Published: February 21st 2009February 12th 2009
Hanoi City center at night.
We landed in Hanoi, the Capitol of Vietnam at around 3:30pm grabbed a cab with a British girl named Julie to save on the cost and headed into town. The ride was about 45 minutes due to the severe traffic in this city. I have never seen anything like it in my life. There are millions of motorbikes as far as the eye can see. As far as I can tell they have absolutely no rules. They drive the wrong way down one lane roads and sidewalks, blow through the few red lights they have in the city and I've witnessed them carrying up to 4 people at a time. When I say motorbike, I'm not talking about a motorcycle, I'm talking about a freakin spree. I guess in 2006 there were 14,000 fatalities on motorikes, if you do the math that is 38 per day. The other thing that could potentially drive you down the slow road to insanity is the way people have grown accustomed to using their horn. Because there is a lack of traffic lights in Hanoi people use their horn to alert other people on the road that they are there. I've had motorbikes beep at
Our Hibachi night out.
me because to warn me that I was in there may while walking out of a restaurant (on the sidewalk). Crossing the street is looks extremely challenging but if you sit around waiting for the right moment, you'll never get across. You literally just walk into the street and keep your pace and the bikes, taxis and rickshaws go right around you. You can honestly walk across the busiest intersection in the height of rush hour traffic with your eyes closed and nobody will hit you...I know this because I tried it, amazing!
Anyhow, we arrived to our hostel and by the time we checked in and got all of our stuff packed away in the room, it was time for dinner.
We went in search of a restaurant that was recommended in Lonely Planet. The city is a freaking zoo at night, especially the sidewalks. We are trying to follow a map all avoiding stray dogs, street food vendors, people trying to sell you everything under the sun, missing sewer grates, random sinkholes, beggars, parked motorbikes and of course motorbikes driving down the sidewalk so they don't have to wait for the light. Once we finally made it to
The smiles hide the hot oil splattering off the grill.
our destination we discovered it didn't serve food! I can honestly say for one that if it ever steers me wrong again, it will be a lonely guidebook.
Luckily, we found a place across the street that was beyond packed with locals. The entire sidewalk was full of people sitting on little kindergartener seats pulled up to tables with little grills and everyone was cooking there own food. We were able to find a spot upstairs so we sat down and ordered. It was basically a hibachi grill but you did it yourself and the decor was a little different than that of say, Benihana. Let's just say that the FDA and OSHA would be all over these guys if it was in the US. I'll post a picture but it wouldn’t do it justice, the walls were filthy with grease and there were cockroaches running rampant. The floor consisted of 4 to 5 layers of linoleum that was just set down, not installed because the grease from the grill would melt through the other layers. They would sweep the food off the table onto the floor and leave it. All things considered, the food was awesome and I would've
FDA & OSHA nightmare.
gone back in a heartbeat if I had enough time.
Speaking of heartbeats let me begin on Snake Village. I'm not sure what got into Kailie and I but we picked up a pen at our hostel and signed up for a 2pm trip to Snake Village knowing full well what we were getting ourselves into. I think that Snake Village is so out of the ordinary and something that hopefully only exists in Vietnam that I felt compelled to take part in it. Upon arrival we walked into this Voodoo feeling room with like 20 jars full of "Snake Wine" which translates to whisky with a dead cobra in it. So, while looking at all these jars and getting a few pictures one of the people who worked there brought out a live cobra. He proceeded to taunt the cobra and piss it off, like it wasn't dangerous enough, then grabbed it by the tail and motioned for us to follow him. We followed him out to these huts on a little pond of green water and waited to see what happened next. He set the cobra down and put his hand on the back of its head,
My first motorbike ride, 3 deep.
the cobra was severely pissed at this point because it started spitting venom all over the deck. The guy grabbed a knife and busted it's fangs out so that it couldn't bite him, sharpened the knife on the side of the cobra then cut its stomach open. From here he stuck his fingers inside the snake and ripped its heart out Apocalypto style and dropped it into a glass with vodka. He then bled the snake into the glass and mixed it up with the beating heart and vodka. Next, he sliced the snakes belly one more time and pulled out a small sack containing its stomach bile which is a neon green color. He mixed this in with another glass of vodka then took the snake away to the kitchen. This happened to a few snakes and although I did feel pretty bad about it, I knew that none of the snake went to waste.
They take these glasses and poor individual shots of the blood mixture and bile mixture and offer them up to the guests. They offered me a shot glass with the snake blood and vodka mixture topped off with a heart beating in the bottom
These ladies walk around all day, and this stuff is heavy.
of the shot glass...I looked at it and figured, "why the hell not, I'm on vacation." Honestly, where else would this happen? It felt like Indiana Jones met Fear Factor, if I saw this on TV I would never ever consider doing it. I washed it down with a little bile which is actually really good for you because snakes have one of the best metabolisms in the world because of their strong stomach bile (I didn't notice a difference). It was pretty disgusting, the whole scenario and obviously everything I just shot down my throat. After sat down they brought out a beer for us, to which I replied, "Where was this 10 minutes ago when I drank a snake heart." A chaser would have made things a little easier! Anyway, they began serving us a 10 course meal in which everything had snake. Snake soup, spring rolls, fried snake, sautéed snake skin and liver and snake ribs. To wash everything down they brought out bottles of snake whisky, I figured at this point I had already fully committed so why not start polishing of bottles of this filth. The only way I can describe the flavor is what
I would expect musty moth balls to taste like. I thought it was terrible until I got to the bottom of the bottle and decided to be the idiot who took the last shot and got a mouthful of snake debris from whatever had fallen off of it while it was rotting in the whisky bottle! In case anyone was wondering I paid $15 US to endure this experience. I can however, check it off my list of things to do before I die. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, for numerous reasons!
There are more photos below