Chon Buri province, Thailand
By Damir Sagolj
“Gentlemen, that was excellent!” said a young American called Richard as he downed a glass of snake’s blood in a room full of cobras and tough-looking Asian men. “Never refuse the invitation, never resist the unfamiliar.”
But those lines come from a movie called The Beach, and Richard was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. A few days ago, another young American, this time a real-life U.S. Marine training in Thailand, told Reuters what cobra’s blood really tasted like. “Terrible. Really terrible. But it’s a good experience. It’s something I can always tell my grandchildren about.”
And that sums it all up. For troops attending this strange training exercise, it’s something to tell grandchildren and friends at home. And there is Facebook, of course – many thumbs-up for bad-ass Marines.
Cobra Gold is an annual military exercise that gathers more than 10,000 troops from the U.S and its Asian partners. It includes other more conventional exercises, but journalists can pick only a few events from a busy schedule to cover, and top of the list is jungle survival.
It looks much more exciting and tough in pictures than in reality.
First, the Marines listened to a Thai instructor, a sort of smiling version of Chuck Norris, at a military base just behind U Tapao airport in Chon Buri province. The idea was to prepare them if, by some miracle, they ended up alone and unsupported in the hostile jungle.