March 12, 2010

Is That a Scorpion In Your Pants? - Ko Samui

I paid for breakfast with money my wife had given me, then walked next door to rent a motorcycle. Well, now, maybe not a motorcycle, but the thing had two wheels and it got us to where we needed to go; nowhere in particular. We had landed in Ko Samui two days earlier, and hadn’t yet left Chawang Beach, the island’s largest strip. Someone like me burns to a crisp. We slathered our arms and face and legs with sunscreen before hitting the road like a pair of ghosts.

In foreign countries, I’ll only drive on the small islands. Even the bigger small islands, such as Phuket (which really isn’t that big in the scheme of things) should be left to professionals. It’s always the same thing: The roads are jammed, and just when you think it’s traffic, there’s a guy laying dead in the road next to a scooter. Even with the blood, it doesn’t seem real until you see his groceries scattered upon the pavement. There’s nothing sadder than oranges in the gutter.

There was a dead man’s curve that overlooked the waters of the Gulf of Thailand. After that, the road leveled out and ran mostly along the coast as we circled the island. Every so often I’d turn down a road just to see what was there. There were dung piles over a foot in diameter on one particular road. A secluded beach was at the end of this road, but then we saw a man laying on the beach in a brown Speedo. He cocked his head around as we approached, letting us know that he was alive.

There were edge-of-the-world dwellings between stretches of jungle, and crumbling villages with one general store and maybe a take-out. We began seeing road signs advertising “Live Cobra Show.”

“LETS FIND THAT,” I yelled over my shoulder to Takayo.
As far as the circumference of the road was concerned, the snake farm was located at the point of no return. It must have been a family affair, because, outside of family, who else could get someone to scream harder than these people? We pulled in and a woman directed us under a tree to park. We walked in and looked around at the cages full of lizards, alligators, and bunnies.

We entered the arena just before show time. A moat filled with brown water surrounded an Astroturf stage. The DJ began the show by inundating the twenty-odd spectators in a storm of techno music. When we had enough, he rambled into the microphone like a man seized in a psychochemical grip. The star of the show entered the stage with a bucket. It was full of scorpions. He plucked one out, stuck it into his mouth, and began chewing. The kids groaned. He opened his mouth wide, showing his tongue and uvula, just in case there were any doubts.

As for the remaining scorpions, our hero placed them on his face --twenty-three in all -- and we counted them out, one by one. He walked through the water so that we could have a better look. They crawled on his eyes, which were closed. If he had opened them, he would have seen a blur of black thoraxes and stingers. With the scorpions still on his face, he found a centipede willing to sink its fangs into his arm. The skin on his forearm tented as he pulled the thing up and down. The whole time, the music pumped away like a machine.

In one fell swoop, he scraped all the scorpions into the bucket. We clapped, but then the man pulled out the waistband of his pants. We all moaned, thinking about what he was going to do. And then into his britches they went.

The DJ made an announcement: “He has no girlfriend, no wife, and his cock has been stung so many times that his manhood no longer functions properly.”
Scorpion pants walked around in a (reasonably) awkward manner before plucking them back into the bucket. Everyone clapped, and he bowed, and then began to gag. Something made his Adam’s apple bob, and so he reached in and pulled out the obstruction -- a healthy live scorpion. It was a fine display of showmanship.

The cobra show was great, if you like to watch small brown men piss off snakes. But what I kept thinking was: Five minutes earlier, this guy loaned his crotch out to twenty-three scorpions.

The snake handler held up a cobra two feet from our face. I took a picture as if the thing was just a novelty. The mood turned serious when he went to kiss the cobra’s head. The thing was hooded up in strike mode, but the DJ seemed to be rooting for the snake. He breathed into the microphone, throat singing the snake into a placid trance. The tension of the snake kiss and the DJ’s throbbing stupor reached fever pitch. The snake charmer leaned in close to the top of its head, too far now to turn back. I could just see the thing striking his face. He planted his lips on top of that snake’s head. We all cheered and the man wrangled all of those pissed off serpents into a black box.

After the show, I wondered if they have enough antivenom on hand for a face strike? I wasn’t even sure if there was a hospital on the island. Surely someone had been bitten in the history of this place. Well, as long as it didn’t happen to me, it was out of sight, out of mind. There were other ways to die, of course, but who wants to think about that on vacation? I just jumped back on the scooter, hitting the small island road that could lead to anywhere, or nowhere at all.

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