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Bile. Beating heart. Blood. Eating Cobra in Vietnam’s Le Mat Snake Village

Bile. Beating heart. Blood. All consumed in your prototypical shot glass.

Le Mat Snake Village - Tiger Cobra Beating Heart and Bile Le Mat Snake Village - King Cobra On The Loose

Le Mat Snake Village - Tiger Cobra Beating Heart and Bile - Greg Gearing Up For ShotA Vietnamese snake village? This we had to check out. Le Mat is just a short taxi away from Hanoi’s Old City, a perfect way to escape the hectic city for the evening. We had negotiated for ice climbing, fish spa treatments, and Vanuatuan kava. But never had the bargaining revolved around a floor of dangerously poisonous cobra snakes. The King Cobra was way beyond our means, so we opted for a full grown Tiger Cobra instead. The handler expertly pinned its body down with a stick and in a flash its head and gallbladder were removed via an impossibly sharp knife. Our dinner was taken across the open concrete room to the kitchen that was adjacent to the cages full of venomous serpents.

Le Mat Snake Village - Ash Dining on Grilled Tiger Cobra Snake Le Mat Snake Village - Tiger Cobra Snake Feast

We settled in for our twelve course Tiger Cobra Snake meal upstairs. No better way to kick off a hearty meal than with a shot of bile complete with a still beating heart. The gracious waiter sauntered over with a clear shot glass in which you could see the throbbing heart. With precision, he lanced the gallbladder and drained the bile until the heart bobbed like an apple.

It took a few tortuous minutes to muster the nerve, but down the hatch it went. It tasted like pure vomit. And though my mind was playing tricks, it felt as if my stomach pulsated until the acid neutralized the snake’s panting heart. This video speaks volumes.

Then the Tiger Cobra was delivered to our table wave after wave, each prepared in a different method. A sampling – snake browned in fat with chili and citronella, snake liver ralled omelette, soft fried snake skin, snake porridge. Ash nibbled on the grilled bits. She was so polite, leaving me the rest. Though lean, we were amazed how much food just one snake provided. The Vietnamese believe consuming the cobra’s blood provides strength. I needed to wash down all the deliciousness, so what the heck.

Le Mat Snake Village - Partying with Vietnamese Men - Ash Was a HitIf our evening wasn’t eventful enough already, twenty-three Vietnamese men invited us to join them at their snake feast. We had had our fill, but joined them for shots of rice vodka that leaves a soot on your pallet.  The men went gaga over Ashley, wanting to pose in a flurry of both group and individual photographs. We still get emails from Nguyen, our North Vietnamese friend.

Meeting people like him and his Vietnamese mates are the sort of travel experiences for which we yearn. Nguyen’s first email to us was so brave:


Nice to meet you.

I am Huong

I met you in “Huong que” restaurant yesterday.

I hope we are frend now.

I wish you send for me some us photograph.

Thank you very much.

see you again.

my name: Nguyen Xuan Huong – Viet Nam

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. Vet the Internet to ensure that local customs are in fact harmless. We did not find any instances or warnings that consuming a live cobra heart was dangerous. It just puts hair on your chest.

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