The Snake Temple in Penang is something that I had a hard time persuading my two friends to visit. First of all, it’s a 30 minute car journey south of George Town, and secondly, the reviews online aren’t great. The general consensus seems to be that this place really isn’t worth the effort and that it’s only worth visiting if you’ve done everything else in the region and have an hour to kill.
In a way, I see where these unsatisfied travellers are coming from.
If you want an impressive temple, with lots of beautiful shrines and statues, then the Snake Temple in Penang will be sure to disappoint. It doesn’t feel like a temple at all when you enter – you don’t even have to take your shoes off – and my friends and I were wondering ‘is this it?’ when we first entered.
You don’t go to Snake Temple to see yet another ornate Asian temple.
You go to see snakes, and see snakes we did.
I’ve always been fascinated by snakes. When I was about 5 years old, our local pet shop had a King Snake on display and for months I used to beg my mum to take me to the shop so that I could visit ‘my’ snake. This interest never really went away, and I still consider the time I held an anaconda in Bali to be one of my best travel memories.
And then I heard that the Snake Temple in Penang housed Pit Vipers.
Now, anybody that knows a little about snakes will know that you do not want to get bitten by a Pit Viper. Not if you don’t want your leg amputated anyway.
Pit Vipers are dangerous.
Of course, this made me want to go and visit them even more.
As soon as I entered, I found that the internet hadn’t been lying – there really were Pit Vipers everywhere, from the potted plants to the picture frames. There was nothing stopping me from touching them.
Well, aside from the desire to keep both of my legs.
Moving into the next room, we found a man sitting with a huge python. He wanted 25 Ringgit for a picture with it (around £5) but after I explained to him that I only wanted to take a picture on my phone as oppose to buying one of his framed pictures, and spending a little while building a rapport with him, he relaxed his price and I gave him about £1.50 to hold the wonderfully named Nelson, and take as many pictures as I wanted with him.
As soon as Nelson was safely lodged around my neck, my new friend decided it would be fun to put a Pit Viper on top of my head as well. Deciding not to panic (this little guy must be used to tourists, right?), I instead did what every self-respecting person in Asia would do – I took a selfie.
When I could finally bring myself to part with Nelson, we took a walk around the temple gardens and ‘breeding ground,’ which is basically a fenced off patch where the Pit Vipers are allowed to slither around in the trees making more Pit Vipers.
Next stop was the Snake Farm, where, for 8RM, you can wander around looking at countless species of snake, while an English speaking guide explains where they are from, how poisonous they are, what they eat etc. Obviously to me, a snake lover, this was all fascinating. The guide then led me into a small enclosure with a beautiful yellow Burmese Python, which I managed to stroke from head to tail (officially for good luck but really because I wanted to see how brave I really was), and a 8 METRE long Python.
This thing eats cows for breakfast. It ain’t messing around.
My guide then explained that as I am smaller than a cow, it would be extremely easy for Mr Python to eat me, a light snack in comparison, and suggested that it wasn’t in my best interests to touch this one.
He then distracted my by introducing me to a ‘centuries old’ tortoise, which was pretty random but it was also kinda cool to meet something so much older than me.
After meeting the tortoise, we resumed our tour of the snakes, and I was even lucky enough to see the King Cobra (something I hadn’t wanted to run into on Koh Rong but was quite happy to see behind a barrier!).
After the King Cobra, I’d had my fill of snakes, and made my way back to my hostel, buzzing the entire way about the afternoon I’d just had.
The Snake Temple in Penang isn’t for everybody: if you’re not overly keen on snakes then you will be bored at best and terrified at worst. However, if you want to do something a little different, spend some time with animals that you may never get to see again, and learn a few interesting facts along the way, then the Snake Temple of Penang was made for you.
Have you ever been to the Snake Temple in Penang? What did you think? Was it a disappointment, or did you think it was as cool as I did?