How to deal with Cambodian spiders

Warning: may contain spiders the size of your face

My main problem with Cambodia is not the lack of infrastructure, the rampant corruption, or the dire hygiene practices. Oh no. It is the abundance of spiders. They are, to put it crudely, motherfucking everywhere.

It’s not the skinny spindly legged ones that bother me so much. They seem to be mostly content to hang out in the eaves, waiting quietly for a bug to stumble drunkenly into them. These are laid back, socially well adjusted spiders, and I see no reason to bother them. I don’t even mind the fat little bastards who hang out around the pool, and, as it turns out, the bathroom of the little house I’m currently using as an office. They have an idiotic expression and seem to be constantly startled by the water. Hey, spider, you moron. You live by the pool. It’s gonna get wet. Get over it. If it weren’t for the fact they can jump distances a hundred times their body lengths, I’d ignore them entirely.

I have, however, developed a healthy fear of the genus “giant fuck off spider” regularly found in Cambodian homes. You know what I’m talking about – the sort of hairy legged arsehole who sneaks up on you to feast on your spinal fluid or waits until you’re asleep to lay their eggs inside your nasal cavity.

I encountered my first one in 2004. I’d been teaching animation at an orphanage, which I think should qualify me for at least a spider-free existence, if not a medal. One evening we were invited to one of the teacher’s house for dinner. It was a memorable night. We sat on the floor, preparing morning glory and watching karaoke, sharing stories and jokes about our last few days of work. Then I went to use the bathroom, and BAM, there he was, by the side of the water tub, a monstrous horror the width of Senegal. Way to ruin the evening, dickhead.

A few weeks ago I crossed path with another one in a guesthouse in Sihanoukville. This one was a bit smaller, the size of a baby’s hand, maybe. A fat baby. He was high up on the ceiling and had a nefarious look to him. This was mostly due to the fact he only had seven legs. Really? Seven legs, spider? You think you can intimidate me with that bullshit? Apparently so, as I spent the next sleepless hours cowering beneath the mosquito net, regularly checking that he hadn’t moved.

And then there was the one in my bedroom. This guy was the biggest douchebag of them all. He was hovering, in the dark, right beside the light switch. His wing span was a good 15 centimetres, the size of a baby seagull or the average adult’s head. This was the sort of spider you would more likely find fried and sprinkled with MSG at a dodgy Cambodian market, so large and juicy was he.

Because I am a wuss, I had to call in a steel-balled adult to deal with the menace. But I thought it might be handy to put together a simple guide to dealing with giant fuck off Cambodian spiders, for you fellow spider loathers who are still finding it hard to adjust.

So here it is, my Guide to dealing with Cambodian spiders:

1. Clean, clean, clean

Are your shelves laden with knick knacks and clutter? Does dirty laundry pile up in a corner of the room? Do you never dust the dark alcoves? Then you only have yourself to blame. Sweep regularly and conscientiously, and don’t leave anything for the freaks to hide behind.

2. Keep watch

Spiders have many eyes, and so should you. Once you spot one, do NOT, under any circumstances, look away or leave the premises. If you do, the spider will unfailingly go into hiding, and that will leave you with the constant worry of it lunging for your jugular when you least expect it. Do you want to live the rest of your life in fear? No, didn’t think so. BE VIGILANT.

3. Arm yourself

You peace loving hippie vegetarians can put that glass and piece of cardboard down. There is no glass on earth large enough to contain one of these horrors. Apart from perhaps one of those Oktoberfest tumblers, but those are unwieldy and you are more likely to lose a limb in the process. You will have to put aside your animal loving proclivities and get in touch with your killer instinct. The best weapon is a Cambodian broom. Advantages: ergonomically light, adequate handle distance between hand and spider, excellent bristle span for maximum spider killing potential, also suitable for sweeping corpse out the window. Disadvantages: Possibly too soft. May require multiple blows.

4. Get a pet

The occasional gecko dropping is a small price to pay for this level of maximum security protection:

Ignore my advice at your own risk. And don’t come crying to me when one of your eyeball hatches spider babies.

Do you have any other tips for dealing with this seven eight legged menace?

29 Responses to “How to deal with Cambodian spiders”
  1. MrA says:

    Oh my: “don’t come crying to me when one of your eyeballs hatches spider babies.” vraiment? The horror. The comedy horror, mixed with the real juicy 8-legged horror.

