Getting the Strength of a Cobra in Laos

snake whisky

Every now and then there is a suspended moment when I am faced with a choice: yes or no. I have begun to relish the moment of saying yes, of being open to the experience. And if I decide to say no, that is all right too.

When I need a little bit of courage, I can call upon a secret weapon, an ace in the hole, or rather a snake up my sleeve.

Somewhere deep in my cells I have the strength of a cobra, and I can use this during those times when I hesitate to enter a roomful of people, when I have to take that step off a cliff, when I am scared to do something on my own. I know that at that moment I have to say “chok de” and throw it back.

What is beyond that one second of choice is just about never as bad as I thought it would be. It’s usually not bad at all. And sometimes it’s actually good.

Unless it’s snake whiskey. Then it’s still pretty bad.

A few years ago, my family and I crossed the muddy Mekong River in a little boat, got within a stone’s throw of Burma, and landed on the dusty shore of Laos. A ramshackle market stood before us; a few children begged out front.

Market shops in Laos

The oppressive heat prodded us to enter the one clean and bright shop, clearly set up for any tourists who journeyed over from Thailand. Upon entering the shop, long rows of opium pipes made me nervous. Tables of gaudy souvenir tee shirts, postcards, and hats were easy to ignore.

The open vats of whiskey, each filled with a poor preserved creature, intrigued me. A pangolin floated on the top of one vat, while scorpions filled another.

Collage of whisky vats in Laos

My guide explained that the animal’s spirit infuses the drink and becomes a part of the drinker. I knew which one I needed the most: the strength of a cobra.

Using a wooden ladle, my guide poured a shot into little glasses for my husband and me. I peered into mine, trying not to notice the scales floating in the cloudy liquid.

My husband and I exclaimed “chok de,” clinked our glasses for luck, and went bottoms up.

The snake whiskey, which was actually rice wine, tasted mild and smoky, with a bit of snaky funkiness. I had a bad stomach ache for half a day that was probably unrelated to the shot, or maybe it was the cobra worming its way into my being.

Now, when I am intimidated by that moment of saying yes or no, I remind myself that I have the strength of a cobra deep inside me. Not only that, but the snake whiskey treated rheumatism, lumbago, and “sweat of limbs” too.

Snake whisky in Laos

Chok de!

More Thailand: Tuk-tuks | Tigers | Barracuda | Travel photos

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days, and writing my memoirs. I am a teacher and writer living in Connecticut.
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21 Responses to Getting the Strength of a Cobra in Laos

  1. Can I use a gummy worm instead? Gelatin-free? ;)

  2. wow! you do have the strength and stomach of a cobra!! that is crazy and awesome at the same time! why are you not on Survivor?!! how do those creatures live in there?!

  3. What a cool experience to have! So what kind of strength do you get if you drink the scorpion whiskey?

  4. Robbie says:

    you are brave or insane or a bit of both?

  5. zoe says:

    I sooooo want to go on the Mekong. How was it? It seems like you took advantage of every opportunity!

    • Marcy says:

      We had a relaxing boat ride with views of some temples and some fishing shacks. It was a great area in the “Golden Triangle” on the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Burma/Myanmar.

  6. Good for you! An unorthodox baptism of sorts. I love it.

  7. Karen says:

    That’s a great story. I had no idea that there was a cure for my “sweat of limbs”.

  8. Joe says:

    I’m not sure I want to drink any snaky funkiness.

  9. Great story. But, my god, my stomach turned just reading about that. I wouldn’t have come close to being able to swallow it.

  10. I enjoy reading about your adventures. Maybe snake whiskey is the ultimate panacea for all that ails you. And I love that you can summon your inner cobra when needed. Great story!

  11. You are f**king amazing! I don’t know anyone else who has the adventures you do! And you tell a mean story too – great read!

  12. mollytopia says:

    You’re a brave soul – I respect it!

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