I hate snakes. I mean I really, really really hate snakes.
Remember that movie that came out last year called ‘Snakes on a Plane’? I won’t even watch the trailer.
So why am I talking about snakes when I’m sitting in an internet café in Siem Reap, Cambodia? ‘Cause there be snakes over here. Not little bitty garter snakes, or king snakes. I mean great big cobras that flatten out their heads and stand up before they bite you. They’re real easy to see, ‘cause some of them stand about 3 feet high.
Yesterday I was walking from my hotel, the Green Town Guest House (www.greentownguesthouse.com) to downtown Siem Reap. The hotel right next door is ‘Le Residence’, a big fancy, 5 star resort. Three of the workers from Le Residence were poking in the bougainvillea bush by the front door. They’d stick a pole into the bush, shake it around and then run away, wait a minute and then do it again. ‘Bees?” I naively asked. ‘Cobra’ was his reply.
Aki Ra and I had dinner at a local Korean restaurant last night and we started talking about the things you find when you’re hiking. I told him about mountain lions, how Jill and I had run into a bear, with cubs, one time when we were camping. He thought it was real funny that you shouldn’t try and run from a bear. When I said that you were supposed to lie down and play dead and let the bear play soccer with you, he was sure I was pulling his leg.
I asked him about cobras. ‘Oh, they everywhere’ he said. ‘We have some by the Museum. I see the hole and the skin from when they shed’. I asked him if he sees them in the jungle much and he said ‘why do you think I make you sleep in a hammock when we go to the jungle.’ Silly me, I thought it was because it was more comfortable, and harder for the bugs to get to you. Nope, it’s mostly so the cobras won’t curl on top of you during the night.
Then I asked Aki Ra what he did when he saw a cobra. ‘Run. Run very, very fast.’ He said one time he was walking through the jungle, disturbed a cobra who raised up to his full 3 feet, flattened out his head and struck at him. He said he turned around and ran as fast as he could. Every time he looked back the cobra was still there, striking at where Aki Ra had been. He said he’d look back, scream and then put on a little burst of speed. “Scared me very much.” I friggin’ bet!!!
So why the big deal, you ask? Aki Ra and I are probably going to the jungle next week for a day or two. He usually goes out at sometime during the week and checks out some of the schools he’s built and looks for new locations, etc. I said I wanted to come if it was okay with him. He said, ‘just you and me, okay.’
I asked him what we should do if we see a cobra. He said, ‘run very, very fast.’ I just keep thinking about that old joke that says “I don’t need to outrun the bear Bill. I just need to outrun you…..”
Glad I have a completely enclosed mosquito net on my hammock. But don’t worry. If I see a cobra, you’ll hear me screaming all the way back in USA.
Khmer New Year is 13-15 April. Should be quite the time.
More from the jungle as it happens.