Snake Market

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We get off the MRT at Lungshan Temple Station. Turning the corner, I see them. The neon lights. Flashing. Blinding. The long road goes on as far as the eye can see. The uncomfortably immense crowd shuffles under the low roof. The large archway separating this commercial wonderland from Taipei beckons me in. A portal. The Mandarin reads “Hwahsi Night Market”. Snake Market. I enter.
Cold air slips out of the cramped establishments and mixes with the crowd. I pass a massage parlor and stop. My destination has been spotted. Or rather, heard. A large man calls out to passerby via microphone. “Want to try some barbequed rattlesnake?” I push my way out of the crowd, and find myself staring at a long, black rope. Particularly thick. Widening my gaze I see that this rope is kept in a glass cage. Weird. I take a step back and examine the stall. The large man sits in the entrance of a small restaurant. By his side, a large menu with pictures. Barbequed rattlesnake, water turtle soup, and other exotic dishes are all served here.
Suddenly the large, black rope moves. Just slightly. It is then I realize the rope is not, in actuality, a rope. It is dinner for some unknowing tourist. This is the place. I take a seat. A small Taiwanese man comes to take my order. He is short and bony, with the personality of his career path. A snake. I order the water turtle soup and some rattlesnake as a side. The wall is covered in glass containers with rats and snakes. The clearly evident food chain. Snake eats rat. Tourist eats snake. Food poisoning eats tourist.
The meal is delivered and I view it with horror. A swimming turtle is frozen in time and sitting in my soup. He looks at my in dismay and I look back at him in horror. Flippers, shell, this soup has the entire carcass of poor little Flippy. Charming. Eating this particular dish is not exactly on my wish list, but my teammate and I must. We need the points. My teammate bites into the rattlesnake. She sips the broth that is Flippy’s grave. We pay and leave.
As a thirteen year old and his grandmother walk through a Taiwanese night market on a Global Scavenger Hunt in the late hours of the night, a simple question is asked. “What does it taste like?” “Like chicken.”





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