BootsnAll Travel Network

Vang Vieng: The Snake Hunter

The afternoon had melted away. Our last in Vang Vieng; Bec and I spent the twilight hours of the day sitting in an open bamboo hut by the river, watching the sky turn slowly pink as the sun grew tired, drinking BeerLao, and eating a delicious Lao dish of chicken Laap; minced chicken mixed with lime juice, mint leaves and chilli, and served with lettuce and sticky rice. Tubers and Kayakers floated past, Jack Johnson wafted out of the nearby speakers, and little Lao kids played in the sand, running and smiling and laughing.

Yeah, life was pretty darn good.

As the curtain of darkness drew in around us, we left the bar on the small island in the river, crossing a bamboo footbridge on our way covered in the sparkling webs of invisible spiders. Down below, a man was giving his small son a bath in the cool flowing water, rubbing shampoo into the boy’s hair as he shook his head to try and get away. Beyond the bridge, we walked up a dirt road littered with half buried rocks and stones that created havoc for the few mopeds and tuk-tuks that dared traverse the dark path. We turned down a street running parallel with the river, a street filled with vendors selling banana pancakes, each proclaiming themselves to be the Number 1 in town. “Sabaidee. Pancake?” They would call. An open fronted wooden hut had fruit and vegetables lined up on a table out the front. Beyond the table lay a man, his wife, and a small child, resting on the wooden floor after the hot day. Presumably this is where they slept, as the hut had only one room.

Another open fronted building, this one concrete, had a barber sign hanging from its roof. Below the sign, a solitary barber’s chair sat in front of a mirror, clippings of dark hair scattered around its base. On the wall under the mirror was scrawled in rough red paint; “Cut the hair. Shave the beard.”

A French couple looked at renting mountain bikes standing in front of a guesthouse. I’m not sure where they planned to ride in the darkness; the town itself was barely lit, let alone the roads beyond, and by now darkness had strangled all light from the sky. The girl threw her leg over the seat, and began to peddle up the bumpy road; although it was paved, it was scarred by numerous potholes, as were all the roads in Vang Vieng, and the soft edges were far from straight; they snaked about like the Southwest coast of Victoria. I commented on how the bike was larger than the ones we had hired earlier that day to ride out to the cave and lagoon. We watched her ride the large bike 10 or so metres ahead of us, before she turned and stopped.

She had seen it. The snake.

I turned my head away from her, towards the river, as we approached. The snake was slithering across the road, in front of her bike, towards the safety of the trees by the river. But I hadn’t seen it. And nor had Bec.

We reached the girl on the bike. I stepped foward with my left foot, landing on something soft, something alien on the rocky road. Then someone belted me in the right thigh with a rubber hose, just above the back of my knee. I took another step and turned in confusion, “What the…..?”, to see a brown snake, not big, but big enough, perhaps two and a half feet long, just a metre or two away off the road and quickly writhing its way towards the shadows.

“SHIT! That snake just attacked me. I think I stood on it.”

I don’t know where the French girl went, she had dissapeared in the confusion. Bec looked alarmed, “Did it bite you?”

“I don’t know,” I replied nervously, as I craned my neck behind my shoulder to look at where the snake had lashed out. I hadn’t felt anything piercing, but that didn’t stop my heart pounding with a combination of fear and adrenalin.

Just 50 metres up the road was the Vang Vieng hospital; a rundown, decrepit looking single storey concrete building, with a dusty entry of dried-out grass, and a fence with rusted barbed-wire surrounding the property. When we had passed it earlier that day, Bec’s comment had been, “Hope I don’t get sick here.” The thought of having to rush in there exhaling cries of ‘snake-bite’ only added to my rapidly moving imagination, and did nothing to help reassure me that everything would be fine.

We quickly rushed into the falling glow of an overhead street light, and checked my pants for any puncture marks. None were found, but upon reaching our guesthouse a few hundred metres away, we had a closer inspection.

Of course, everything was fine. There was no bite, and the poor snake and no doubt been a lot more scared than I was. I assume that I stood on its head, and that it was its tail that flew up and struck me.

Damn, all those hours of watching Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, I finally come across a snake, and all I can do is shriek like a girl.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply