Ceiling alligators

September 20, 2012

One of the things I hadn’t given much thought to before moving to Cambodia was the difference in the fauna and flora between Phnom Penh and Shepherds’ Bush. (although I’ve just got an email from my property agents in Shepherds’ Bush, asking for many hundreds of pounds to sort a cockroach infestation in a neighbouring flat. They couldn’t handle the cockroaches in Cambodia. I believe my karma is probably eternally compromised, the amount of them I’ve dispatched. Handy things, crutches, sometimes.)

Obviously I’d been aware of the differences between the two countries to some extent: the baskets of deep-fried tarantulas you get offered at bus stations was a bit of a giveaway that there are some odd beasts out here. Riding a motorbike along a mountain road near the coast, Blossom and I were surprised when a length of discarded rope in the road lifted one end of itself up and blew out its hood, to reveal itself as a 12-foot cobra. But most things seem generally benign. Until last weekend.

I love geckos. Truly. But there is a gecko-variant that exists out here, called a tokai. These are geckos writ large, and they’re beautiful. But big.

I had suspected there was one in the vicinity for a few days. Geckos, cool as they are, crap whenever they feel like it, and blowing gecko shit off the balcony table is a usual start to the Cambodian day. But I’d noticed a number of droppings that seemed to be of a different scale: think Oxo cube rather than rice grain.

Finally, the beast revealed itself, appearing on the ceiling, like a candy-striped crocodile. I thought this was OK, if slightly unnerving. No one wants a crocodile on the ceiling, but I thought I could co-exist with it. Cambodians maintain that having a house tokai is very good luck, but that might have more to do with taking the easy option, rather than admitting that there’s a multi-dimensional crocodile roaming the premises.

So we entered a state of uneasy co-existence. Until it decided to station itself at the doorway of Blossom’s room. This thing could comfortably have eaten a small dog, and it refused to leave its post. I live on the balcony mainly, and the beer lives in the fridge, so I had to pass within inches of this quasi-komodo dragon, fangs dripping with poison, with an evil leer on its pointy face, quite often.

I wouldn’t have minded too much, if Wikipedia hadn’t told me that they can bite, and won’t let go unless you submerge them in water. Not having a full bath near by, I was at a bit of a loss.

So I was reduced to throwing a variety of plastic forks at it through the bedroom window, in an effort to make it relocate itself. This did not work, tokais being seemingly impervious to plastic cutlery, no matter how well aimed. Eventually I manned up and shouted at it while waving a sarong menacingly, and it departed.

It turns out that Lyta, my major-domo, had let herself in to the flat the day before, saw the beast, and turned tail and fled. So, auspicious or not, even the seasoned locals don’t mess with tokais.

There is no moral to this story, except for the possible interpretation that I’m more cowardly than I’d like to think. But fear of the unknown is surely a bigger problem than lizards. Even if they’re the size of alligators, and look poised to eat you. It was an experience, and I’m up for that. So hurrah for tokais.

The giant tokai of death. Obviously this picture doesn’t really give you a sense of its massive size, but, believe me, it’s monstrous. Really.


One Response to “Ceiling alligators”

  1. J&J said

    Wow – I can see why you were scared. What a monstrous beast. Those fangs look savage ;0).

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