Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ate a Cobra's Heart and Drank its Blood in Hanoi, Vietnam

I woke up this morning still cruising around in Ha Long Bay. Ha long is this trip going to last, anyway? I must have had a good time today because I took a ton of videos.

We headed up top to do some morning tai chi with Dzung. If you've never done tai chi before it's essentially a slow motion rendition of the hokey pokey.

At breakfast they tried to tell me they were serving chicken noodle soup but I was like don't patronize me this is friggin' pho. It wasn't bad. I don't know that they are using chicken stock for the broth though and it strikes me as kind of watery. Not bad though.

There was a torture part of this cruise that reminded us of our aborted Carnival cruise:announcements were piped right into your room with no way to turn them off. It's very 1984.

Some of the zillion little islands have caves inside, so we hopped on our little landing craft to go and check one out.

The fire extinguishers on board looked like they were more likely to start a fire than to put one out.

Tom the main guide said that the Koreans were making him drink shochu last night. They were very generous people, I'll give them that.

There were some interesting formations on the beach made out of compacted mollusk shells.

Back to the ship!

We passed an old school junker ship that was also doing some cruising,

At one point we had a little show and tell where one of the chefs showed us how to make the flowers and fishnets out of vegetables that we encountered yesterday. What time-laden psychopath came up with this in the first place?

We had one last lunch before the boat trip was concluded.

The tour bus back to Hanoi stopped at a rest stop and I had no choice but to poke around and find some weird snacks.

Coconut green bean cakes were not bad. They were very crumbly, kind of like a dry shortbread cookie dough.

These were like banana flavored with peanuts in the center.

The guidebook is the key to many a quality adventure.

The view from the hotel window.

Lydia is a really good planner, but I pride myself in discovering things to add at the last minute. I think she believes this is ruining her work but the truth is that this is an enhancement. One such activity that jumped out at me from the guidebook was the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. 

Even the lobby of this place was fun.

Tickets were pretty cheap so I didn't mind paying a little extra to sit in the front row like a frigging water puppet theatre bossman. An added bonus was that we also had a front row seat to see the rats scurrying past the front of the stage midshow.

So the reason it's a water theatre is that it used to be performed in a flooded rice paddy. The puppeteers were behind a screen and used long sticks to control the characters before us. What little dialog there was happened in Vietnamese, so I had no idea what the hell was happening, but it was still really entertaining.

The music was great at this show. The dan bau is a one stringed instrument with a big whammy bar type level they wiggle around the whole time. Makes a fun sound. 

I really like to do cultural things here and there on these trips, otherwise I feel guilty, like I'm just eating and looking at buildings all day.

We hit a grocery store. I love the grocery store.

I was so impressed by the artwork on the local soda cans I was tempted to buy some and not even drink them. I sometimes have to suppress my inner collector. A real weirdo, that guy.

These magenta fleshed dragon fruits were a new one for me. I think the yellow stuff above is jackfruit.

Lydia had done such a good job planning the trip that I thought that she deserved an extra special dinner that she would never forget. I'd like to think I succeeded.

Now I didn't just take her to any ol Vietnamese snake restaurant. I took her the cream of the crop, top rated on Tripadvisor Vietnamese snake restaurant. I do not recall hearing so much as a thank you. I'll have to remind her.

You could guess this was a tourist joint because the menu was in English:

"Le Mat Snake Village

Le Mat is a small village at Viet Hung Ward, Long Bien District, about 5 km away from Ha Noi Old Quarter, the village has long been famous for traditional snake hunting and raising, and snake meat specialties.

In XI century, in 1010, the princess of King Ly Thai Tong was seized by a serpent when she took sightseeing at Nguyet Duc River (Duong River nowadays). The King awarded the big prize for anyone who could find and save the Princess, then a local young man surnamed Hoang killed the serpent to save the princess and the King rewarded him lavishly however he only asked for a land, villagers usually organize snake dance festivals from the 20th day to 24th day of lunar March yearly.

The Hung Snake Restaurant

The Hung Snake restaurant was founded in 1997. The profession of snake hunting and raising, and processing snakes have been preserved through four generations, so we can be proud of being one of the few restaurant having the oldest tradition in the village with ancient values. Coming here, visitors will enjoy many kinds of snake like Bamboo snake, Mountain Cobra, Cobra snake... Mr. Dragon is the owner, he has passion with the slogan "HAPPINESS FIRST, MONEY SECOND". "

So as the colorfully capitalized menu mentioned, the first order of business was to choose which type of snake I would like to have murdered and chopped up into little pieces for me. Now cobras were the most expensive, but Lydia is my very special girl and I think she deserves the best. No off-brand snakes for her.

Well as promised they brought out a live cobra and a bucket. Our waiter, Mr. Snake, asked me one more time if it was ok to kill it. I thought that was really funny, like he couldn't believe we were doing this either. The snake charmer pinned the cobra down with a pole, and then cut its damn head right off with a pair of like garden pruners.

The charmer, who I now recognized I should never get into an argument with, immediately got to work cutting into the snake, popping out its heart, and putting it into a shot glass with some moonshine for me to drink. I really felt that this honor should go to Lydia but I swallowed the thing whole. Better to not actually taste it that way.

Mr. Snake then took us down to the basement, which I thought there was a nonzero chance we would never leave from. There he showed us a cabinet of snakes marinating in booze bottles. It was very mad scientist laboratory over there.

With that appetizer for the eyes out of the way, we headed to the kitchen for some more horrors.

The solitary part of this that made me feel good was it was a family business and he had some relatives in the kitchen preparing the "food".

The only other souls willing to subject themselves to this was a couple from Singapore. They had arrived before us so watching them was a little preview of the horrors in store for us. 

The dishes kept coming, and I didn't like any of them. Luckily the beer was unlimited.

Today I learned that snakes have two penises. I declined to eat either of them.

I do not like it in the rain, I do not want to eat its brain. 

Mmm blood funnel.

This guy really was a character. I like to imitate his mannerisms because Lydia hates them. He liked to imply that all the snake parts were aphrodisiacs. "This will help you climb the mountain" and that sort of thing. One of a kind, tell you what.

Well I think everyone can understand why we needed an emergency McDonald's visit after that.

The only antidote to snake blood that I'm aware of is green tea Oreo McFlurry.

What a day that was.

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