The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Name your poison: 'Snake wine' seized at airport... How about Monkey Wine?

Adult Macaque in Rice Wine in La Mat Village, Outside Hanoi

CNN ran a story today about a bottle of snake wine seized by customs in Miami. I guess the CNN folks in the US haven't spent enough time in SE Asia to be as familiar with the product as we all are here. The Vietnamese will put just about anything live and wiggling in a bottle and drink it. Most of the snake wine seen in tourist areas is sold for tourist consumption. As such, it's not made in a traditional fashion--the animal is killed and positioned to look "pretty" in the bottle. Traditionally the animal (whether it be a snake, monitor lizard, scorpion, giant centipede, sea horse, monkey, eagle or sun bear) is thrust into the jar live (so as to drown), and the rice wine poured in to capture the life force of the animal in the alcohol. The drinker then gains the powers of that animal. Sick stuff...

Read the CNN story HERE.


Santanu said...

Yuck...this is wine??? I am an officer in the Customs dept. of India and had photographed one seized item at Calcutta Customs long time back...thought it was some snake dipped in formalin or something. The photo is out of focus as I forgot to switch to the macro mode. But here it is:

Adam Bray said...

Thanks for posting your photo. Yes, that's the sort of snake wine that is commonly available in tourist areas in Ho Chi Minh City. Supposedly a lot of these snakes are captive bread, but cobras are becoming so rare in the wild because people are illegally poaching them whenever they find them here.

The monkey photo is indeed wine, but I think it has been emptied and refilled many times to give it the clarity. There were many other wine jars in that restaurant--some had eagles, others reptiles, and several juvenile sun bears. The mammal wine is very expensive, but the reptile, much cheaper--thus more commonly consumed. It was also much more yellowish.

The wine with large animals is unlikely to ever come across the borders though, because the jars are so large and expensive. Nasty nasty stuff.

The sad thing is, all of this is available out int he open. The police know all about it and do nothing. In fact I'm sure many profit from it themselves.

Post a Comment