Don't fear the lizards! Thailand edition

in travel •  12 days ago 

In just a few days time a bunch of you are going to be descending upon Thailand and for a lot of you this might be a very different experience than you are accustomed to... and that is part of the idea right? When i first moved here I wasn't terribly accustomed to lizards of any sort other than the few weirdo friends I knew that insisted on having very strange pets like Iguanas. So when I started seeing them in my day-to-day life, I was a little freaked out.

I'm here to tell you that you don't need to be. Embrace them (well, not literally because you won't be able to catch 'em.)


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This first little guy is called a "Jing Jok" and you are extremely likely to encounter them anywhere in Thailand, even on the walls of your semi-posh hotel room in Bangkok. Their torso is about half the size of your little finger and they have a tail that can extend at least as long as the rest of their bodies.

I am not sure what these are called in English but I think they are related at least a bit to Anoles, which are indiginous to many parts of the world including in the South East of USA.

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They tend to hang out up high in rooms or near light sources because this is where they get their food (bugs.) If you see one in your room in Thailand don't alert hotel management... there is nothing they can do about it other than kill it and since these guys eat mosquitoes as well as other flying pests i prefer to have them around. Mosquitoes are responsible for more than a million deaths annually, whereas"jing jokes" are responsible for exactly zero.



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In Lumpini Park it is possible to see Bangkok's prehistoric beasts. This was not intended to be an attraction of the park, but seeing as how almost all the rest of Bangkok is made of cement, they didn't exactly have much other place to go.

Unlike our previous lizard buddy on this list, a monitor lizard is very capable of hurting you... however, they will only choose to do so if you leave them no choice. They will run away if you approach them but I wouldn't test this theory if I were you. They have very strong jaws and a whip from their tail will send even the most aggressive street dog running. However, they don't really kill anything and tend to eat dead fish or turtles, which are also residents of the lake in Lumpini park.

The Thai word for this lizard is "Hia", which is also a slang word that means pretty much the worst thing you can say in Thai, so maybe just refer to them as lizards, just to be safe. An angry misunderstanding with a Thai person is far more dangerous than a monitor lizard is.

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Recently the population was getting a little out of control at the park so rangers relocated around half of them to jungle areas outside of Bangkok. I was there a few years ago and trust me, it was necessary. This is not an enormous park and the lizard people were taking over.


The last member of our list is probably the most "freaky" and despite the lore surrounding it, I used to live in very close proximity to these guys on a daily basis and I have never actually known anyone that they have harmed.

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It is known as a "tookay" "tu kae" or something spelled like that in English (ตุ๊กแก in Thai) and there are a lot of legends surrounding this quite common and ominous creature. An adult one can get up to around the size of an adult human forearm, and that's just the body. It's a pretty scary thing to notice in the corner of your room. It is nearly impossible that you will encounter this creature in any sort of heavily populated area like Bangkok but if you travel to the islands, you will almost certainly see one somewhere.

It gets its name by the sound that it makes at night, which I can only presume is some sort of mating call. It sounds exactly like the word suggests "Took Kae!" and this is why it is known, accidentally, by basically the same name in all the different languages in the various countries that this creature lives. If you hear a took-kae call at night and the amount of times it repeats its chant is an odd number, that means good luck because odd numbers are lucky in Thailand (and no, i don't know why.)

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The main reason why this animal is feared is because it scares people. They mostly stand still until you move a picture, pot, or piece of furniture that they are hiding behind. Once, when i was moving house my friends and I picked up a book-shelf only to have me come 4-5 inches face-to-face with one of these guys. I was not happy about that and I don't think the lizard was either.

There are a lot of rumors about these guys ripping fingers off and what not but I'm gonna state that I don't believe it. I think these are merely legends meant to scare little kids. For one thing, a Took Kae doesn't want anything to do with you and secondly, their teeth are like a millimeter long.

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you're gonna have to do better than that if you wanna scare me with your teeth

They are exceptionally difficult to capture because their "magic fingers" will stick to almost anything. I've seen them gracefully walking across a polished concrete ceiling and i can't even begin to understand how that is possible.

Now if one of these guys were in my jungle bungalow, i might ask for another room but mostly because they are noisy, not because it is going to get me. When i lived in the jungle years ago they were frequent visitors to my house and unfortunately I was forced to kill one of them that refused to find a new place to live. I took no joy in that. Afterall, they do also eat insects (insects such as centipedes, which actually can kill you.)


So when you are in Thailand, seek these guys out. If you travel around you are almost certainly going to encounter them and honestly, there is no reason to be afraid of any of them. Take a photo and come to terms with the fact that these kinda scary-looking fellas are actually beneficial to humanity due to their never-ending hunger for mosquitoes.

Aside from their creepy eyes they pose no harm to you unless you happen to be an insect or an already dead fish.

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Geckos are super cool and love lying in bed watching them hunt. I used to leave the windows open and the light on so the mosquitoes and bugs used to fly in to give my geckos a feast.

I don't know about in South Africa, but there is a rainy season here and when it hits hard, all these flying bugs come out at once and the frogs and geckos respond in force. It's a bloodbath and all the frogs and lizard folk get to eat their fill over and over again for days.

