Snake Village. To some, it sounds like hell, to others, the least imaginatively named area in the world, but to us, it represented the ultimate test of our manliness. Just getting to the village was hard enough, with taxi drivers looking at us fearfully before driving away while locals claimed they’d never heard of such a place. Finally, two daredevil motorcycle drivers agreed to take us, and we were off. I wasn’t sure if we should be worried by their grins.
The village was hardly welcoming; cramped, dingy streets led to dilapidated houses. The place seemed deserted; there were no street lamps or lights on in the homes. It was quiet, too quiet.
We arrived at a bright, cheery restaurant that calmed my nerves; well, for about a split second, until I gazed at the eerie scene inside. Four men stood around a large box of wriggling, writhing snakes. One of the men reached into the box. Now I’m no herpetologist, and I couldn’t tell if there were cobras, pythons or grass snakes in the box, but if you had to ask me what not to do when confronted by a large box full of snakes, it would be to put my hand inside. The man didn’t seem to mind however, and withdraw something resembling the inner tyre of a bicycle wheel for our inspection.
‘Forty dollars’ the youngest of the men told us.
Finally a language we could understand! I don’t care if my mother had been kidnapped; if an Asian man came to me and offered a price of £250,000 for her life, I’d immediately laugh and offer him about a fifth of the price. We eventually settled on about $15 for the snake, which our drivers assured us was a good price. That means we must’ve paid about four times too much.
Now for the truly spine-tingling moment of the night. The snake handler, who also happened to be the head chef and chief executioner, handed his precious burden to another man, who held the twitching animal steady as the chef drew a large, Crocodile Dundee-esque knife from his pocket. Without standing on ceremony, he slid the knife into the snake, and preceded to cut a jagged gash along the stomach of the reptile. Another youngster dashed up with a filter and began to collect the snake’s blood, which he mixed with a bottle that smelt suspiciously like a well-known Russian spirit. Suddenly we were seeing off shots of snake’s blood and vodka, and the thick, gritty taste proved highly nauseating. It was to be a night full of vomit-inducing moments, as the snake-hating head chef then cut out the heart of the poor creature and slid the still-beating organ into one of our shot glasses. Choking sounds from Chris as we saw off another drink provided the answer to where the heart ended up.
Eventually, we were allowed to eat, and I’ll say this for the chef/executioner/sadist; he cooks a mean snake and chips.