I have been giving you some ideas about what to do along the route of the MRT Subway in Bangkok. Today I want to suggest that you visit the Snake Farm which is roughly halfway between Sam Yan and Silom Stations. I had been there before a number of years ago, however, I enjoyed my return visit when I went back on Sunday. It is an interesting place to spend a few hours and you can also learn something new. Thailand is home to more than 180 varieties of snakes of which 56 are deadly. But, don’t panic, most tourists won’t ever get to see a snake close-up unless they go to this snake farm of course! Some of deadliest snakes include the Malayan Pit Viper, the Banded Krait, the Green Pit Viper, the Russell’s Viper and the King Cobra. The Snake Farm at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute was set up in 1923 as there was seen to be a need for Thailand to develop its own vaccine for snake bites. The center also helps to educate the general public about snakes.
The highlight of any visit to the Snake Farm in Bangkok is the demonstration of snake handling and also how to milk a snake! More on that shortly. The Lonely Planet guidebook said that the show would start at 11 a.m. at the weekend and a second show at 2.30 p.m. only on weekdays. Fortunately I turned up early as I would have missed the slide show in the auditorium which starts half an hour before the main event. There is an exhibition building at the back of the site but when I went there at the weekend it was closed for renovation. As there is then not much else to do other than watch the shows, I strongly advise you to come at one of these two times. Entrance was 70 baht for me though I noticed a sign written in Thai script that said it was “20 baht”. I presume that was for Thai people as it didn’t actually say. I didn’t try to get the lower price as I think this institute does a fine job in not only educating the public but also in producing anti-venoms for snakes and rabies too.
The demonstration show was actually quite informative. As was the slide show. Our guide spoke good English and kept us well informed on the subject of snakes. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that he was just your normal run of the mill guide. Look closely at his right hand in the above picture. Last year he was badly bitten by a snake and they had to graft skin onto his hand from another part of his body. It is strange, because I remember very well the last time I came here and the previous guide also had a similar story to tell. Maybe they only recruit guides that get bitten by snakes! Anyway, we were shown quite a variety of snakes and how they should be handled. The highlight was the milking of the venom as you can see in the above picture. This is then sent to a special horse farm in Hua Hin where small amounts of the venom are injected into the horse. Over a period of time more and more of the venom is injected into the horse until it builds up an immunity. Blood is then drawn from the horse. The blood plasma is then sent back to Bangkok where it is purified and tested before being sent out to hospitals around the country and world.
Update: The entrance fee has just gone up to 200 baht for foreigners and 40 baht for Thai! They have also canceled the show I mentioned above which I thought was the highlight.
Visit our ThailandPhotoMap.com website to see this location on Google Earth.Update: