Your humble scribe has shown you Hong Kong's fearsome spiders of the apocalypse and shared both his cockroach horror tale from Taiwan and images of the giant cockroaches of Hong Kong.
These stories remind your humble scribe of an altercation with a snake that occurred in Taiwan, near Hong Kong.
First, Taiwan has a lot of poisonous snakes.
Here are the main poisonous snakes that a Taiwanese mountain biking website feels its members should be aware of...
Here are some venomous snakes that Yang Ming Shan National Park thinks are important to warn English-speaking residents about on its website.
(Yang Ming Shan or Yang Ming Mountain is a mountain/nature reserve just beside Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Your scribe lived directly beside the mountain when he first moved to Taiwan.)
We had one friend in Taiwan who came home from a night at the bar and found a Chinese Bamboo Viper in front of him after he descended into the balcony before his door.
Our friend made it through that chance encounter.
The snake did not.
Another friend, who taught at the American International School, always took a rest in the teacher's lounge between classes. Something did not feel "right" about the cushion one day and, when she stood up to readjust the cushion, a snake reared up.
In that situation the firemen were called and the snake was captured and identified as venomous.
Taiwan is a not a country that you want to be a fireman in.
Even if you can escape long-term cancer from fighting fires in plastic and resin plants, there are always the snake removal jobs to do you in...
And then there was Ned...
Ned liked exploring the backroads of Taiwan on his 150 cc motorcycle, dodging rogue trucks and betel nut crazed drivers.
(Aside: Betel nuts (and betel leaves) contain a powerful, natural stimulant which is released by chewing. If you have been driving with no sleep breaks for a couple of days, chewing betel nut will keep you zooming around, but not very safely.
Chewing the leaves and nuts also released a pigment that stains the user's teeth and lips red.
You might think it obvious to never get in a taxi when the taxi driver's mouth is apparently dripping blood.
Many people, surprisingly, do not follow that internal (I presume) and prudent advice.
Usually they live to regret it. This aside is now over.)
Despite the rogue truck drivers and the crazed, betel nut chewing drivers, Ned loved driving quickly on the ribbon of black asphalt that sinuously wound up, down, and around the mountains of Taiwan.
On one trip, THLUMP.
Ned drove over a brilliant green snake sunning itself on the black asphalt.
Ned's motorcycle skittered somewhat from the impact and Ned slowed to a stop to ensure that everything was fine.
Then Ned looked back.
Lying motionless on the road was a one meter (three foot) long irridescent, emerald snake.
Ned, seeing that the snake did not move and was truly dead, turned in a tight circle, drove back, parked his bike at the side of the road, and bent over to look at his "kill".
Our great hunter picked up the snake; it was beautiful.
Ned thought that it would be a waste to leave this beautiful snake, so he dropped it into his backpack, to somehow preserve when he finally returned home.
The snake was heavy and lumpy and was bumping against his back through the thin material of his backpack.
After a while Ned became worried about the snake.
He worried that the snake might rot before he arrived at his destination; things turned bad quickly, in Taiwan, because of the heat.
Ned did not want rotten snake juice running down his back--he had a girl to see.
So, Ned stopped his bike and dismounted.
Ned slung the backpack off his back and dropped it on the ground at his feet.
Ned unzipped the bag and plunged his hand in...
Ned grabbed the snake and held it in front of his eyes one last time...
and he threw the brilliant, green snake into the tall grass beside the road, zipped up the bag, mounted his bike, and drove away.
Ned told your scribe this story at a party where your scribe first met him.
Your humble scribe was incredulous.
"What did you mean by 'pristine condition'?" your humble scribe asked Ned.
"Perfect. Not a mark on it." he replied.
"Right..." I said slowly...
"But, what about the tire tracks?" I asked, after a bit of a pause.
"You know, tracks in the snake from where your tires hit it?"
A questioning silence filled the air.
"Depressions with tread marks?" I added helpfully.
"You don't understand" Ned said "it was perfect, that was why I liked it so much. I stil wish that I had brought it home."
"Right..." I said. "Ummm, you know what snakes are made of, right?"
Snakes are made of muscle, mostly. Sure, they have bone and viscera too, but mostly they are muscle. When they are about to be hit, snakes tense up so that they do not get hurt. Snakes can get run over by cars and survive. They tense up, absorb the impact, get bruised, but survive.
"If a snake is dead from being run over by a car, there will be a big tire and tread mark, or a big trauma wound. Otherwise, that snake might just be playing dead..."
"Of course, after a while, a snake playing dead will try to get away. Or fight if it feels threatened...."
Ned said nothing, but looked a bit pale.
"I think it was alive the whole time. In fact, it sounds like it was a One Hundred Pacer. You know--it bites you, you take 100 paces, and then the venom kills you." I said with a grin.
In retrospect, I was wrong.
It was likely a Green, or Chinese, Bamboo Viper.
The Yang Ming Shan tourist information guide says this about the Chinese Bamboo Viper:
"In Taiwan, the green bamboo snake is the number one attacker of humans."
The guide goes on to say that "this viper is not too venomous, with only a 1 to 2% mortality rate". But, and here I am guessing, I suspect that the snake's odds of getting you "for good" increase if it bites your face or your neck...
So now you know.
The other day your humble scribe was hiking, with some friends, up bamboo-studded mountains here in Hong Kong.
As we were bent over double, to go underneath very low-hanging bamboo that was matted with detritus, a friend's girlfriend, who had grown up in Hong Kong's New Territories, called out to us from the back of the line of hikers...
"Don't thrash about with the sticks so much..."
"You'll anger the green bamboo snakes."
"Just stamp really hard so the snakes can hear you and they might choose to leave. But, if you see one rise, turn and run. You have one second when their eyes close, as they rise before they strike. Oh--and they'll aim for your face or neck."
Just the sort of thing you want to hear when you are crouched over double in a dark, bamboo, natural tunnel on a disused mountain path that the local old guy, crouched fishing at the stream at the beginning, said was dangerous.
Great. (I think of Ned. I don't want to be dead.)
Don't just worry about the spiders of the apocalypse and the giant cockroaches.
Worry about the snakes, too... ...Death with no feet, sliding silently amongst the bamboo stalks, blending perfectly into the background and the foreground.
...We'll go hiking when you come and visit...
Chris, Regina, and Pommes (who is suddenly pleased to be a housecat in Hong Kong)