  2. Ammo says:

    So did you get a gecko? Geckos are cool!

  3. Goodness me. That last photo made my skin crawl. AND reminded me of what I hated most about Cambodia. Which is really saying something, considering I was sexually assaulted by a man pretending to be a masseur (I’m so naive, it didn’t dawn on me until after the massage that perhaps it wasn’t quite right that a man wearing a suit and with pens sticking out of his shirt pocket, patting me down with oil and instructing me to TAKE OFF PANTS* maybe wasn’t a masseur after all) and I witnessed – twice – hand grenades being thrown into cafes. Oh and we were abducted by a man in a car and ended up jumping out of it and rolling into a ditch. But it was the spiders that made me leave. You are a much braver lady than I. (And, hopefully, slightly more intelligent.)
    *I didn’t. I’m not that stupid.

  4. fatpony says:

    WHOA! Reluctant Launderer. What the actual shit.
    When on earth did you visit Cambodia? The 80s?!? I hope it wasn’t all awful for you.
    Freaking spiders.

  5. It was along time ago. This time 10 years ago in fact. It really was hideous. We travelled from SR down PP, having our little adventures along the way. Once we got to PP we holed ourselves up in the FCC and refused to leave until they installed a cash machine in the country (we had no cash and no way of getting any*). Our pique wore off after a few days and we cried our way onto a flight to Bangkok**. I imagine it’s how people felt leaving Saigon in 1975. *Writing this now I realise we are actually lucky to be alive.
    **On our first night there – safe, phew – my friend had a cockroach CLIMB INTO HER EAR. She had to go to hospital to have it removed. I am pissing myself remembering all of this.

  6. Good lord, I’m now distracted from the horror of your post by the horror (the horror!) of Reluctant Launderer’s comments. I wouldn’t last two seconds in Cambodia. I’d simply curl up and die, the first time a baby-seagull sized spider abducted me in his car and rubbed me down with oil while ordering me to TAKE OFF PANTS.

    The worst thing about those big fuckers? The goo, the mess, the carnage when you step on them wearing your huge hiking boots because the only weapon you have is the inadequate stick used for poking the resident shower worm down the drain before every shower. It’s like stepping on a mouse.

    • fatpony says:

      I am laughing hysterically at the seagull abduction.
      I forgot to mention that I stepped on one last week. With my BARE foot. At night. In the dark. This is what happens when you have a bladder the size of a pea. Now they are out to get me. They want revenge.

  7. WHY DID YOU TELL ME THIS? It is the worst thing I have ever heard. I would be gibbering in a corner, rocking back and forth, for the rest of my days. They don’t need revenge! THAT WAS THEIR REVENGE! HOW COULD ANYTHING POSSIBLY BE WORSE THAN THAT?

    • fatpony says:

      I wasn’t exaggerating, either. A couple of nights ago I was woken up by something big crawling up the back of my neck – conveniently close to spinal fluid. I’m pretending it was probably a gecko, but we all know what it really was.

  8. I got very philosophical about big spiders in Central America–I was only there for a few months, but I liked to think that the giant wolf spiders and tarantulas and whatnot who came out at night and I had a kind of mutual détente–but if I had woken with one of them ON me my sang-froid would have rapidly diminished.
    I can’t decide whether I really, really want you to write more about the spiders or whether I will pay you money never to mention them again. In any case, I am never visiting Cambodia, lovely though it looks, unless I have a set of custom body armor made entirely of live geckos. And gecko shoes.

    • fatpony says:

      Mmmm, gecko body armour. YES. Wolf spiders? Tarantulas? If you survived those, you can survive Cambodia. True fact.

  9. Pete says:

    Great post! I arrived here after searching for positive ID of gecko poop — my Hong Kong village house is full of it. Now, I’m quite pleased about that.

  10. Kwozzie says:

    OMG, I googled Cambodian spiders and I ended up here. I wish I never read all this, I’m going to Cambodia for the first time in September. My husband is freaking out, and thinks I’m insane booking a holiday there and said we’re gonna die, and now I know we are! I’m buying ear plugs so no dam cockroaches climb in, and what the hell are shower worms? And do I really want to know?

