Fresh from a trip to the floating market at Damnoen Saduak, my friend Donna and I were offered the opportunity to watch a snake show, advertised as “the most exciting show in the world.” We couldn’t possibly resist, so we boarded a small air-conditioned van and off we went.
In the small arena, Donna and I decided to live adventurously and choose seats off to the side – not the seats tucked safely behind some shallow water and a glass partition, but ones completely open to the ring. After a brief introduction to “the most exciting show in the world,” an announcer began a play-by-play, while festive music filled the small building. The show began with cobras in brown sacks. Three men shook the sacks and then dumped the snakes into the ring. They kept provoking them, and then catching them with their bare hands, until the cobras were absolutely furious. The men then brought out four new snakes, more gigantic than the others, and provoked them as well – only this time, the snakes began lunging towards the audience, and the men would catch them by the end of the tail just before the snakes escaped. Needless to say, we were regretting our choice of seating at this point. Watching a livid, hissing cobra fly towards you isn’t something I ever want to experience again. After this scary display, a glass tank was wheeled in, which contained both a cobra and a mongoose. Now, from watching Rikki Tikki Tavi as a child, I knew cobras and mongooses are deadly enemies. (In case you haven’t had the pleasure, this cartoon movie is based on Rudyard Kipling’s book about a brave young mongoose; I would suggest if you’ve never seen it to find a copy). I never thought I’d see a live fight; however, that’s exactly what happened next. After an intense few minutes where the animals circled and lunged at one another, during most of which we watched with our eyes closed (no small feat), the tank was wheeled away and a tie declared, as the “snake men” wouldn’t allow either animal to be injured. The show ended with a man who promised us he could catch three vipers at once. As he only had two hands – unless he was hiding a third under his shirt somewhere - how he’d catch all three was a mystery, so Donna and I craned forward in our seats in order to catch everything. After a few tense moments, the snake man came up with a viper in each hand – and one in his mouth. I don’t even want to venture a guess as to how he did it, and I cannot imagine ever being so brave as to catch a live viper in my mouth. Adrenaline pumping, Donna and I left the arena and collapsed into our van.
Watch a cobra show on youtube!
While bumming around Bangkok, my friend Donna and I decided it necessary to visit the floating market in Damnoen Saduak. From a friendly travel shop just off Khao San Road, we purchased tickets for a day tour beginning the following morning.
On the day of our trip, we woke early and were picked up by a small van, which delivered us a few kilometers from the market. We then boarded longboats to be taken for a fast ride through the canals connecting the Mae Klong and the Tacheen Rivers. Thai people live clustered along the canals, and you’ll get a great view of how they live, passing orchards, traditional teak homes, and people going about their daily lives while you gawk (politely) from your longboat. 10-15 minutes of this fast, zigzagging ride and suddenly, you’re in the floating market. It’s pure chaos – longboats piled high with vegetables, fresh produce, and homemade wares, paddled by stooped men and women wearing straw hats, ready to bargain the second someone eyes their boat. The sides of the canal are bustling with stalls selling everything from paintings to silks to carved wooden animals to clothing. It’s a riot of color, noise, and commotion, with so many things to look at you’d need at least a hundred eyeballs. It’s a bit touristy, but great fun.
Although you probably won’t notice (at least, I didn’t), when you’re being loaded into your longboat, a photographer will come round and snap your photo. As we were leaving the market area, a woman came running up to us and asked, in broken English, if we wanted our plate. Donna and I looked at each other – our plate? The woman gestured us to follow her, and so we did, right to a stall covered with commemorative plates. You know, those weird ones people sometimes have hanging out their walls? Well, Donna’s family home in South Africa now features one, two girls beaming (or in my case, bug-eyed and half-crazed looking) from a plastic plate.