Little Culinary Horrors


From our most recent trip abroad, we brought home scorpion vodka and Thai green curry crickets. I don't imagine they'll ever come out of their packages, though. Just interesting items for the kitchen counter.

I've just seen a discussion on Flyertalk about the strangest things people have ever eaten. Among them: dog and slugs and durian, of course, and live octopus and insect pupa. (We watched a man buy and enjoy a caterpillar in Burma. Said it tasted like butter.) In comparison, I guess my list is fairly conservative: fried scorpion in Beijing and crocodile tail in Cape Town. Scorpion was fine. Had a little problem with the croc.

The picture is from a visit to a big farmers market in Hanoi. The ladies we talked to were disdainful. Only men ate dog. Usually when drinking beer.


There are 274 more photos from around the world in the Food and Drink Gallery at

Hurtling Unwisely Through Burma: A Story

Burma01The more things change….

We spent a few days in Burma in 1995, and just like today, Aung San Suu Kyi was in internal exile at number 54 University Avenue in Rangoon. Her return to exile this week has had Burma briefly back in the press, and has prompted me to go back and find what I wrote about Burma at the time. An excerpt follows:


In Burma, people really live outdoors more than in. Thatch and open rooms. It’s the vast Mississippi bayou with banana trees.

Smoke from wood fires hung in stratified ranks and the good people of the Irrawaddy delta tended to their livestock and their morning chores. Out in the middle of rubber farms in the middle of nowhere, cruising along another bad road, the world exploded before us. The whole earth went splintery and kaleidoscopic with a terrific bang.

Chan kept his heavy foot on the gas for four or seven seconds, our little Toyota flew down the road, all three of us were blinded in the billowing dust until slowly we realized the windshield was gone. We couldn't see a thing, and Chan slowly coasted to a halt.

He anguished for a time. He wanted to be alone. There'd surely be hell to pay for busting his dad's windshield. Mirja and I walked over to the roadside to let him grieve by himself. He pulled some of the big glass chunks out of the windshield and I got up and helped, both of us cutting our hands a little and scraping the glass off the seats and wiping the sweat off our brows.

A crow cawed a curious tune. Two men wandered out to look.


Aye Chan, a 22 year old competitive bicycle racer, once raced from Rangoon to Mandalay and back. He fell and lost both incisors to gold teeth.

The day we met, Aye Chan grinned goldly, "Road very bad out there."

Aye Chan ("EEE-Chan,") was a child of relative privilege, a third-year vet school student with parents with government jobs. His dad was Chinese, a doctor working in Burma on a leprosy project. His mom was a philosophy teacher at Yangon University. A family album he kept in the car was chock full of smiling brothers and sisters.

We hired him as our driver, and on Tuesday the seventh of February or, as the newspaper The New Light of Myanmar called it, the eighth waxing of Tabodwe, 1356 ME, we set out for a drive into the country. He borrowed his dad’s tan Toyota with tinted windows.

First on Chan’s Tour of Rangoon Hotspots, “That's military headquarters.”

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Sweetness and Light and Harmony and Justice and Progress: Burma

Thanshwe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's continued imprisonment beyond the next "election" won't surprise anyone, but before Burma slides back into its sulking isolation, this deserves attention:

On 1 August, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story headlined Revealed: Burma's Nuclear Bombshell, purporting to describe a five year plan by Burma's General Than Shwe to acquire a nuclear bomb. Two days later the Lowy Interpreter followed up with a discussion. The same day Arms Control Wonk published a photo under the headline Big Odd Myanmar Box, about a structure the Institute for Science and International Security calls an "anomalous building buried in the ground northeast of Maymyo, Burma."


There are low level insurgencies along Burma's eastern and western borders and it's widely believed its leadership colludes with Chinese logging interests to clear cut forests north of Mandalay. In general, journalists are not permitted visas. We went to Burma in 1995, and all those fourteen long years ago Aung San Suu Kyi sat under house arrest in the very same house at 54 University Avenue to which she'll now be returning (at least it's going to be renovated). I have a story from our trip around here somewhere….

(Photo of Than Shwe via the Independent. See photos in the Burma Gallery at

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We’re from the Junta and We’re Here to Help

Burma A verdict is expected in Aung San Suu Kyi's case tomorrow in Burma. So today, "Burma's military rulers have warned supporters of jailed
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi not to protest when her trial
verdict is announced," says the BBC.

Hmmm, do you suppose the junta has advance word on what they verdict might be?

(Photo of local transport near the village of Siriam in southern Burma. More in the Burma Gallery at

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Don’t Forget the Lady

Address by Aung San Suu Kyi at the NGO Forum o...

It's difficult to imagine a "happy" birthday for Aung San Suu Kyi today in Rangoon's Insein prison, but we note that she's 64 today.

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On Your Next Burma Vacation, Stay Out of Aung San Suu Kyi’s Lake

Burma's Suu Kyi taken to prison
Burma's opposition leader charged
Lawyer: Trial imminent for Myanmar's Suu Kyi
Burmese Opposition says Aung San Suu Kyi to Face Trial

The opposition leader's latest house arrest was due to expire at the end of this month, so this shoe was surely poised to drop. It's been a long, very slow, very unhappy road for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. From our visit to Burma, way back in 1995:

513182250_burma08-1 Chan turned down University Avenue. This was where The Lady lived, behind a yellow and green picket fence at #54. She's the daughter of the national hero Aung San, and her National League for Democracy was elected in 1990. The State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, admitted the results but wouldn't hand over power. (The SLORC was later renamed the State Peace and Development Council, SLORC apparently sounding too evil even for SLORC.)

To say "freely elected" would be misleading. In the run-up to the election whole towns were dislocated, in an attempt to untrack the steamroller. Even through all this, the NLD won convincingly.

So now instead of fleeing to join her husband in London with the forced promise she'd never return, Aung San Suu Kyi lived alone, surrounded by military at #54 University Avenue – across the lake from the military leader.

Chan pointed out there was no military outside.

"Inside the gate," he said.

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Burmese Diplomat’s Undiplomatic Language

The letter at left (click for a bigger copy) was distributed among the consular community of Hong Kong and Macau. It was issued from the Burmese consulate there, by a Burmese diplomat named Ye Myint Aung.

It describes a Muslim ethnic minority in western Burma, a people called Rohingyas, as “dark brown” and as “ugly as ogres.”

And this is from a diplomat.

Burma's military government denies the Rohingyas are Burmese, claiming they are migrant Bangladeshis instead. According to the Bangkok Post, "Rights groups say the Rohingya are stateless and face religious and
ethnic persecution from the Burmese military regime, forcing thousands
to take to rickety boats each year in a bid to escape poverty and

The Post further notes, "Thailand's military was accused in January of towing hundreds of
Rohingya out to sea in poorly equipped boats with scant food and water
after they tried to flee Burma, a charge Thailand has 'categorically

See photos from Burma in the Burma Gallery on

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