Well, I’m in Vangvieng, where Internet access is both unreliable and expensive ($1.80/hour instead of $0.60–but more to the point, connections fail a LOT). Vangvieng is a very small town that exists mainly for adventure trekking–every place in town is either a guesthouse, restaurant, tour operator, or minimart, so it really exists solely for foreign tourists. Most of the tour operators are giving variations on the same theme–so i’m poking around and seeing what looks most interesting.
Some of the tour operators’ descriptions are kind of amusing. The one in my guesthouse has everything timeslotted, including “Now is the time for you to get drunk.” (Just before kayaking home–makes you wonder, doesn’t it?) I took a photo and will try to get it up sometime soon.
Anyway, you were wondering about the rats? On the bus on the way to vangvieng, we stopped by a little village for a toilet break. By the road were a lot of market women selling the usual cooked, skewered meats for travelers to eat along the road. Only they were sort of funny-looking…
…I took a closer look, and realized that the “chicken” skewers weren’t chicken at all. In fact, I wasn’t at all sure what they were. But, looking at the bullet-shaped head and the four little feet attached to either side, I eventually became convinced they were skewered, flattened, barbequed rats.
Then I looked at the other skewers and realized that they weren’t “normal” meats, either. One plate was full of skewered bats–you could see the remnants of the wings, even though they were crowded eight or nine to a skewer (bats aren’t very big, maybe half the size of a domestic lab mouse). One had what looked like flattened whole frogs. (They were all pretty hard to identify, since they were all well-blackened–I mean, when was the last time you tried species identification on an overdone shish kebab?) And one was full of weirdly shaped tiny little bird-things skewered six or seven to a skewer…I found out later that they were chick embryos. (they also had skewered eggs, which I suspect were the same embryos, except less developed.)
I hate to say it, but the rats looked sort of tasty (just like chicken, in fact). However, I regretfully decided not to sample any of them–if they’d been freshly cooked, I probably would have, but they were room temperature (thus possibly bacterially dangerous), and I’m currently fighting off a cold, so didn’t want to tax my immune system with yet more bizarre bugs.
So, sadly, I still have no idea what bat, rat, frog, or chick embryos taste like. I’m hoping to encounter them again after I ditch the cold–or, if I can find some freshly cooked rats, I’ll be in business.
I never knew traveling could be such a culinary experience. From California cuisine to cobra wine to roasted rat…and I had mulberry tea day before yesterday. (It tastes, not surprisingly, very much like dried mulberry leaves. It’s supposed to be good for the stomach, which I hope it is, because it’s really not that tasty.)
yours from vangvieng,