Crunchy crickets and cockroaches in Yangon

DSC06590It’s a pity that Yangon doesn’t start a ‘c’ or I could’ve bagged a four word streak of alliteration. Anyway, they eat some strange things in Burma. In the past I have eaten many things that seem unbelievably weird to me but are totally normal to a local, like llama, snake, brains, a blended frog (exactly what it sounds like), and even dog (awful, I could only picture puppies the whole time), but Yangon was the only place where I turned something down. We went to a restaurant with Bieke, our friendly Belgian Couchsurfer, to join some other expatriate friends of hers. They had  already ordered a big selection of food from the barbeque and were happily munching on fried crickets while waiting for it to be cooked. I’m usually willing to try everything, so after a few sips of beer to steady my nerves (or dull my senses) I decided to taste one. The first was awful but only for purely psychological reasons. It takes a while to get over eating your first insect. After you get over this  they actually taste like nothing really, just whatever they were fried in. The texture on the other hand is nice and crunchy like pork crackling so just like peanuts, they really do go well with beer. I joined in eating them calmly while waiting for the food to arrive.

Tasty crickets. Nom!

My first cricket. The look of fear in my eyes says it all. Still though, pretty tasty. Nom!

One thing I had noticed the night before this was that there are cockroaches everywhere in the streets of Yangon. They come out at night to feed on the scraps of food left behind by the hordes of street vendors that block every footpath in the centre. The Burmese have a novel way of dealing with them though: they eat them. So after the crickets a wandering vendor arrived with what I can only describe as a barrel full of cockroaches. He offered me some and after the cricket success I figured – why not? Well, they tasted like crickets but a bit more gooey and a lot less pleasant. They weren’t anywhere nearly as awful as I expected though. Still, you’re probably better off having several full beers (and maybe some whiskey) instead of just a few mouthfuls before tackling these.

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But, like I said, there was one thing that I really had to draw the line at even after the beers: maggots. Not the small ones that grow into flies that we get at home either, these things were thicker than my thumb and longer than my finger. We passed by a stall on the street and I saw these white coloured things writhing around on a plate. The guy was picking them up and dropping them – live – into the hot oil in a pot nearby. Yummy, but not for me. With a belly full of half digested insects I just needed to get them out of my sight or things were going to get messy. I was too put off to even remember to take a picture.

Aside from the insect related entertainment, Yangon is a great city for exploring. We were there twice: once for a few days after we landed and again for the water festival before flying out. This annual holiday basically involves everyone getting uproariously drunk and drenching each other in water for about five solid days. The entire country shuts down and everyone has great fun – kids and adults alike. From the second you step outside the door people will spray water at you, sneak up behind you and pour buckets of iced water down your neck, dump a barrel of water out on your from the fifth floor of an apartment above your head, and so on. Obviously I have no pictures of this because water and cameras don’t mix.

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I did manage to sneak a few pictures from the comfort of our apartment though. This kid got me everytime I left the house!

Even without the water festival Yangon had a lot to offer just like pretty much anywhere else we visited in Burma . There are loads of cultural sights and just generally quirky things to see dotted around the city. I’ve added some pics of these below, starting with the most beautiful temple we have seen so far on this trip. Roughly one thousand five hundred years old, Swedagon Pagoda is as awe-inspiring as it is beautiful. I didn’t have my wide angle lens on me at the time so these shots really don’t do it justice, but I did my best.

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A kid all dressed up to be welcomed into religious life in Burma

A kid all dressed up to be welcomed into religious life in Burma

And all of the kid's sisters use the event as an excuse to get dressed up too.

And all of the kid’s sisters use the event as an excuse to get dressed up too.

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As you can see, it’s a pretty big pagoda!

I'm pretty sure that guy on the left was in the Blues Brothers

I’m pretty sure that guy on the left was in the Blues Brothers

We were randomly given tickets to a concert in Yangon. Great fun and the music was, ahm.. interesting. Let's leave it at that.

We were randomly given tickets to a concert in Yangon. Great fun and the music was, ahm… interesting. Let’s leave it at that.

I have no idea what this is, but it's very tasty.

I have no idea what this is, but it’s very tasty.

At the time we were in Burma pretty much nobody had a mobile phone because a SIM card cost around $1800 (not a typo).There are also no payphones, so loads of people sell the use of their landline at a simple desk on the street in front of their house. Old school!

At the time we were in Burma pretty much nobody had a mobile phone because a SIM card cost around $1800 (that’s not a typo).There are also no payphones so loads of budding entrepreneurs sell the use of their land-line phone at a simple desk on the street in front of their house. Old school!

Danger!

OnlyinBurma: A hand painted danger high voltage sign.

Sunset over the rooftops

Sunset over the rooftops in Yangon

They really, really like chillies around these parts

They really, really, really like chillies around these parts

A bicycle rickshaw driver sleeping off the heat

A bicycle rickshaw driver sleeping off the heat in the middle of the day

When we converted $50 to Burmese kyat we got several large bricks of money, all wrapped from the bank. As you can only easily exchange dollars for a good rate in Yangon, when we converted the rest we had a bag full of these blocks of notes. I felt like I had just robbed a bank for the whole trip!

When we converted $50 to Burmese kyat we got several bricks of money all nicely pre-wrapped from the bank. It’s only possible to exchange dollars for a good rate in Yangon so when we converted the rest we had a bag full of these blocks. I felt like I had just robbed a bank for the whole trip!

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