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Living Things from South East Asia

27 Dec


The dog meat trade and the dusty streets of Tha Khaek, Laos

5 Oct

Stray dog on Tha Khaek, Laos side street

The soles of my feet are black and my nose is blocked. Tha Khaek is one of the dustiest towns I’ve ever visited. Luckily we’re only passing through.

Last night as I tried to sleep I could hear the sounds of hundreds of dogs howling in the distance. I found out today that the place is a stopping off point for those involved in the illegal Thai/ Lao/Vietnamese dog meat trade.

Stray dogs are gathered or sold from the streets in eastern Thailand and parts of Laos, then sorted into groups based on health, and shipped all the way over to Hanoi to be slaughtered and sold. Hundreds of dogs are captured each day for their meat but many die before they’ve even reached Hanoi.

Dusty streets of Tha Khaek, Laos

If the dogs are in really bad health, they’re slaughtered in Laos and the meat is mashed up into a pulp and then moulded into long thin irregular sausage like shapes. Tha Khaek bus station is filled with newsagent like shops selling them.

Meat from a dog hanging up in the front of a shop in Tha Khaek bus station.

Pigs bladder and whisky

6 Sep

We’ve been staying in the jungle just outside of Chiang Rai for the last few nights. After almost getting lost in the dark we returned back to where we were staying, to find out that earlier in the day the people who own the guest house we were staying in had slaughtered a pig.

One of the other guests had said, “They killed it right in front of everyone cutting through all the bones with a machete.” The meat would then be shared with everyone in the surrounding village/ tribe, and none of it would be wasted.

After we’d eaten dinner that night one of the local Chiang Rai jungle trekking guides offered us some home-made corn whisky from a plastic Coca Cola bottle. As we sat down at one of the nearby tables to accept the offer, I noticed some sort of bruise coloured, bloody animal part lying on a tray next to the whisky.

Apparently it’s traditional in northern Thailand to eat all parts of a pig once it has been killed. There is also an ancient Thai ritual which involves mixing the raw contents of a pig’s bladder with whisky, and drinking it before bed to cleanse the body for the morning. It’s also supposed to be a good remedy for back pain.

The Portuguese guy sat opposite us had already tried some of the concoction and said, “You can still smell the remnants of it from the empty glass.” It smelt a bit like strongly smelling feet.

The trekking guide added, “When you drink this, it makes you a real man.” I asked him how to make some which involved squeezing the bladder over a glass until fluorescent yellow liquid spurted out. About 2-3 teaspoons is enough for one dose. The mixture is then topped up with whisky and downed.

Having no interest in becoming a man, I cautiously tried a tiny sip out of curiosity. It was probably one of the most disgusting, bitter and horribly smelling drinks I’ve ever tasted!

After I’d finished, the Portuguese guy and the trekking guide halved the left over mixture, clinked glasses and polished off the lot between them. I dread to think what the after taste of a whole shot would be like. From now on, I think I’ll just stick to plain whisky.

Chiang Rai market animals

2 Sep

We were winding our way through this maze like market today which sold everything. I was quite enjoying soaking up all the different colours, smells, sounds… until I reached the alive animal section.

There were hundreds of fish swimming in tiny bowls, birds in only fractionally larger individual cages, and piles of turtles squashed inside small buckets of water.

I asked the woman how much one of the turtles would cost but she shook her head and said, ‘No sale’. I wanted to buy some of the animals, load them into a tuk tuk, then ask to be driven to a nearby lake so I could release them. I wonder how long I’d have to spend in a Thai prison for stealing animals.