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Snakes in Angkor wat.

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Snakes in Angkor wat.

We are trying to decide to go to Angkor wat after a trip to Vietnam. One of our group is hysterical about snakes. Can anyone tell me if they are rife in this region as they have read it is alive with cobras. Any helpful answers would be most appreciated. THanks.

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1. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

Good God, is that true? And I walked everywhere -- EVERYWHERE -- around that site for two whole days, and didn't even give it a thought! Looks like that's another offering I have to make to the Patron Saint of the Naive Traveller!

Here in Australia, snakes are a seasonal thing -- you only see them (and then, not often) for about three months of the year. I don't know whether that constraint applies to tropical countries like Cambodia, but I can say that we were there in late September, and there were no warning signs, nothing in the brochures or in the hotels or on the Angkor tickets. Everywhere we looked their were delighful Cambodian children walking through the bush barefoot (and bare just about everything else), and no one carried a stick. Nobody seemed to have ever HEARD of cobras. While I wouldn't like to encourage your timid companion to be rashly complacent, my own (relatively uninformed) opinion is that he/she should just relax and enjoy the temples.

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2. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

I didn't see ANY during my fours days there and i visited many temples. I met a couple and they saw two in one temple on the path but the snakes left. I walked everywhere and i had read the same so i asked my guide and i think he said they can be seen mostly during the wet season which is finishing if i am not mistaken. Most snakes would go away when you step around anyway, i think.

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3. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.


Santa Monica...
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4. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

i just got back a week ago.... i saw 2 snakes in the 2 days i was there... very small, and was more scared than i was.

the guides say, they see one almost every day.

it shouldnt be a deterent to your travels...

Phoenix, Arizona
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5. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

We were there for 3 full days and never encountered a snake! I would be more afraid of all of the children begging and people asking to pay for their schooling!!

Kurashiki, Japan
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6. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

I spent 4 days in SR in mid-December and even went out to the jungle temple Beng Mealea and to the Phnom Kulen plateau- NO SNAKES! Wear comfy hiking books to be on the safe side.(This will also save your toes as you 'll be walking on a lot of large rocks/fallen temple slabs)

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7. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

I just got back from Angkor. No, no snakes in 3 days when we were there

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8. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

Hello everyone,

I feel I must share my rather strange snake story here. I am very certain this is a very rare occurence and will point out in advance that if you stick to the main paths you will be extremely unlikely to meet snakes, so as intense as my experience is do NOT let it stop you from enjoying the wonders of this fantastic place!

NOTE: The distances I describe are my best guess and are very likely somewhat inaccurate.

Toward the end of our second day exploring the Angkor region my wife Mochi (a Thai) and I arrived at Wat Preah Khan, a very large walled complex surrounded by a 30 meter wide moat taking up something like a quarter of a square kilometer that had been a combination of Buddhist temple and divinatory school, a very holy site. We walked across a wide bridge railed on each side by statues of giants pulling on an enormous snake-like creature called the "Naga". The Naga are mystical temple guardians and can often be seen carved into walls, arches, doors and even curled protectively around images of The Buddha.

When we arrived at the main gate there wasn't much of a crowd as they had been driven inside by the early afternoon heat. We decided to spend some time gazing at the tree lined and reed shored moat strecthing off to our right. After a quiet interlude there I found myself drawn away from the main gate along the narrow path running between the 4 meter high red stone walls and the water- I recall that I told Mochi that "Something is calling me this way..."

As we walked along we found statues carved into the wall every 10 meters or so of 3 meter tall "Garuda", another mystical temple guardian that took the form of a bird-man. Each held a fiercely fanged Naga in each hand and it was almost as if we could feel their eyes upon us as we made our way past their imposing presence. Here and there small groups of bees buzzed somewhat menacingly around us making us quicken our step- this made us consider going back but we determined to press on- as long as we made quick progress the bees didn't follow.

At last we reached the corner of the complex which was at least 200 meters away from the main gate, now no longer visible behind us in the shady gloom of the trees lining the moat. I realized at this point that it may be something of a long hike (I really had no clue as to the actual size of this place) to the side gate but Mochi was willing as the serenity of the place was most intoxicating- we were very much on "the path less travelled".