    That gecko looks friggen HUGE, we have geckos in our house in summer, but they’re not that big, that thing looks like a mini crocodile! I have a bladder the size of a pea as well, so will be arming myself when I go into the loo.

    • fatpony says:

      Ha! It’s honestly not that bad. You’ll have an amazing time, and you can always ask someone else to deal with any creepy crawly.

  11. Val says:

    Decided to be brave and look at some of the spiders in Cambodia. We’ll be visiting for month in January. Now I feel REALLY sick – friends want to visit places surrounded by jungles. Any suggestions anybody? Flight booked, so cannot cancel. (thought we had some scary spiders in Australia!)

    • Scott says:

      I’m heading to Cambodia around Jan/Feb 2013. I typed this out of curiosity after seeing a video of the highly aggressive Cobalt Blue Tarantula.

      Now I’m debating re-routing my whole backpacking trip to avoid these mother fuckers.
      I think I’m going to go to the nearest wherever to get hold of a pet gecko, train him to follow me around and sniff out these creepy crawlies in the room before I take refuge.

      On a serious note, you wrote a good article, but you didn’t mention anything about WHERE in a room we can find them? Do they sit on the ceilings to remain cool, or do they delve deep into the abyss of the pillows and bed sheets?
      I must know this!


      – Consternated Man

  12. Bon says:

    I hate you for writing this almost as much as I hate MYSELF FOR READING IT. When I started reading it a voice in my head said “stop, stop, this will do you no good”. And yet, I carried on.

    My blood is now running cold.

    Travelling to Cambodia on my own in January 2013.
    Never been out of Europe.
    Never travelled alone.

    Many thanks.

  13. sheila says:

    Just been to siem reap, and Phnom pehn, and didn’t see 1, not even the fried variety.
    Did like the idea of a gecko though

  14. Max says:

    Went to cambodia a few years back (two week trip). Stayed in beach houses and also in ones close to the jungle. I never saw one of them. Only time I saw a big one was on a small deserted island.
    Point is, after reading this one will probably see them everywhere.
    I also spent 6 months in Thailand and 3 months in Mexico. Never seen anything like that…so everybody cool down 😉

    • Meg says:

      So if I’m in Cambodia in Phnom Pen for two months what do you thing the chances of me seeing a giant spider is?

  15. Narelle says:

    I’m moving to Siem Reap in July this year and my only concern about doing so is the bloody spiders! My thought was that I rent an apartment (on the top floor if possible rather than a house). As I also have a cat that loves to play I am very concern that her first encounter with one of the big hairy monster will be her brining it on to my bed to show me her new play toy. I read that Spiders hate peppermint – so my apartment will be the one smelling like a peppermint factory!

    • Val says:

      Don’t be afraid. I stayed in a guesthouse in Phnom Penh, a private home in Battambong and guest houses in Siem Reap and saw no spiders. I am now living in a wooden hut with an outside toilet. We have spiders in both and I must admit one of them in the toilet is a bit grim-looking. However, they and the geckos seem to be keeping the ants, and possibly mozzies, from overrunning us too much.
      What I am trying to say is, as long as you are in a building, rather than a semi-open wooden hut, you should not have a bad time. A tip: you can buy tennis racquet-type mosquito exterminators locally for around $7. They are worth every penny.

  16. David says:

    The manliest I’ve ever felt is after killing one of those even fuckers. I ignored it for about six hours as it circled me like a shark, and eventually provoked me to drop my pacifist pussification and batter it with a shoe.

  17. haha! Very funny post. Great writing voice !

  18. Narelle says:

    Thank you! I can’t wait to move to Siem Reap and this is my only concern.

  19. Anna says:

    ahahaha extremely funny post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Going to Cambodia next month and a bit worried about massive crawling creatures…. this made me laugh a bit of fear out 😉

  20. Craig says:

    Ive been here 1 week and encountered 2… tonight’s one was the size of my face!

    It had a huge egg sack under it and all.. considered killing it but let it be

    • denis says:

      Denis 12/01/2014.
      Just read some of the above comments,I’m amazed Cambodia is a great place to visit I suggest some of you get a life its an adventure enjoy it.(good stories for your grandchildren)PS.I live here its great

  21. Andy says:

    That’s one of the best articles I’ve ever read!

    ( I found a large spider in my bag trying on my T-shirts and shorts in Koh Rong Island yesterday )