Where: Nongprue, Banglamung. Turn off Sukhumvit near Central Pattaya, down Soi Non Plub Wan. Continue for a couple of kilometers and you’ll see signs for the snake show, which is alongside the railway line.
Opening hours: 8am-6pm.
Cost: 200 baht for everyone.
At most shows it’s the front row that fills up first.
Not so at this snake show, where visitors generally clamber to sit as far away as possible.
Snake charmer ‘Dam’ is soon taunting and teasing snakes that clearly would rather be left alone. A ‘jumping’ snake lives up to its name and leaps furiously up at Dam, who adroitly steps aside each time the creature lunges.
Dam then grabs the snake and swings it around, allowing its head to arc round inches from the audience. We flinch but Dam knows what he’s doing and the snake is soon back in its bag.
As snake shows go this is fairly intimate. Dam, originally from Nong Khai, has been at the farm for more than ten years, and has the scars to prove it. He’s been bitten several times ‘but only three were serious’, he adds nonchalantly.
Evidence of those three occasions can still be seen on his hands and arm, where large scars remain.
Dam said: “I first got involved with snakes back in my home town. I’d had snakes as a child and when people in my village had snakes, they asked me to come and catch them.
“I’m still scared the snake will bite me, but if I don’t do this job there is no-one else who can do it.”
Snakes in the show are carefully chosen. They may be poisonous but they don’t spit their venom, so sitting in the front row doesn’t carry that much danger. The poison glands on the snakes are still very much intact, which is proven when Dam persuades one to release its toxin into a jar.
Dam doesn’t just work in the show, he gets calls from people in Pattaya who find snakes in their homes. He regularly goes out to collect them and some would be worthy of any show – the largest he’s found was a five-metre cobra.
The snake farm itself is fairly nondescript, it’s almost like you’re in someone’s backyard. Staff are friendly and happy to tell you about all the animals kept here. Explaining is a large part of the farm’s philosophy. Its founder died last year in a car accident, but the education ethos remains strong, and students regularly visit to learn more about wildlife.
Snakes make up a large part of the exhibits, with a giant reticulated python being the first creature visitors see. But there are many other animals here too.
Take the Asian Bear, who stands nearly 6ft high as it clambers for bananas visitors offer (for 20 baht). The bear may not be in the largest enclosure but it’s rare that you can get so close to such a magnificent animal.
Elsewhere there are rabbits, who must live in constant trepidation given the boa constrictor that sits nearby. Then there are budgies, goats and even white buffaloes, something of a rarity in Thailand. Warthogs wallow in mud, cockerels strut around a yard and a couple of crocs bask in the sun.
To call it a snake farm doesn’t give the full picture. Here is a collection of diverse animals that are used not just to entertain, but also to educate. The snake show may be the highlight but it’s a small part of the whole farm.
Of course, snake shows are nothing new to Thailand and you’ve probably seen a few people kissing cobras in your time. But you probably haven’t been anywhere quite as open as this, where you can get as close as you’d probably want to the animals.
The farm takes a little bit of getting to as it doesn’t offer its guests that much space, and you could easily drive past without seeing it, but it’s worth making the effort as this venue offers a chance to see genuine snake-catchers and handlers at work.
Oh, and if you do find a ten-foot cobra in your kitchen, Dam has some simple advice. ‘Get out and give me a call.’
Thailand has many snakes, some poisonous, some harmless. Among the ones to avoid stepping on are the King Cobra, Cobra, Russell's Viper, and the Pit Vipers.
Snakes by nature keep themselves to themselves, but will attack if provoked or threatened. Snakes don’t have no ears but sense an approach through the vibration conveyed through the ground. Clapping your hands and stomping you feet when in the wild may make it seem as though you’ve had too much sun, but you’ll also help to warn snakes that you’re about.
Snakes smell with their tongues.
Snakes eat a variety of animals. King Cobras live on other live snakes, water snakes eat fish, while other species live on rats, frogs, or insects. Snakes are fussy eaters and generally only eat something they have killed themselves. Unlike your average Pattaya dweller, a well-fed snake can survive for days without further nourishment.
One of the most poisonous snakes can be found in Thailand – the sea snake. The good news is that’s reasonably rare and is also very shy.