When I woke up that morning, I had no idea that I would be shoveling crispy bugs into my mouth by sundown.

Our companion, Maria, was in shopping mode for the day, hunting down kitschy bargains to bring home to her loved ones. We began at the local mall, 7 floors of commerce in the heart of Bangkok. She and I both purchased a cell phone from the 4th floor, a floor of the mall entirely devoted to portable communication. Cell phone covers of every color and size, phones, SIM cards, anything involving cellular technology could be found here. After an hour of asking questions, figuring out phone plans, and forking over tens of dollars, we noticed lunchtime had passed and we were hungry. Fortunately for us, the 7th floor held the international food court.

The food court was a fenced in area to one quiet end of the mall. When we entered, we were each given a card of credit that we were to use when making our food selections. The idea was that we rack up food credits on the card and as we leave our fenced enclosure, we would pay for our meals. The food was the usual international fare, hummus, noodle dishes, sushi, American steaks or hamburgers with french fries, fruit smoothies and the like. Nothing was impressive enough to write about, as food court food is usually uninspired.

We made our way from that bastion of consumerism to the BTS skytrain and got tickets to Mo Chit, the end of the line. Our destination was the Chatuchak weekend market, a sea of neverending stalls, as far as the eye could see, of vendors selling everything from souvenir trinkets to kitchenware, furniture to original art and everything in between. By the time we entered the 35 acre park, we had 2 hours before the market closed. Maria began right away searching down items to bring back to her proliferate family. We walked by jewelry, souvenirs, clothes, housewares, glass things, plastic things, handmade things, foods and drinks, a bar (where Frank settled down to wait), amazing artwork, music, animals, and many other things we didn’t have time to peruse. I saw a little girl with burns over a large portion of her body who was begging for change, another little girl of about 7 who was playing a guitar and singing American songs in her little Thai accent. Maria and I haggled with vendors over the price of some things we wanted and as the market was winding down, we found our way back to the bar where Frank was getting very intimate with a drunk and handsy Thai man. He jumped up at the sight of us and we began walking upstream in the flood of satisfied shoppers.

By this time, it was getting dark and we were backtracking the same way we came in to the park – or so we thought. We made it through the initial gates and I could see the skytrain across the park at the spot where we climbed down from the platform. That was the place we needed to be, but in the dark, the egress through the park couldn’t be located. We wandered down a street that might have, at some point intersected with the road we needed to find. After walking for about 15 minutes away from the market and away from the skytrain, we stopped to rethink our exit strategy. A consultation with a Google map turned us around, back the way we came. I grumpily straggled behind, only wanting a bathroom and a seat on the skytrain. Fifteen more minutes of walking and we came to a huge parking lot full of people setting out used items all over the ground. We realized this was a flea market of some kind where most of the vendors drove classic Volkswagens. There were mostly VW busses and beetles throughout the lot. I noticed a good many of these Thai people dressed in the typical 1960’s hippie attire, hip hugging bell bottoms, vests, John Lennon style glasses and most of all, long hair. This appeared to be some kind of hippie/alternative subculture we had stumbled onto. People were selling old clothes and shoes, Volkswagen parts and memorabilia, and all the random hodgepodge you might see at a flea market in your own hometown.

The three of us wound our way around and between cars and piles of stuff, until we came to the food vendors. This is where I had to stop and look over all the foods on offer. A lady was cooking quail eggs and selling them 10 for a dollar, there was the obligatory pancake lady and the fruit juice guy. I walked the gauntlet of edible preparations to a platform where live music was being played. I was impressed by the short, long haired Thai man playing a mean blues guitar and singing ‘American Pie’ in his choppy Thai accent. We gathered there for a song or two, taking in the surreal scene we found ourselves in. How many people can say they’ve found themselves in a hippie flea market in Thailand listening to an old Thai man sing Don McLean songs in the middle of the night? It only gets better from here. This is the part where we pushed further in to the food stalls and I saw it. The cart of bugs.

20131103-190732.jpg

The mealworms:

20131103-190827.jpg

The FAT grubs:

20131103-190851.jpg

The crickets:

20131103-190915.jpg

My companions had wandered around the perimeter of the food carts and didn’t see me make a beeline for the bugs. The vendor glanced at me, assuming me to be a pesky tourist who just wanted a picture of the ‘weird’ Thai food. He didn’t bother coming over to me until he sensed I wasn’t leaving anytime soon. He gestured an inquiry as to what type of bug I wanted to be scooped into a large sized cup (like the kind you get 2-3 scoops of ice cream in). My choices were crickets, fat grubs, or mealworms. I pointed at the mealworms. Then I asked if I could get a spoonful of the others to try, as well. He obliged and spooned more bugs in my bowl. He sprinkled a little powder (I don’t know what it was, a seasoning of some kind?) on top of my snack and handed it over. I asked what was in the spray bottle that was sitting on his counter. He grabbed it and started bathing my bugs in it. I poked at the liquid and tasted it – soy sauce. Nothing extraordinary. I nodded him a thank you and flashed a smile before circling the food stalls to search for my friends.

20131103-190939.jpg

I got Maria to film my assessment of each bug (with some minor camera issues):

The mealworms were flimsy, chewy skins that took on the flavor of the soy sauce. Not much substance to them at all. This would be a good introductory bug for the more squeamish. The giant grubs were the ones I was apprehensive of. They were squishy and full of a damp, wood pulpy textured mass. Soy sauce does amazing things, imparting it’s salty taste into every pore. The last snack was the cricket. As long as you can look past the spindly legs and antennae, they are actually pretty good. I have likened them to the taste of sunflower seeds that you don’t bother taking the shells off. They are a little crispy and seedy flavored. Add to that the saltiness of the sauce and it would make a great snack to take to a ball game.

Afterwards, we imposed ourselves upon a table of Thai people and offered them some bugs. They graciously declined until their friend, who called herself J, showed up. J was the only one of the group to speak fluent enough English to communicate with us. As the evening wore on and bottles of beer were shared among our blended group, I noticed J finishing off the cup of bugs. I’m glad someone else enjoyed the snack!

20131103-193110.jpg

20131103-193132.jpg

20131103-193155.jpg

5 Responses to “The Bug Blog”

  1. Cameron
    8 November 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    Harm, for someone that didn’t like Sushi 10 years ago, you have come a long way baby!

  2. Frank
    5 November 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Just a correction: I was not getting intimate with the old Thai man, HE was trying to get up on me, and I jumped up happy to be rescued from an awkward situation.

    The quail eggs were delicious and the bugs didn’t look gross but the idea still creeps me out. You need to try the duck egg with the baby inside and film THAT!

  3. Madonna
    4 November 2013 at 2:11 am #

    You were always one to be interested in those bugs even as a kid. Glad u have the stomach for it. Love u. Have safe travels.

  4. Lam
    3 November 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    You are awesome! And so cute! I would not have touched the fat grubs but I hear they’re protein packed! Did you have a lot of energy the following day?

  5. Jennifer
    3 November 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    I LOVE IT! I wish you had gotten pics of the hippy market. I’m not entirely convinced that wasn’t some frog porridge induced dream though…