Turning the corner we followed the side wall whose height mercifully provided welcome shade. Here the jungle on the far side of the moat pressed even closer, pushing its growth out over the still black water as far as possible. We could hear the cries of birds and other jungle creatures emanating from its interior which lent the place a very primitive and lonely atmosphere.

I began to wonder at this point just how far down the wall the supposed side gate would be- we had already travelled nealy half again the distance we had made from the main gate to the corner and the trail was gradually becoming less and less defined. I pride myself in being an experienced woodland hiker and determined that although we were obviously headed into a remote area the terrain was not dangerous and we could continue, which Mochi, albeit beginning to show a tinge of reluctance, agreed to readilly enough. We continued on.

Massive trees grew from the side of the wall out over the lilly spotted water obscuring our view of what lay ahead. I had begun to consider turning back as I knew Mochi was tiring, but didn't relish the thought of having to traverse the same ground we had already covered again. I was in explorer mode and thirsted for new sights. I climbed up on the roots of a particularly large tree that grew out almost perpindiculary over the moat from the wall, forcing the "trail" (now just a narrow track in the vegetation) under its bulk down the bank to the water's very edge. The view afforded gave me hope- I could see that there was some kind of break in the flatness of the wall ahead! We made our way under the tree and soon came upon what I hoped would be the gate.

Upon closer examination this proved to not be a gate at all but a place where massive tree roots had managed to cave the wall in, forming a large "U" shaped break in the ancient stones. The bottom of the "U" was a meter high pile of rubble that looked to be an easy climb. I was ecstatic that at last we had found a way to enter the temple grounds!

I went first carefully making my way up the jumbled stones, Mochi close behind and slightly to my right. It was indeed an easy access and soon I stood near the summit of this passage looking into the wall's interior. A meter wide red earth track strecthed off to left and right; to the left I could see the distant corner we had passed on the outside, where the interior path rounded the bend and led back to the main gate. To the right I found that the path led far off into the shady gloom, at least as far again as we had travelled- I had underestimated the size of this place! Before us lay a solid wall of impenetrable jungle completely consuming the grounds in this corner section. This was indeed an area that few ventured to and was filled with an eerie quiet.

At this point I was rather foolishly determined to continue away from the main gate in hopes of finding a side path leading back into the heart of the complex- my desire to cover unknown ground had not abated, although a small voice in my head spoke quietly against it. Before I could voice my intentions to Mochi the heavy silence was filled with an incredibly loud hiss, an angry tea kettle shriek that shattered the ancient calm and froze us in our tracks.

I looked to the source of this bone chilling exclamation to see the snake.

There on the dusty trail lay seven feet (over two meters) of tensed reptilian muscle shimmering in the tropical sunlight; bloody scarlet around the mouth fading to a virulent pink on the head, its main length an irridescent sea blue marked with a circular pattern in a darker cerulean shade- I had never seen a snake with such startlingly bright hues in photos or with my own eyes. The serpent's girth was that of of a heavy man's thigh in the middle of its length, its triangular skull nearly as large, tapering into a long snout full of white fangs, its jaws slowly opening at us in a menacing leer tipped by a flickering of forked toungue. Time stood still as we faced a deadly creature from out of lost epochs, freezing our forgotten instincts with its amber slitted gaze.

The snake lay a meter below us and two meters away to the right. Suddenly and with shocking speed it started toward us, its powerful length propelled forward in a rapid curving "S" motion, the terrible hiss growing aggressively louder as it launched its attack.

I watched in horror as its terrible head disspaeared into the far side of the rubble on which we stood- who knew what winding ways it might know to come at us from beneath rather than over the top? However the dissapearance of its awful stare broke the spell aloowing me to take a long step backward, preparing to flee. I saw that Mochi still stood frozen in the grip of terror and so I grabbed her by the hand and dragged her back down to the trail where we then fled as fast as we could down the narrow way, ducking under the tree trunks, trying not to slip and fall into the muddy moat.

Far down the outer wall with the corner drawing into view I at last allowed myself to look back- the serpent was nowhere in sight and had not given chase. Feeling exhilerated at escaping the beast I looked at Mochi's still fearful countenace and gave her a crazy grin- pronouncing loudly in my best Australian accent: "Crikey, that was a BIG SNAKE!" This earned me a rolling of the eyes and a somewhat shaken laugh. We were unscathed.

