Riding a scooter through the back country roads in Vietnam is the ultimate freedom for any traveler. The wind whipping gently through your hair as you move as one with your bike and the land around you. It’s the ultimate experience in Vietnam because not only are you granted freedom on the road but you get a chance to have an off the beaten track experience with the locals.
We had been on our bikes since 8am as we made the 80 mile journey between Hue and Hoi An and about 3 hours had gone by. It was David and I on one bike and our friend Jon on a bike in front of us showing us the way. We were just about to take a final stretch of country road and head onto highway 1 for the next leg when we saw something in the road ahead of us.
It was up ahead of Jon and it was the kind of thing you couldn’t really tell what it was until you were right on top of it. In an instant we saw Jon whip his legs up as a huge snake lunged at his leg when his scooter sailed next to it. I was mortified as I am very afraid of snakes. The last thing I wanted was to have this thing striking at me as we cruised by.
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Since we had seen what happened from behind, we navigated to the far left side of the highway; the snake was in the middle and tried to make our way around it without disturbing it. I was in utter shock at the size of it and by the looks of it, it was certainly venomous.
Jon had pulled over, his eyes wide with excitement and disbelief, as he screamed if we had seen that. Yes, we had indeed caught a glimpse of it. As boys usually do, they wanted to go back and look at it some more. Despite my best efforts to talk them out of it, we were turned around and driving slowly back towards it.
It was still in the road. I protested about us getting any closer at about 20 feet, it was fast and already pissed off. As we approached it, the shadows of our bikes moving in sent the snake slithering across the road and into the grass on the side of the road, which led to a large rice field filled with water.
As we laughed and discussed the size of it, we noticed a local man running down the road with a long stick. He was hollering at us excitedly and pointing at the road. We had no idea what the fuss was about, but Jon was able to tell him what had happened. The man only wanted to know if it was a snake and what size it was. We all nodded in a simultaneous way, each grabbing our wrists to indicate the size of the snake.
The mans eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store and he began probing the tall grass on the side of the road with a frantic sense of urgency. Confused, I asked Jon what the fuss was all about and expressed my uncertainty for the size of the snake and the scantly clad man that was searching for it.
Before Jon could answer, the snake made a mad dash out of the grass and into the water. With the prowl or a lioness the man leapt into the water and began pursuit of the snake. It was almost like witnessing a dance between animal and man. The snake first fled, but when pursued quickly coiled and stood guard of itself.
When this happened, the snake would go into a striking position that had its head as high as the mans waist. He was unfazed, he did nothing but let the snake strike the stick before using the hooked end- that looked like a shepherds hook- to try and grab it. When he did this, the snake fled again.
This scene went on for a solid 20 minutes while the man pursued the snake through 3 water pools in his bare feet and shorts. The scene that continued into the last pool saw the man using the hooked end of the stick to bring the snake out of the water and toss it into the air. We were told this was an effort to make the snake tired and sedate.
By this time, several passerby’s had pulled over. All gazing with amusement at the scene as it unfolded before us. Just when we all began to question the length of the pursuit the man lunged forward in one quick motion and grabbed the snake on the head with his bare hands.
At the time we didn’t know that the snake was alive. We assumed the intent was to kill ad eat it, but when he reached the roadside beaming with pride over his collection we could see that the snake was very much alive. We learned that a snake that size could be sold alive for nearly 1.2million Vietnamese dong as it is considered a delicacy at that size.
We still do not know what kind of snake it was, but we do know that it was nearly 6 feet long, aggressive, fast and extremely deadly. He stood and posed for pictures with one hand firmly grasping the snake’s mouth together and the other stringing the body to show its size. All the while the snake coiling and stretching around his arm in an attempt to escape.
Then just as quickly as he had come running down the road, he spun on his heel and marched back towards his driveway. We mounted up on our scooters, still in disbelief at what we had just witnessed and set off again towards highway 1. As we passed by the driveway the man was standing at the end with his catch and when I glanced over and waived he held the snake high into the air and gave me a giant smile with a nod.