The Thais believe that when you are pregnant you see snakes. This startling piece of information was relayed to me as gospel by Crab. I responded in the only way I could, with feigned incredulity and gratitude for the information, while mentally dismissing another old wives tale. I have somewhat revised my opinion from total dismissal to grudging possibility based on this highly scientific data: the number of snakes I saw from that point onwards.
Don’t get me wrong, snakes in Thailand are not that rare, in fact their commonness could be likened to red buses in London: in other words you never see one when you need one, and then loads come along at once. I have been coming to Thailand for ten years and living here for three, I have never come across a snake of my own volition as it were.
I have heard the war stories, of cobras as high as your head ready to strike, and deadly venomous snakes relaxing in bed with tourists, and gargantuan pythons leisurely crossing the road. I have witnessed snakes caught in the jungle, or even barbequed by workers on building sites, I have never had the terrifyingly thrilling discovery of a snake myself, not even a mini, harmless tree snake.
That is until I got pregnant, or more specifically until I found out I was pregnant and Crab filled me in on the whole snake-pregnancy continuum. Then suddenly snakes were slithering out from every rock to accost me, or so it seemed.
Not out King Cobra!
The first incident was at home, a place never previously, to my knowledge, inhabited by snakes. For several days as I passed the large damp wood pile stacked at the back door I had heard an ominous movement, not quite a slithering, but definitely a minor disturbance. In my gooey impregnated brain I neither fully computed the significance of this, or perhaps sub-consciously dismissed it as the monitor lizards which loved to leap around in the klong just behind the restaurant.
I was woken up quite rudely to the possibilities of slitherings in the wood pile in Thailand a few days later when Old Lucky shouted to Crab and she went flying past me at the sink washing dishes and out the back door. Pretty soon all the neighbours, family, passersby and construction workers were gathered at our back door; there was a king cobra in the wood pile. And not a little fella either.
There then ensued what I like to call the dance of the cobra, consisting of about ten bold and brave men surrounding the wood pile and proceeding to leap at it with sticks, their success at hitting the snake was measured by cheers and their relative machismo likewise. Everyone told me to get back in the kitchen, I as a pregnant woman was most likely to get bitten of course.
Finally a passing migrant worker, exhibiting the most machismo of all, leapt into the pile and grabbed the mighty beast’s tail. Whipping it out in one movement he cracked it like a whip to kill it; no mean feat as it was about two metres long. Everyone cheered, much inspecting of the snake followed, and eventually everyone dispersed, the workers taking the snake with them to eat. I was slightly disappointed we didn’t get to keep it as trophy, I was very excited by my first real interaction with a wild cobra.
The second one came shortly after – I was in my friend’s truck racing for the six am boat. The Jungle is gorgeous at that time of the morning, dew lying heavy, the coolness rising from the ground, the sky just pinking up for the day and a formidable calm over everything . We were racing down the twists and turns of our diabolical jungle road, me crammed in the back, Shrimp in front with her little boy.
I was just relaying the exciting story of the cobra when we rounded the bend and nearly hit a monster one. My friend swerved to avoid it and we careened on, but my hear was in my mouth, that was a bloody massive cobra coiled in the road, and two snakes in as many days. Maybe there was something to this pregnancy snake thing.
I went on to see another five snakes over the course of my pregnancy, in fact it got to the point where I was expecting them round every corner. I uncovered pythons behind vases in the restaurant, tree snakes under backpacks, and cobras drinking from the ponds at the front of the house.
A friend suggested maybe when you’re pregnant you have heightened awareness, and there may very well be something in that. Or indeed it may be pregnant woman are more in tune with their serpentine friends as thai myth supposes.
Either way I am just glad that now I have returned to normal the snakes have begun behaving themselves again and since Clear Sky was born I haven’t seen a one.