Rawi Warin Resort
Koh Lanta Yai, Krabi
My wife Lory is not a squeamish kind of woman. She was raised on a farm in the river hills of the North Saskatchewan – running barefoot, riding horses, milking cows and raising calves to sell for slaughter. She also raised cats that were half pet, half ratters. No, Lory is not squeamish at all, really. So this story may surprise you…
In our early days of “being tourists” on Koh Lanta we frequently stayed at the Rawi Warin Resort & Spa. A 5-Star luxury resort, the Rawi Warin has beautifully manicured gardens and water features to create a tropical paradise. This was our green season abode while we enjoyed the restaurants on Klong Nin beach.
We developed a very relaxing morning ritual at the Rawi Warin. Following a one-hour walk, a twenty lap swim and breakfast on the balcony restaurant of the hotel, Lory was in the habit of tossing pieces of bread from the balcony into the expansive pond below. Fish of various sizes immediately attacked the bread, and with great anticipation, we would await the arrival of the Arapaima fish, a seven-foot long import from South America. The Arapaima was the prize fish of the pond. This was Lory’s morning entertainment, consistent with the spirit of the farm girl described earlier.
Following the fish feeding frenzy was the deliciously decadent part of our morning ritual – sunbathing and reading by the lap pool. You really know you are on holiday when your biggest decision in a four to six hour period is when to roll over. On the morning of our story, Lory rose from her poolside lounging chair to return to our ground floor hotel room, a mere thirty paces. Whether her purpose was to get a cold bottle of water, or to tend to some personal business is now forgotten.
When she arrived at the room, Lory noted a sign on the open door indicating that hotel housekeeping was on the job. However, she also noted that on the doorstep, a monitor lizard was on his way into the room. The Asian water monitor lizard resembles a prehistoric carnivorous predator that would savor the taste of human flesh. In fact, this particular species of lizard is carnivorous, but rarely eats humans.
Now Lory had seen monitors before. When we lived in Kuala Lumpur (1997 – 2000) our condo bordered a small lake. Frequently Merlin, the resident monitor lizard, would emerge from the lake to sunbathe by the walking path. Some people would mistake Merlin for a crocodile. We kept our distance, and Merlin didn’t bother us.
But this was different; Merlin had never come calling at our door. Ever the intrepid farm girl, Lory stood her ground and called out for the attention of housekeeping. This meant summoning Khun Ming, a young Thai woman who tended to our room every day. No answer came from inside the room, but Lory’s calling out inspired the lizard to slither into the room. He, who for this story shall be named Monty Lizard, dashed across the length of the room, and climb a meter up the curtain of the patio doors. Lory entered the room tentatively, keeping Monty at a safe distance. Once again Lory called out to Khun Ming.
When Khun Ming did finally appeared at the door, Lory informed her, in English, that a lizard had entered the room. She pointed at the beast, where it hung from the curtain. Khun Ming, who speaks little to no English, fully comprehended madam’s concern and responded to this cry for help by wisely keeping Lory between herself and the lizard.
As the two women communicated their strategy, Lory in English and Khun Ming in Thai, I remained somewhat oblivious to the event, lounging poolside, deeply ensconced in my novel. However, I can attest to the fact that their communication emanated from the room to my poolside lounging chair, in the form of women screeching with what I interpreted as hilarity. Perhaps not.
Back to the scene of the intrepid intruder. Lory had cleverly climbed onto the countertop, which houses the television and some shelving space. Khun Ming was still poised on the floor holding her mop. Lory requisitioned the mop and leapt from the countertop onto the bed, positioning herself nearer to Monty’s offensive position on the curtain.
As Lory stealthily moved the mop toward the curtain, Monty turned his scaly head, darting out his slithery tongue and undulating his bulbous throat. No question, he was in attack mode! Lory winced as the mop handle made contact with the lizard’s tail. In a flash Monty was down the curtain and across the floor! Khun Ming shrieked in alarm and leapt onto the bed for protection.
Monty moved toward the open door of the closet and Lory feared he would make his home in one of the drawers containing our unmentionables. Again the lizard reared its ugly head, exposing a long lick of a tongue, and stretched its bulbous throat in defiance. The tail, as if with life of its own, slithered back and forth on the hardwood floor.
Suddenly, a man to the rescue! Thank God! One of the groundskeepers, hearing the cries of damsels in distress entered the room valiantly and chastised poor Khun Ming with the Thai equivalent of “These lizards don’t bite. What are you afraid of?” Then in a disappointingly anticlimactic gesture, the unnamed hero ushered the lizard out of the room, and released Monty into the tropical paradise of the Rawi Warin.
And so ends the story of Lory and the monitor lizard. Except of course for the moral of the story, which is:
In the event of an encounter with a large carnivorous lizard or dragon … send for the groundskeeper.
The Asian water monitor lizard – varanus salvador salvador – made its first appearance in Asia, over 65 million years ago. Still common in Southeast Asia, the population is declining (though not on the list of endangered species).
The generic name Varanus is derived from the Arabic word waral/waran ورن/ورل, from a common Semitic root ouran, waran, or waral, meaning “dragon” or “lizard beast”.
In English, they are known as “monitors” or “monitor lizards”. The name may have been suggested by the occasional habit of varanids to stand on their two hind legs and to appear to “monitor”, or perhaps from their supposed habit of “warning persons of the approach of venomous animals”.
A group of monitor lizards has been termed an agency.