Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reptile Recollections

While pondering about which topic to write about in my blog, I wanted to find something that would be unique to Thailand. I decided to recount my visit to the Crocodile Farm last weekend with Rianne, another member of our program. I’m so glad we went, mostly because it was such a unique (and un-American) experience. The best way I can describe it is in the college student vernacular: it was super sketch…Which made things interesting!

Although the name suggests “farm,” in reality it’s a zoo with a heavy focus on crocodiles. Upon entering we saw a few typical exhibits including an aviary with all sorts of colorful birds. Everything seemed similar to an American zoo – the air smelled of some combination of nice breeze with a little animal mixed in, there were zig-zagging paths around the various exhibits, you could hear small children excitedly chattering and snack vendors popping popcorn. All this was going on as Rianne and I examined our zoo map and attraction list. “Big cats area, Dinosaur Museum, Monkey Island, Aquatic species, reptiles, Crocodile Wrestling Show…wait, what? A crocodile wrestling show?!” We knew instantly we had to go see such a spectacle.

We found the arena shortly after, walked up a flight of stairs to our seats and waited for the show to start. In the middle of the arena was a 100 foot long concrete island surrounded by a mass of crocodiles in the water. An announcer began speaking, music began playing, and two men in red and gold sleeveless vests and cropped pants walked into the arena. They began splashing as they circled around the island. They then wet the concrete down and pulled up the first crocodile by its tail. (At first I was concerned about this being painful on the crocs but they really didn’t seem to care so I suppose it is not!) They shouted a few commands at it and tapped some sort of pattern around its face with a stick. The crocodile opened its mouth and then snap! As soon as it closed its mouth we all got the idea of how powerful its jaws were. Already my stomach had knotted up in stress and Rianne and I were commenting to each other how crazy it was. Yet somehow we still felt compelled to watch.

After a few rounds of having the crocodile open and shut its jaws one of the men tapped it on the face again and the croc held its mouth open. So, when you run into a crocodile with its jaws open toward you, what is the next logical step? Why, to stick your arm in of course! Or at least in a Thai show you would. The man pulled his hand in and out, then his whole arm, and then his head. No joke.

The show proceeded with similar stunts for a while, all of which were extremely risky and dangerous, not to mention stupid, but somehow entertaining in a twisted way. As I said before, definitely something you would NOT see in America. To end the show they brought out a boy, dressed in matching attire, who dragged up his own small crocodile and did similar stunts. As the big finish, he collected the money that audience had thrown into the ring, put it in his mouth and did a running slide on his stomach right up to the crocodile, throwing the money into its mouth from his.

After the show we wandered for a bit looking at the different exhibits. Everything was fairly standard except for the last one, the crocodile pond. (When I say “pond,” think more like small lake.) Onto the crickety old walkway we walked, over the water and over the hundreds of crocs looming just ten feet underneath. Near the end we saw a crocodile pileup, about a hundred of them in a tangled mess, some snapping, some napping, and some eating. We exchanged nervous glances hoping that the walkway was sturdy because we probably wouldn’t have lasted long had any boards given way and sent us crashing down. Yep, definitely sketch. We took pictures and videos to remember our adventure and proceeded to leave the zoo. Thus concluded our epic Crocodile Farm adventure, one we will never forget!

Have you had any unique experiences abroad that you couldn’t find in the US?

1 comment:

  1. Just hearing your stories about the crocodile farm makes me nervous and stressed out! I think my eyes would have been covered had I been there with you two. I feel like so many of our experiences here in Thailand would never be allowed in the US. With lawsuits and safety codes all over the place, the somewhat risky experiences we've had (the nontraditional steps up Tiger Cave Temple, riding on the neck of an elephant, jumping from one dock to another trying to get onto a little boat without ending up in the river) would not have happened in the US or would have been preceded by many signed papers and legal documents. But that excitement and not being so overly concerned with safety and being sued was something I loved about Thailand.