Bangkok, Thailand; Day 6

What does a King Cobra, the Thai Royal family and a laundromat have in common?

They were among today’s sights and Adventures during our 6th day in Bangkok.

We awoke planning to get a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test required for our next port of entry in Nairobi.  However, we were also planning to see the following which was happening at a specific time and we didn’t want to miss it.

We went to one of the oldest and most respected herpetology institutes in the world. The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (QMSI) was built here in 1922 to research snake venom and to manufacture a rabies vaccine.

Thailand is home to a wide variety of venomous snakes that live in the trees, the burrows, the waterways and grasses.  There are roughly 7,000 venomous bites per year but less than 100 fatalities.  This lower mortality rate compares favorably to India and other SE Asia countries and the availability of anti-venom produced by and the snake education promoted by the QSMI are among the key reasons.

We watched the Institute handlers milk 6 Cobras, including a beautiful King Cobra that showed off a large hood.

Oddly, all of the Cobra venom was collected into a single jar despite the 6 snakes being different types of Cobras.

The Institute has run a snake “farm” as an attraction for tourists for generations.  They have a large herpetarium which displays about 100 species and there are a number of informative exhibits about the effects of venom and ways to prevent and, if necessary, treat snakebites.

We found ourselves watching a particular King Cobra for several minutes.  It may have been milked earlier and was more active in its enclosure. It also seemed attracted to Suaram’s pink mask and flared its hood once as it watched us.

Later we watched an outdoor presentation and watched the handlers provoke some smakes and the emcee describe typical behavior.

Apparently these Siamese Cobras can only see forward when they are in this position.  The emcee even tapped one on the back of the head from this position but the snake remained focused on the handler offscreen right.

We haven’t mentioned the large number of pythons and constrictors that were also on display. The kids were able to have the unique opportunity to hold part of a 2m (6 foot) long Burmese Python which may have weighed 100 kilos (220 pounds).

Mom got to “pet” the snake too and was surprised that the sensation wasn’t what she was expecting.

We left the Institute for Chinatown which was a short drive away. As you may have been aware, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year and thousands of Thai-Chinese celebrate today.

We were walking down a major thoroughfare in Chinatown on our way to find a specific place that was reputed to have amazing Red Curry and noticed a large gathering of people near the gates of an alley leading to a shrine.

There were a significant number of police officers stationed on the street there as well. We had thought that there might be a New Years Day parade beginning at that spot and decided to wait to find out.

Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but when the Royal motorcade came down the closed-off road in front of us, the crowd became very still and quiet.

The Royal Entourage proceeded on foot after the cars carrying gifts so it seemed as though there might have been some ceremony or offering at the Wat Mangkon Kamalawat which is in the alley. This is the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok and an appropriate place for a royal visit on this holiday.

Technically didn’t see any royalty step out of the cars but we did get to see a King Cobra (and maybe the King or Queen of Thailand). As for the laundromat Adventure, we would rather talk about and show you some streetlife images from today. It’s much more interesting!

The Democracy Monument in Bangkok at Sunset on Lunar New Years Day

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