangkok on the way over the next few weeks.

      March 27, 2021 - 11:37 pm Reply
      • Mixed Focus

        Glad to hear it! Hope all is well out there 😄

        March 27, 2021 - 11:58 pm
  • Nic

    I would feel more comfortable near the big ones than the smaller ones… I guess it’s because my brain automatically assumes (perhaps wrongly) that the big snakes will be slower and give me time to run 😂

    I’ve only faced small, completely innocuous (non poisonous) snakes where I currently live, but when I was in Mexico, one of the tour guides was teaching us how to act if we had an encounter with one specific species of highly poisonous snakes in the region (can’t recall the name) and I did wonder what the hell was I doing there… really want to avoid funny encounters like that!

    Thanks for sharing this incredible experience!

    March 28, 2021 - 12:26 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha thanks for your thoughts on the subject of snakes. I’m with you on the big/small logic! Kinda cool that you lived in a place where it was possible to bump into a highly poisonous snake.

      March 28, 2021 - 12:31 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I’m not one for snakes and considering the shady treatment practices, I would’ve given this place a pass. Definitely for ophidiophiles, but definitely not for me; I’d rather stick to dogs and cats, thank you very much!

    March 28, 2021 - 4:38 am Reply
  • InsideMySlingBag

    A brave hearted Leighton! A lot of snakes there, you sure had a good time.

    March 28, 2021 - 3:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      March 28, 2021 - 3:27 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Oh gosh, not sure I could ever handle a snake!!

    March 28, 2021 - 3:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      This is line with the general feedback I’m receiving! Thank for braving the article!

      March 28, 2021 - 3:47 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    Not sure I’d like that much, I think I prefer architectural experiences after all 🙂

    March 29, 2021 - 4:20 pm Reply
  • Henry Lewis

    Bangkok Snake Farm is a great place to be educated about snakes and antivenin.

    March 30, 2021 - 5:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Henry!

      March 30, 2021 - 9:41 am Reply

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