As I have spent about 25 years of my madcap life in the tropics I have seen many dangerous critters with my very own eyeballs. Meeting these venomous creatures in the flesh has been rather startling, to say the least. So, I’d like to recount my experiences just for your amusement and maybe send a few shivers up your spine. As we all know the female of the species is more deadly than the male. That includes human beings of course. So without further ado, let another madcap story begin.
It was 2005 and I was living the dream in Vientiane the capital of Laos. Not only was I loving the sunshine and the laid-back lifestyle but I was “libido over brain” in lust with my beautiful Lao girlfriend. In, reality, I was head over heels in love, but I always like to slide in a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour into my scribble as many of you know. We had been together for just five months and were living the rose-coloured glasses romantic dream. We had never had a cross word and were always upbeat and happy.
I was startled when my good-natured sweetheart was suddenly bad-tempered and downright angry for no apparent reason. I hadn’t a clue what I had done wrong because I’d never seen her like this before. I grabbed her 5-foot slender body, put her over my knee, and playfully slapped her sexy arse while laughing. “I know what’s wrong, it’s the time of the month.”
I let her go and roared with laughter. She soon wiped the smirk off my face as my angelic sweetheart transformed into a devilish monster and went berserk. In her uncontrollable fury, she screamed abuse as she threw any object she could lay her hands on at a terrified me. I fled out of the house with my tail between my legs and sheepishly returned a couple of hours later. I apologised and she accepted as she had calmed down, but she warned me never to tease her when she is on her period again.
I never made that foolish mistake again and followed the old adage “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’ whenever my partner was in a foul mood because she “has the painters in” (UK), “Has communists in the funhouse” (Denmark), or my favourite, is afflicted with “Mad cows disease (Finland)
In 1999 I was living in Shenzhen, China with my Thai wife and our two young children. I owned my own language centre and student recruitment agency and was doing rather well. I would drink pints of Boddington’s Bitter and wolf down plates of chips, and baked beans with lots of bread most evenings. Before I knew it I was Postman Pat (fat) and had a wobbly beer belly. I decided to take some action so gave up beer and just had soups and fruit. I wasn’t in the mood for joining the Fat Boy Slim (gym) so decided to tackle a nearby mountain.
I lived in the beautiful port of Shekou. This is how I described it in my first book;
When Eugene was 10 months old, we arrived at Nanshan Foreign Language School in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a ginormous modern city in mainland China about 30 minutes away from Hong Kong. This crowded metropolis of skyscrapers and shopping malls had an estimated population of 23 million. We rented a swanky fully furnished three bedroomed ground-floor apartment in the tranquil port of Shekou. Shekou, which translates to the mouth of the snake, acquired its name due to the shape of its harbour.
This quaint seaside location on the southern tip of the city was something else. It gave off a kind of uncrowded holiday resort vibration. Dipping one’s toes in the South China Sea whilst gazing at Hong Kong in the hazy distance was a must-do experience. Feeling the warm zephyrs brushing against your skin as you breathed in the salty seaside air was exhilarating. Upon turning around, you were left openmouthed in awe as you beheld the green rolling hills gently hugging this charming settlement.
The cluster of Western restaurants and bars included an Irish pub that surprisingly sold the cream of Manchester; Boddingtons Bitter. We bought many of our supplies from a tiny store that had a selection of Western produce for the foreign devils who had made this gorgeous suburb home. I was chuffed to bits with the variety of vegan options that were up for grabs including my favourite; the yummy plant-based sausages.
And finally, the modern high-speed ferry which departed from this port on its one-hour journey to Hong Kong was a huge plus. Indulging in a leisurely trip across the water for a day of British shopping in stores such as Woolworths and Marks and Sparks was a piece of vegan cake.
To lose weight I awoke at 6 am for a 20-minute walk to the foot of the mountain. Then I would follow the concrete steps to the top. I would stop after every 50 steps and sit down gasping for breath. I really was an unfit flabby loser. It would take me over 3 hours to do the circuit. Over 1000 steps to the top, followed by over 1000 steps down at the other side. My legs were buckling and cramping up but I was determined and never missed a single morning. Soon I took breaks every 100 steps, 150 steps and so on. I was losing weight rapidly and becoming much fitter.
