Do you want some food with your inedible swill?

We’d come to the end of our trip, or thereabouts. The next morning we would be on the ferry back to, relative, civilisation. As I mentioned before, we decided to try a noodle place for our last supper as we figured they would be a better bet than the burgers. Chinese people know noodles, plus there’s very little that can go wrong. However, our logic didn’t apply to this alternate reality we found ourselves in.

The place was, unsurprisingly, not particular aesthetically pleasing, but this isn’t necessarily a sign of the quality of the food. There were other customers sitting and eating too, which is usually an indication that it isn’t poisonous.

One concern that was raised as we sat and decided what to order was how much these guys clearly loved their seafood. We’d walked past plenty of restaurants with tanks and tanks of aquatic delicacies on display in their windows, always alive and fresh for cooking. Some of the stuff was pretty…unusual. I’m sure I saw some kind of giant woodlouse thing. Some googling leads me to believe it was one of these:

Image

Cute.

Probably not tasty though.

Further to this one of our party was vegetarian (the real type) therefore didn’t eat seafood. The rest of us were equally uninterested because, ethics aside, it all looked bloody disgusting.

We are shown to the fridge where we could pick what we wanted with our noodles. Various unrecognisable bits of flesh and some pork. Lets have the pork. We clarified, in no uncertain terms, no seafood. Nothing with tentacles. Nothing with scales. Just a bit of pork and some noodles. Get some cabbage for starters and we’re set!

After a couple of beers the cabbage arrives. We tuck in, for a minute or so. Unsurprisingly the dish becomes less popular when the baby cockroaches decided to make an appearance from the bottom of the plate. Jim excuses himself to go throw up.

Now we’re really excited for the noodles! Sure enough they arrive with bits of rubbery flesh we are pretty sure didn’t ever belong to anything land-dwelling. Luke (vegetarian) quite understandably has had enough of this shit, explains clearly and concisely how disappointed he is to the cook and goes in search of less disturbing food. The rest of us decide to ask, again, if  we could please just have a bit of pork in there and nothing else. To be entirely fair, the cook likely had the best intentions. They were obviously proud of their seafood and wanted to show us how ‘great’ it was. The idea of having certain food preferences is not something that is particularly clear or comprehensible for some Chinese people, particularly the more rural communities I suppose.

So we try again. This time it definitely doesn’t have seafood in. Doesn’t have much of anything really. Very bland, strangely textured and quite sickly looking. Screw it. Remember we must not antagonise the locals, lets pay up. At this stage it’s moving from awkwardness towards potential unpleasantness. The restaurant has locals in who seem bemused by the whole thing, the restaurant owners are clearly losing face (a kind of Chinese honour system) by our causing a fuss and would be much happier if we stayed and ate our food.

Presumably their method of redeeming the situation for themselves was to absolutely rinse us with the bill. It was about three times as expensive as we expected to pay and, no doubt, would have paid prior to the confusion/embarrassment.

We then proceeded to amble back to the hostel, a bit deflated, to look for a shop to buy, well, any food we could before we engaged in some heavy drinking. We sat in the lobby with our beers and instant noodles and, I swear, the place just seemed completely dead. We could walk out into the main road and not see a vehicle or a lit building. This was at around 10 pm. In the most built up area of the island. Safe to say, we were excited for the morning and our ferry ride home.

Short of an island-wide power cut during the night the rest of the trip was without incident.

Lessons to learn:

– Sometimes you can make all the right decisions and stuff will still go wrong.

– People who live in small fishing communities in China behave in the ways you would expect people who live in small fishing communities in China to behave.

– People eat giant woodlice.

You live and learn.

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