Snakes in Bags & Baskets


A small man covered in white powder, wearing a bright orange turban and robe, sauntered down the sidewalk in our community, a canvas bag full of snakes draped across his shoulder.

There was a reason for yelling about the snakes. He was intimidating people in order to get a little money. It worked particularly well with foreigners like me so I crossed the street when I saw him coming. I’m really not that fond of snakes.

He wasn’t supposed to be in our area and he knew it. It would only be a matter of time before the local police asked him to leave. It was a rare sight in our community to see someone doing this.

The first time it happened I was stepping off a sidewalk to catch a taxi. In the same second I stepped between two parked cars, a cobra raised it’s head with a hiss, just a few feet in front of me. Of course the charmer laughed hysterically, tucking the creature into the basket after I screamed and jumped back onto the sidewalk. Most likely it’s fangs or venom glands had been removed, but I still wasn’t happy. A busy schedule meant no time to pay for watching the cobra “dance” much to the charmer’s chagrin.

My husband paid a charmer once so we could take a video. It was on a weekend trip. We occasionally drove into the mountains to a place where we could take canoes on a lake and do some hiking.

(Hiking is a calm word for walking uphill for hours. Actually, uphill would seem like a calm word if I could show you pictures of our favorite place. But the journey and views were worth it. This was one of many places where my small daughter would repeat her opinion that Merrells, indeed, are the best outdoor shoes).

We found the charmer resting by the lake and he put on quite a show for us. He took pride in his craft and afterward (when the snake was safely put away) it was pleasant to talk with him. Charmers move from village to village, wherever there are crowds who will watch, and do not often settle. Interesting life.

“Mugging” someone with a snake— that happens. My husband was visiting a small village. A woman sitting on the street with some cobras in a basket began chasing him and demanding money. He gave her a little, but she wouldn’t put the snake away. Grabbing the cobra’s head and thrusting it toward him, she ran faster until onlookers were finally able to make her stop.

I wasn’t surprised on my husband’s birthday when he wanted to climb one of the small mountains near our community. He left at 4:30 in the morning with two friends and got home very late. Nor was I surprised to hear he was chased by a beautiful, but terrifying cobra on his birthday.

But that was our life. Not snakes, thankfully. Seeing those were few and far between and except for the birthday climb, it was usually with a charmer.

The unexpected was our life. Despite a weekly routine we loved in our familiar corner of Asia, the random and unusual seemed to find us. I’ll share more of my favorite stories soon.

©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved

Thanks for reading about the Snakes I Have Seen!

I’ve never been to the location on this video, but enjoy the link to see a charmer with four snakes. One of the snakes tries to escape at the end.

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