The rest of the time the competition for food can be a bit fierce.

The same here when the rain starts we have flying ants as they come out of the ground from nowhere and birds and lizards have a field day. Only happens once or twice a year as it has to have certain conditions to trigger it.

I was going to call them flying ants as well but i wasn't sure if that is what they were. Sounds like exactly the same phenomenon. So many of these guys come out at once that you can't see the streetlights.

The people also eat them here by just plucking the wings off and eating them as they are.

well, i'll try almost anything once, but not if it has an exoskeleton.

I don't know so much as I don't eat bugs intentionally apart from the odd fly you swallow whilst cycling. I have tried the Mopane worms which they call a delicacy here and found them disgusting .

The first and last are both geckos. The first one is known as the Common House Gecko, while the bigger one is called the Tokay Gecko. Both species are common throughout South East Asia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_house_gecko

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokay_gecko

I love these little fellas the small Gecko that is i have had one living in my room for about a year now and at night he always watches TV with me from the ceiling and his always doing his job of catching them damn mosquitoes that happen to sneak in my room and for that i love him.

The Monitor Lizards i love there is one in Chatuchak park that is my friend because every time i go for a walk at this park i will buy a fish to take to him or her not sure if it's a him or her i asked but it didn't give me a answer...lol...it's got to be the oldest and biggest one i have ever seen in Thailand 🙀

Here is a couple of photo i took of him or her ??

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dude that is awesome! We used to occasionally get monitors on our property in the south, my only concern was for my little dog because even though the much larger lizard wanted nothing to do with my sometimes aggressive Shih-Tsu if push game to shove it would be game over for doggo in one chomp.

Thankfully they didn't have much interest in our land since there was no food for them and the pools had too many chemicals for them to enjoy it :)

Yep they seem pretty friendly but if felt threatened Shih-Tsu would of been a good meal for them ..lol ... i always enjoy watching them when i walk the parks of Bangkok and i have seen them in just about every park i have walked in Bangkok.

They are harmless and chill, although if you don't know it is there and all of a sudden something that size jumps and run in the water, it's gonna scare ya!

Haha...true i will take some of the Steamfest steemers out their when they come over and have my video camera ready it would make a good dtube...lol 🤣 🤣

We have a few lizards in these parts as well. Not very flashy, mostly grey ones 6-8” long. As cold as it gets here, they must burrow under some organic matter to go into dormancy. I see them when we travel, but they don’t bother me. There are two types of tourists that irritate me.. the ones that freak out over them and the ones that feed them off their plate. Yes. Yes I did witness a tourist lounging on their beach chair while feeding a lizard pizza remnants from a fork. Okay.. now the next person to sit in that chair will be freaked out by the partially domesticated reptile stealing their food. Human behavior is just as fascinating to observe at times. Lizards are cuter .. at least cuter than the lady feeding the lizard her scraps.

yeah, we had a problem with that at one villas that I managed, they started feeding the monkeys that had not yet seen the human inhabitants as a source of food... once they figured out that these really big ground monkeys (people) are going to hand them slices of pineapple they would wait for the humans.... eventually the actual monkeys lost their patience and just started invading verandas and even learned how to break into sliding glass windows and doors.

It took us a long time to recover from that and sadly, there were some monkey casualties (these hits were not authorized by me but the local Thai staff saw it as the quickest solution and even though it was cruel, it did the job)

Sometimes the quickest way is the best way when you are trying to save your business. It's the cruel part of life and the food chain. Monkeys may be a bit more aggressive but go about it in a more logical way.

Hahaha! You were afraid of jing jok!!
Those big geckos are more frightening because of their sizes and colours!
I have several geckos in my house!!

Watch out for the tokay bites lol.

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Haha. Neat stuff. You have to be careful though especially with the lizards that are stuck to the ceiling of rooms. They shit acid which may burn your skin and cause rashes. It has happened to a friend of mine.

oh really... that i didn't know. The bigger lizards make some pretty giant turds and for me anyway that was the most annoying thing about them.

haha, that too :D

Wow, I think it would take me a very long time to allow them to just hang out in my room. I think I would be okay as long as there is some sort of guarantee that they will never crawl over me while I am sleeping. That would really freak me out! We have a wooded area behind our house that tends to have a lot of mice. I killed a snake one day in the yard too and soon realized as much as I hate snakes, they probably would help the mice problem. I wanted to build an owl house to attract them for the mice and a bat house so they could fly around and take care of the mosquitoes. Awesome post!

well, in a decade i have only had one of them fall on me and that was one of the little ones - those guys are cute more than anything else. I share your sentiment about the larger ones and I think I speak for everyone when i say that i definitely do not want those in my house.

The little guys are all over the place but strangely enough, I very rarely see them in the house that I am living in now. It might be the elevation. I have no idea.

That is interesting.

They remind me alot of the newts I had as pets growing up - there's something endearing about lizards and amphibians; cute, in an ugly sort of way.

do newts pump their heads up and down and blow air into their throats as a warning to other male lizards? The little fellas i used to see at the beaches in North Carolina would do that.

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