Although still shaken by the experience, I felt rather annoyed at the creature for cutting short my explorations and half heartedly contemplated the possibilty of somehow getting past its deadly presence. The long trip back to the main gate over already covered ground seemed dismal indeed. Strangely though, the minutes passed in an oddly fleeting way, and I recall a certain euphoria as my steps felt lighter than they should. In the seeming wink of an eye we found ourselves back at the main gate! We both remarked at how the time had passed so quickly and the long hike had been so effortless...

The rest of the day passed without incident as we made our way through this surprisingly vast temple's main thoroughfare through halls lined with serenely smiling bare breasted dancing angels. We discussed our adventure excitedly and often gazed into the jungle off to our right side, thinking of the great serpent we had encountered. An long hour later we emerged at the opposite exit of the complex at the road where we would meet our driver and I took a long look at the barely visible path leading away along that wall into the lonely regions we might have traveresd if we had not been turned back- if we had been able to take that path it would have been a long trip through the sullenly humid jungle all the way to this distant gate, as we never did find any other way leading to that far wall from the temple's central path. If we had indeed gone that way we would have missed out on the many spectacular sights this "lost city" had to offer. Out on the dusty dirt road I was nearly ecstatic to see a smiling Cambodian lady selling ice cold beer.

In epilogue to this tale I want to share our personal conclusions about or experience. Mochi and I are the products of two very different cultures, she a devoutly religous Buddhist Thai and myself a very open minded American, we both looked at the experience from different perspectives which I will compare:

I immediately wanted to get back to the hotel to search the internet for the species of the unusual breed of snake we had encountered, which I suspected based on its size, shape and behaviour may have been a "reticulated python" native to the region and known for its aggressiveness toward those that enter its territory. However, Mochi felt know need to do so as she was already quite certain as to the creature's identity- a NAGA!

This pronouncement stopped me in my tracks yet again for indeed the entirety of this temple was festooned with depictions of the legendary guardian serpent. She proposed that we had met a manifestation of this ancient spirit that for some reason did not want us to enter the temple complex at that place. Mochi surmised that either the act of entering from a broken section of the wall instead of a proper gate was a violation of the temple's sacredness, or, that the Naga had actually been doing us a favor, warning us away from a tedious and desolate track through featureless wilderness back to the correct path through the holy wonders of the temple grounds proper.

She tended to favour the second theory as in her mind it also supported the bizzarly quick trip back to the main gate. I had determined that this was due to the enormous rush of chemicals an encounter with a member of humanity's ancient nemises instinctively triggered in our brains, but Mochi felt this was a reward for heeding the Naga's "teaching" and returning to the proper path!

She went on to add that the serpent's amazingly bright markings and the way it seemed to shimmer and glow in the hot afternnoon air was because it was no terrestrial snake at all but a wondrous spirit creature. It is here that I must note that I have done some extensive research online and have found NOTHING that resembles the snake that I saw in such vivid coloration. Certainly there are very brightly marked snakes around the world but none so far can match the specimen I found. Moreover, I learned that the color blue is actually quite rare in the reptilian world and I have been unable to locate ANY examples of a true blue hue in the world's pythons or any other related constricor species. The reticulated python of Asia does have markings that somewhat resemble the pattern of circles I saw on the Wat Preah Khan serpent but in all the photos I have found the animals are all a rather dull olive green/ grey green combination...

And so that is where my tale ends with questions still dangling as to the identity of this mysterious beast. Could it have been a highly unusual variation of a common python or was it indeed the manifestation of a timeless power? Here under the bright lights of modern Bangkok the former would be "the logical explanation", yet when I think back on the slowly crumbling expanses of Wat Preah Khan, half cloaked in a shroud of verdant greenery, sinking beneath the weight of lost ages it is easy indeed to allow myself to believe that we had indeed come face to face with a fierce temple guardian.

Garrett Vance


PS: If any professional herpetologists out there can actually ID this snake please contact me.

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9. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

Great story!! I'm glad you both made it out without unscathed.

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10. Re: Snakes in Angkor wat.

Snakes don't go where hundreds of people mill about every day. It is not likely that you will have the chance to see a live cobra.

I saw one snake in our garden in the 3 years we lived in Siem Reap. It wasn't looking for me but for a way to get out of my way.

You are the first one I hear worrying about snakes in Siem Reap.