My family is lucky enough to have inherited a house on Koh Chang, a ‘Nim’s Island’ style paradise in Thailand. Each morning we wake to a deserted beach with silky white sand, turquoise water, and a smiling sun. The natural beauty is overwhelming, but often comes hand-in-hand with nature of the scary variety, and our family have had numerous confrontations with the kind of insects and reptiles you’d normally view behind glass in a zoo.
Apart from the two foot snake on the doorstep that slithered over my mum’s foot the day we moved in (my three year old brother was delighted, as mum stood frozen with fear – ‘that’s my first snake!’) and then its bigger and deadly cobra relative found coiled under the terrace later that day, not to mention the nest of giant spiders that decided to use mum’s curtains as their new home, a family favourite to tell at dinner parties is the time when my big brother Harry, accidently shut a Tokay gecko in his bedroom door. For those of you who don’t know, these geckos are pretty sizeable, and not too cute. If one bites you, it then clamps its jaws down fast and hangs on for dear life, leaving you to go to hospital with it still attached to you like a weird form of piercing, and have it surgically removed. The problem is, they can think of nothing nicer than slipping inside unnoticed and nesting in your nice warm bed, like a horror movie version of your favourite cuddly toy.
On The Night of the Gecko incident, my sister and I came outside to see Harry, paralyzed in horror on the terrace. We then followed his gaze to a huge red-spotted Tokay squashed by its tummy in my brother’s doorframe. The gecko had been caught in the act of sneaking inside to join Harry for a sleepover, and, with half of him in, and the other out, was hissing and spitting blood. As my big, manly brother began to cry like a baby, I laughed out loud and my little sister began to capture the moment on Snapchat – the number one priority in a situation like this.
Eventually, I sent my sister to go and find the fount of all knowledge – eg, Mum. My sister proceeded to run round the house shouting ‘MUM! HARRY’S SHUT A TOKAY IN THE DOOR!’ Eventually, Mum was sourced in the shower and joined me in my inappropriate hysterics as she saw the Tokay – it’s ugly paws positioned predator-like from its lofty vantage point above my brother, who was still turned to stone a few feet away from it and refusing to budge. Eventually, she phoned a ‘friend’ – eg, the jungle version of ‘Rentokil’ – who put the Tokay out of its misery and handed out the Thai equivalent of valium to enable my brother to move.
Harry has never returned to Koh Chang, choosing to spend his gap year in South America, which might have spiders the size of dinner plates, but is not known for its Tokays. Oh, and by the way, if anyone does find themselves in a similar situation, there is an ‘upside’: once it’s dead, hang onto it – the locals sold ours in the market for the equivalent of a day’s wages. Apparently they’re a delicacy, and taste very good in soup.