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After 2 weeks I decided I was going to reach the top without stopping. Onwards and upwards, I counted each step, I can’t remember how many steps but I will guess at 1,200. All was going well and I was over 1000 steps up. My poor legs were killing me and my brain kept screaming, “Give it a rest Syd, and take a break.” However, I pushed on through the pain barrier and was nearing the top and victory was in sight. 1005, 1006, 1007, and when I turned a corner I spotted a massive snake sleeping about ten concrete steps ahead. Shit, I didn’t stop though and the snake glared at me before leaving the step and crashing through the jungle. It must have been about 3 metres long. I eventually made the top without stopping and collapsed with a triumphant grin on my face. I slowly made my way down and laughed at the pain. It took me about 90 minutes in all. I always timed each walk, the goal was always to do it quicker than the previous time.
This crackpot’s next bright idea was to run the mountain. Got to keep this loony on the concrete path. At first, I would run 100 steps then walk 100 steps and before too long was running the full circuit in about 45 minutes. Each morning I would race against the clock and knock a few seconds off the time. My record was 35 minutes and 7 seconds and the next morning I was determined to break the 35-minute barrier. All was going to plan as I quickly reached the top and was then bounding down the steps racing towards the finish line. Out of the blue, a small brown snake was racing down the steps beside me. I ignored it because I was determined to finish in less than 35 minutes. The snake soon left the path and yippee I finished in 34 minutes 57 seconds.
My friends were complimenting me on how fit and healthy I was looking. Supersonic slender Syd was no longer a fat bastard. I glanced in the looking glass and asked “Mirror, mirror on the wall how do I look?”
The mirror replied, “Syd you look like the dog’s bollocks.”
The dog’s bollocks is British slang meaning the best of the best/the creme de la creme.
I can’t recall seeing any snakes when I was in Laos but I do remember hearing that a waiter in a small restaurant died after being bitten by a small green snake.
Thailand is a different kettle of fish. Since I moved to Koh Lanta in southern Thailand I have seen many snakes. About half a dozen highly venomous monocled cobras on the grass near my house. I have found a few monocled Cobra skins just outside my back door. My dog Elfie chased a red-necked keelback out of the garden and I spotted a golden tree snake while I was walking near the beach.
A while back I found a brown snake in my kitchen. I took a photo and sent it to a local snake group to identify. They got back instantly and informed me that it was a harmless common wolf snake. Phew, it was harmless and I was about to pick it up and fling it out of the kitchen window when thankfully I got back to the group and asked if that was the right course of action. I was warned not to touch it because it will defend itself and give you a nasty bite. I opened the window and it made its own way to safety. I found another common wolf snake a few months later and Elfie found one a couple of weeks back. I allowed them both to escape of their own accord.
Last month my landlady told me she had killed a Malayan Pit Viper that she found in my garden just two metres from my front door. I felt so sad when I saw the dead snake and told her to let me know if she sees a snake again and not to kill it because I will contact the local snake catcher who will capture it and release it away from our home.
The Malayan Pit Viper is less than a metre long, light brown with a series of black triangles. It is highly venomous and quick to strike. It is nicknamed The Landmine because if you step on one you will know why. The bites cause swelling and sometimes tissue necrosis which means that if left untreated limbs will have to be amputated. It is sometimes nicknamed the axe in Thailand because of this. The good news is that only 2% of bites result in death.
Here is an unedited account of the time I came face-to-face with a giant centipede when I was living in the tiny village of Gnommalard in rural Laos.
One morning in our isolated Gnommalard home, I opened my eyes to find a massive red centipede on my pillow, only inches from my horrified face. I leapt out of bed faster than I could scream, “F*ck me,” before jumping up and down in stark-bollock-naked terror with my trembling finger pointing at the brightly coloured monster on the pillow where my head had been a split second earlier. It was about 8 inches long, and the bites from these highly aggressive, brightly-coloured monsters are excruciating, leaving you in agonising torment for days.
I was panic-stricken with a pounding heart and bulging eyeballs as I watched my pretty wife casually sweep the giant centipede into an empty shoebox before chucking it out of the bedroom window. She explained that she would normally kill these dangerous creatures, but due to my veganism, she would be Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes and let it live another day.
There are 18 known species of scorpion in Thailand. One afternoon I was walking in my garden and suddenly leapt into the air when I felt a painful sharp sting on my big toe. I looked down and saw a big black scorpion. I went and got a brush and a dustpan and swept the big black bugger up and chucked it into the jungle at the back of my house. After about two hours the throbbing pain in my big toe disappeared. I have seen a few of the smaller brown scorpions in my sink. These are far more painful and luckily I haven’t been stung by one. Although my son Jo was stung on his foot by one that was in his bathroom. He said it hurt and he took the day off school and was as right as rain the next day.
Of course, I have seen many spiders in the tropics and even visited some caves in southern Laos that were home to the largest huntsman spider in the world. Enjoy this unedited start of a huntsman spider incident that happened to me in Laos. It will surely send shivers up your spine.
