As we at our lunch, I caught up on my Instagram messages. I had posted a photo a few days earlier of the culinary bugs on offer near the temple we visited. Friends from across the world alternately encouraged me to give one a try or attempted to warn me away depending on their outlook on the matter. I read the comments to Andrew.
“We have to eat one! I wouldn’t consider myself a hearty traveler if I don’t.” I tell Andrew.
“You can eat one.” He says.
“Seriously, bugs are supposed to be high protein and very healthy for you.” I say.
Andrew shrugs. He wouldn’t eat the chicken foot, either. And yet, every evening that we’ve been in Thailand, he’s been re-watching his favorite Anthony Bourdain episodes about eating in South East Asia. After each episode, Andrew goes on about how courageous Mr. Bourdain is and how he discovered so many things about the world during his stint traveling to eat.
“Anthony Bourdain would eat the bugs.”
“Yeah, and he raves about the blood soup.”
Blood soup in Thailand is a concoction make of pig’s blood and a menagerie of presumably delicious Thai spices. I’m sure it probably is good, but I’m more skittish about the blood soup than I am about the bugs, honestly. Depending on the selection of the bug, of course. I wouldn’t eat a cockroach, no way. But a grasshopper? Sure. Grasshoppers are like cows, right? They eat grass.
…they don’t eat grass?
…oh, they eat other bugs who live in the grass?
Okay, well, they are one step removed from cows. They eat bugs who eat grass. I’m sure cows do, too. Eating a grasshopper is much like eating a steak.
“Why are you so freaked out about the blood soup?” Andrew asks.
I shudder. “Even Anthony Bourdain says blood soup can be touch and go! In that episode, didn’t he say a whole family died after eating it and getting a blood parasite?”
“No, no, that’s cold blood soup. I want to eat cooked blood soup.”
“I’m just not a fan of pathogens.” I explain.
And, so, Andrew and I make a deal. He says he will try the blood soup if I will eat a bug. We can each report back on the experience. This seems reasonable enough, and so it is a plan. The next time one or the other of us sees our respective meal, we shall partake.
We finish up our lunch and turn our attention to finding an aid to navigation for our “passage” to the Bosang Umbrella Festival. We order a Grab (Uber of S.E. Asia). Won’t make that mistake again.
From the moment we arrive, the Umbrella Festival is hopping! The whole village is decorated with lights color, and of course, umbrellas. In most places, the crowd is packed back to back, and we all flow through the street like a bait ball of sardines – each one following the other.
All manner of traditional arts are displayed: giant umbrellas, puppets, paper folded mobiles.
A “Little Miss Umbrella” pageant is going on across the street.
And, on stage left, we enjoy traditional costuming and dance with shimmering foil lined umbrellas. The women are beautiful, their hand movements delicate, and their feet are so graceful.
In this maylay, of course Andrew finds --- The Bug Man. “Here he is! Your turn! You get to eat a bug!” He tells me. All the while Andrew is pointing and hem-hawing, a string of people arrive, order up their bugs, and take them away like they are ordering a bag of potato chips. “This culinary option is not out of the norm here, stop making such a big deal out of it!” I hiss at him. “I’ll do it, I’m not scared.”
We visit the food section of the festival and enjoy trying to figure out what everything might be. It doesn’t matter, it’s all delicious. We peruse the drink cart, and order a bright red hibiscus tea. Sweet, cooling, and delicious. Various new friends convince us to take selfies with them, and we find ourselves quite happy to be out in a village where tourists like us are a rare and fun occasion again.
Once we find our dinner, we hide ourselves in a slightly less crowded back alley and watch a band perform while we drink a very economically priced local beer.
“You’re going to chicken out.” Andrew tells me.
“I am not.”
I stand up and march back to the Bug Man.
I wait my turn, perusing the selection I have at my option: Fried Water Scavenger Beetle? Grasshoppers? Mole Crickets? (Isn’t it bad luck to kill a cricket?)
I squeeze myself into the line and order “One bag of Grasshoppers, please. With soy sauce.” The Bug Man scoops the bugs, firm and crispy having already been deep fried. He gives them a spritz of soy sauce out of a spray bottle and hands them to me. I dig my chopsticks into the cellophane bag, and tug at one large grasshopper. Wings and legs tangle with the wings and legs of his compatriots. Andrew turns away and shudders. “Here! Record this for my posterity.” I hand him the cell phone.