The Bug Eating Saga

Written by Travel

Posted from: Chiang Mai, Thailand

The bug-eating saga continues, as this evening found me in a Yunnanese restaurant eating a plateful of grubs. By myself. When traveling, I find that this sort of behavior is acceptable as long as you’re with a friend and going for the gross-out factor, or the two of you are vying for More-Culturally-harmonious-Than-Thou, but when you’re dining alone and you order (and finish) an entire plate of fried caterpillars, it’s time to write your soul mate, Ted Kaczynski, and ask him to support you while you battle your inner daemons.

The menu selection actually read “White Grub in Bamboo”, and was twice as expensive as anything else on the menu, leading me to imagine that the insects would be cleverly disguised and served in an elegant bamboo bowl, or wrapped in bamboo shoots. The reality, though, was that bamboo wasn’t even involved. I got a plastic plate piled with fried grubs, which were very obvious in their gooey leglessness, and a bowl of chili sauce. They tasted like nutty French fries.

This isn’t the first time I’ve debased myself, which is potentially why I didn’t have nearly as many qualms about this particular encounter, though I think a more probable reason is because fried grubs have no discernible eyes. The first time was in Bangkok, the subject was grasshoppers, and the necessary goading was supplied by my mother, who double-dared me. I ate five.

A double-dare is a powerful thing. At some point I may speculate on why we consider it more compelling than a single dare, but that’s a topic for another time.

For now, it’s enough to explain how I ended up in such a place, becoming an abomination before God.

A couple of weeks ago, Christina was in need of medical consultation for one reason or another, and I was in need of something to do, so the two of us ended up at the hospital in the office of a darling and very intelligent Indian doctor who told us piles of cool stories before diagnosing Christina perfectly and sending us on our way.

He told us about his high school years, and how he and his friends’ favorite entertainment was to take a book, a beer and a lantern and read in the only place they could be sure of peace and quiet: the cemetery.

He told us about playing jokes on the freshmen in his Indian medical school, how they’d made a new student sneak into the morgue at night, and place a piece of chocolate in each of 15 cadavers’ mouths as proof of his bravery. Of course, the last “cadaver” was actually one of the seniors, very much alive, who sat up and asked for another piece of candy. The freshman fainted dead away, he said, and afterwards was never quite the same.

He told us about throwing stones at the police during political protests, and when the police came in to the hospital to get stitched up, the young doctors would routinely misplace the anesthetic.

All this he spun out like a streetside storyteller, twinkling and mischievous, and when he recommended the grubs at the Yunnanese restaraunt, I sat up and took note, recognizing it instantly for the excellent pick-up line it would make (Betcha never been with a girl who eats bugs before, ey hot stuff?).

The directions he gave to the restaurant were specific, but by the time I was in the mood for something that unusual, all I could remember was something about the place being near the Lost Book Shop and next to a temple.

I quested around after it for a while, but only in earnest today, when I finally ran across it around Tah Pae Gate. And so we’ve come full-circle. Till next time.