I froze in terror, and my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets as they stared down at the dark brown spider that was covering the crotch of my trousers. It was a massive beast, far bigger than my trembling hand. Before you think I’m bigging up my manhood, I’m referring to the spider. I was anything but cocksure, with that big, hairy monster next to my joystick. Maybe it was after the fly? Hahaha.
Zip it up Syd, having a man-eating brown widow next to your wedding tackle is no laughing matter. You’d better act quickly before you get a very nasty and extremely painful bite.
It was as if I had foolishly dared to look into Medusa’s venomous eyes and been turned into a petrified stone statue. Time stood still, I stood still, and the spider stood still on the grass in front of the 21st Century School of English in Vientiane, Laos.
I had the strange feeling that I was a guest star on an episode of The Outer Limits, a science fiction series from the 1960s. The ghastly storyline was that, by some uncanny twist of fate, a normally busy suburb had been transformed into an eerie ghost town. My co-star was the spider.
I felt helpless as my eyes scanned the vista desperately seeking another person who might possibly help. I strained my ears listening for the purr of a motorcycle or the echoing footsteps of a good Samaritan. I heard nothing.
It reminded me of the game of statues I used to play in primary school. I recall striving to stay motionless in order to avoid getting eliminated. This was far more alarming because even the slightest movement could result in a razor-sharp set of venomous fangs plunging into my scared stiff member. I struggled to keep my terror under control, remaining as still as the wind before disaster strikes. Seriously, what the f*ck was I supposed to do?
When I peered down at the spider, I almost shook in fear as I noticed its gigantic bulbous body, awfully long legs, and massive head. I almost passed out when this monster glared up at me with its eight menacing eyes. I was praying that I would soon wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Bloody hell, what a terrifyingly vivid dream.”
However, I knew that I was wide awake living a real-life horror story and I was shitting myself.
I imagined myself as a gunfighter in a 1960s spaghetti western, facing my evil adversary in a fight to the death. Who would have the balls to make the first move? Not me, as I was at a significant disadvantage because my eight-legged foe already had me by the goolies!
I smelt the perfume of a nearby rose bush. The scorching sun beat down on my head as the rivers of sticky sweat flowed down my face stinging my eyes. I didn’t move an inch, and neither did Boris. It was only right and proper that the co-star be given a name too. I glanced across the street to the normally crowded cafe where I intended to eat a sweet green vegan curry for lunch, and it was deserted.
I started to panic as the whole of humanity seemed to have vanished, leaving me alone in the blazing sun with a giant spider on my pride and joy.
I screamed, “Help!” at the very top of my lungs.
Silently in my mind, of course, because I wasn’t about to do anything that would provoke the spider into biting me.
This is from book two “Where is My Mind?”
if you would like to pre-order one of the 250 numbered limited edition copies then click the link below. You will receive all the unedited raw chapters – 43 so far including the conclusion to my terrifying spider story. three more chapters to go which you’ll receive when they are finished before your beautiful paperback will be posted to you xx
Here is some info about the Giant Huntsman.
Laos is home to the giant huntsman spider (Heteropoda maxima), which is the world’s largest spider by leg span. It’s the size of a dinner plate with a leg span that can shock, shock, horror, horror, shock, shock, reach up to 30 cm (about 11.81 in). The one next to my rhythm stick was only half that size, but it was nightmarishly massive in comparison to the teeny-weeny incy wincy spiders I had crossed paths with back home in the UK.
The yellowish-brown cave dwellers known as giant huntsman spiders were discovered in 2001. The female is extremely aggressive, and her venomous bite is excruciatingly painful. And occasionally, after a session of spider sex, she has been known to eat the male. FFS, that’s no way to treat a mate. The female of the species is more deadly than the male, so I give them plenty of Space.
I have been bitten by mosquitoes, bed bugs in cheap digs, fire ants, and stung by bees. I even sat on the banks of the Mekong River watching a glorious sunset only to be horrified when I noticed that my legs were covered in hundreds of bright red ants. I stood up and screamed as they all bit in unison. Startled onlookers watched as I jumped around like a disco-dancing champion. I brushed as many off as possible before jumping on my motorcycle and heading home in bloody agony as the red b*stards bit continuously. Even worse they were inside my shorts biting just where it hurt most. Once home I ran into the shower and washed all the ants off. I had sat on an ant nest. Believe me, I never made that mistake again. ha-ha
Would I return to the UK away from the dangerous critters?
Not on your Nelly. Wherever I lay my hat is my home and 35 years ago I laid my hippy hat in the tropics xx