There’s a Cobra in the Garage!

The most common cobra in Thailand, and on our island of Koh Lanta, is the Spitting Cobra. It has three different names, but it’s the same snake:

The Indochinese Spitting Cobra,

The Thai Spitting Cobra, (and my personal favorite)

The Naja Siamensis Spitting Cobra.

In Thai folklore the Cobra is associated with the Naga, a supernatural creature commonly found on the rooves and staircases of Buddhist temples. The Naga has the ability to appear and disappear at will, and can even transform into human shape. It is a guardian figure who wards off evil spirits.

To be visited by a cobra is a good thing.

The Story

I froze fast at the open door of our garage. Just inside the door, to my right at about three paces, was the most beautiful cobra I have ever seen. It was stretched out on the floor next to the wall, almost two meters of shiny black skin, topped by the flare of a colorful hood.

I had come down the outside steps from the upper level of our house to the garage  and driveway level. My mission was to investigate why the elevator was not working. Maybe the elevator door in the garage, or the lower level door in the apartment, was ajar. The sight of the cobra gave me pause. He must have felt my presence, because he slithered ahead a few inches further into the garage.

Rather than step over the cobra, or even slink past him on the other side of our car, I decided to let him be and check the door in the apartment below. If I could get the elevator working from there, I could keep tabs on the snake from inside the glass elevator. That would feel safe.

Unfortunately, the apartment elevator door would not open. So much for that brilliant plan! It then occurred to me that I had better alert my wife before she wandered into the garage. I ran up the outside steps to the garage door. Carefully I took a peek inside. The cobra had disappeared!

I called up to our villa, “Lory, sweetheart!”

“Yes, dear,” she replied adoringly.

“There’s a . . . cobra in the garage.” Within seconds Lory peered over the deck railing. “A what?”

“A cobra. At least, he was here. I can’t see him now.” 

I walked slowly into the garage and looked behind the deep freeze, the first obstacle that the serpent would have to pass on his slithering path. Then it hit me that he could have climbed up under the car and could be coiled up in the undercarriage or even in the engine. I crouched down and snuck a peek at the floor under the car. Nothing.

I must admit that I did not fully lay flat on the floor in hopes of seeing the cobra. At the age of 75, I don’t get up and down very easily, or quickly. So I could not be sure if the snake was under the car or not. 

Just in case, I decided to move the car from the garage to a grassy parking space down the hill, a fair distance from the house. I turned off the engine and nimbly leaped out and ran behind the car.  I thought, “This is an excellent place for the cobra to let himself down from the car and slip back into the jungle . . .  where he belongs. This will be good for everyones’ peace of mind.”

When I got back up to the garage, Lory was at the door. “Are you sure you didn’t imagine you saw a cobra?” This was a fair question. I have a vivid imagination. I explained my snake under the car theory. Lory rolled her eyes. 

“I’m going to get tomorrows lunch out of the freezer,” she said.

“Ahh, be careful,” I replied.

Beyond our freezer are a stack of seven or eight containers of purified drinking water, two pails with mops and brooms for cleaning, and a durable three level shelving unit that holds everything that we are not currently or actively using – junk. As Lory rummaged through the freezer, the cobra suddenly reappeared sliding from the second shelf to the bottom shelf. Once again, he disappears. 

“There he is! . . . Or was,” I said.


“He’s in the shelves. I don’t see him now, but he’s still here.”

We left the garage door open in hopes that the cobra would choose to move on. Conventional wisdom tells us that cobras move on if you let them be. Actually I’m not sure if that is conventional wisdom or just what our friend and neighbor Jon Dee told me. Nevertheless, the thought of leaving a cobra in the garage for any number of days was not comforting. I considered my resources and made a call to Jon Dee.

Jon is an English expat and long-time resident of Thailand. He loves snakes and has a special affinity with cobras. He used to live in a mangrove swamp area where he shared a gazebo with a cobra for his morning coffee. Lory and I actually had coffee with that cobra on one occasion. 

Jon is also well connected on the island so I asked him, “Jon, do you know anyone who will come and collect a cobra from our garage?”

“I can make a call, mate,” he replied. “But let me come up and have a look first.”

Jon arrived within minutes. I could see the delight in his eyes as he strode into the garage armed with a broom handle. I gave Jon the background story. “He came up the driveway, presumably, and entered the garage here.” I pointed to the floor which was streaked with a yellowish goo. “He crossed over this strip of sulfur powder outside the door. It looks like the sulphur burned his skin.”

I was disappointed to realize that it was not in the cobra collective unconscious to avoid sulfur powder. The theory is that spreading sulfur around the perimeter of the house will ward off all snakes. This cobra is living proof that snakes can still enter your house, albeit with a sulfur burn. Jon does not use sulfur powder. He is of the creed, “If you don’t want snakes, don’t live in the jungle.” My personal philosophy is that I am happy to share my mountain with snakes, monkeys and all other jungle creatures. I just don’t want them in the house. Or the garage.

Poking his broom handle under and behind the freezer, Joh began his search. He moved all the water containers and cleaning equipment that could provide hiding places for the cobra. He then began to systematically remove all the junk off the shelving unit.

Jon has always told me that cobras will not attack humans unless they feel cornered. And yet here he was cornering the cobra. “Jon,” I said, “you realize that I do not want a dead Englishman in my garage, right?”

“No problem,” he smiled.

As I stood unarmed and barefoot behind Jon, a scenario came to mind of a cornered spitting cobra darting out at Jon and I. This cobra can lash a blinding venomous spray a distance of three meters. He gives “social distancing” a new and powerful meaning. As Jon foraged, I slipped on my rubber boots and put a hand on the step ladder beside me. 

“I’ve got him!” Jon said. Using the light of his cell phone, Jon focused on the cobra. He was literally “cornered” between the back leg of the shelving unit and the corner of the garage wall. But he was not darting out. He was not spitting. He was not moving at all. 

Convinced that containment was not necessary, Jon straightened up and called the Koh Lanta District government office for assistance. The snake removal guys were in Koh Lanta Noi, the island across the bridge from us. They would be here shortly. I offered Jon a beer for his good deed, and we patiently awaited their arrival.

A surprisingly short time later, Lory heard a siren and saw the flashing lights of a vehicle on Elephant Road below. She thought, “Wow, an ambulance on our road!” She ran to the end of the pool deck for a better view. To her surprise the vehicle stopped at the bottom of our hill. Not an ambulance, but a Lanta District Office truck.

Jon’s brother-in-law Adam escorted two men in matching official vests to our rescue. They had the latest technology in snake removal – a high quality stainless steel retractable Snake Catcher – snake pliers, with automatic locking design. This foldable rust proof snake catching tools, includes snake catching hooks, and snake tongs. Gotta get me one of those!

The two snake angels quickly tonged the cobra and stretched him out for a photo shoot. I appointed Jon as official photographer. Then they bagged the cobra which was wiggling as they assured us that the sulfur burn injuries were superficial. They would release the cobra in the jungle.

We thanked them for their efficient, professional service and my parting words were, “You’ll take the cobra to Lanta Noi, right?” They laughed.

8 thoughts on “There’s a Cobra in the Garage!

  1. Great storytelling Norm! Loved every paragraph and nuance. As well, informative for me if I am ever in your situation. Good to know the sulphur is a deterrent rather than the barrier that I had believed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story! It reminded me of the time we had a cobra curled up behind a computer in the kindergarten room at the American Cooperative School in Liberia!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic story, I laughed so hard I was almost crying. I had no problem picturing the whole scenario . Thanks for telling it. JoAnne


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