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The snake farm at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute claims to be the second oldest of its kind in the world, producing seven types of venom antiserum and keeping many of the 200 species of snakes found in Thailand. Travellers and locals come for exciting snake-handling demonstrations and an informative serpentarium and museum located in central Bangkok.
Affiliated with the Thai Red Cross Society, the Institute opened in 1917 to produce vaccines for diseases like rabies and small pox as well as anti-venom for snakebite victims. While the term “snake farm” may remind you of not-so-ethical animal camps established for tourism profit, the chief aim here is to save lives while educating the public.
Large snakes like king cobras and reticulated pythons can be viewed in outdoor cages and pits, while the main building houses smaller and more obscure species like the Indochinese spitting cobra and dog-toothed cat-eye snake. A second-floor museum exhibits snake skeletons and snakes preserved in jars. English info boards discuss the mythology of snakes, how different types of venom affect different systems of the body and the proper steps to take if bitten.
Held in an auditorium overlooking the largest pits, the popular snake-handling demonstration features around 10 types of snakes unleashed within a few metres of elevated viewing areas. An energetic host explains each snake in Thai and English, throwing in a few jokes to ease the fear of some spectators.
Lethal showstoppers include a king cobra, a pair of Siamese cobras, a green pit viper and a branded krait with black-and-yellow stripes. You’ll also see several non-venomous species like rat snakes, sunbeam snakes and a yellow albino python that kids rush to hold at the end. While handlers allow the snakes to move around a bit, they don’t perform silly tricks like kissing cobras on the head.
Snake-handling demonstrations are held at 14:30 from Monday to Friday and 11:00 on weekends and holidays. A venom extraction demonstration is also held inside the main building at 11:00 from Monday to Friday. After checking out the snakes you might stroll through the lovely Chulalongkorn University campus on the way to Siam Square, or take the subway one stop west to Chinatown.
How to get there
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is located on Rama IV Road, a five-minute walk east of Sam Yan MRT station. The snake farm is set 300 metres back from the main entrance and marked by signs.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 18th January, 2017.