Walking down Donghuamen road, we came across food stalls selling centipedes, crickets, snakes, frogs, cicadas, silk worms, starfish and many mouth-watering treats. The aromas were a mix of fish and acid(maybe due to smoke coming out of the hot coals or the cars)…it was rather indescribable.Everything looked alien and of course, none of us spoke mandarin.
I came across a stall selling black spiders along with other delectable grubs. My eyes lit up. I always wanted to eat a giant spider.
“How much?” I enquired pointing at the black-fat-eight-legged-hairy things.
The vendor with his index finger made some figure on his palm.I was quick to decipher, “20 yuan?” and looked at him for affirmation. He nodded vehemently. I asked for one spider. In went a black spider, into hot oil.
Excited with my snack, I handed over 20 yuan to the vendor. He was displeased and now he pointed a stick at price list at the top of his stall.
My heart sank as the sign read 80 Yuan. With whole day of sightseeing, Great Wall and Forbidden City, I had 50 Yuan left with me.
“But you said 20 yuan!”
He ignored my reaction and handed me the big black spider.
“He is eating a spider,” shouted someone near me and within moments tourists swarmed me, all set to take my picture.
“I just have 50 yuan with me, why didn’t you show me the sign before? Can you give me something for 20 yuan?” I looked sheepishly at the creepy centipedes, it was for 20 yuan. The vendor said no with theatrical hand waves and facial expressions adorned with throaty gesticulations – he would not even take back the spider.
“Money….more” he demanded
“This is all I have” emptying my pockets, I showed him all my cash.
A bystander said, “How can you leave the hotel with not enough money?”
“I am a flight attendant on a layover, we get a fixed allowance.”
The transaction was a stalemate.
A kind Australian mate passed 10 yuan to the vendor just to see me eat a spider. Another tourist, probably from Hong Kong, negotiated for me. Thanks goodness for her mandarin or bargaining skills. We reached an agreement. I handed over all that I had.
I thanked both of them. The show was about to begin…
The spider was in my hand and all eyes and lenses were on me. There must have been 6 to 7 tourists surrounding me, to watch me eat a spider. I took my first bite of a leg. The audience cheered. My Aussie sponsor asked me how it tasted like. “It tastes like fried dried shrimp, nice and crunchy.”
Then I took another bite of a second leg and then a third. A French woman standing next to me nearly gagged. “Frog legs, any day!” she must have thought.
By this time, the look of the spider grossed me out; hence, I put the whole thing in my mouth and started chewing. My audience gave me a final cheer. I smiled and nearly gave a bow.
For a second, I thought might get sick. That was least of my worries. The hotel was far away, and now I was penniless with my colleagues. Soon, I lost them and how I made it back to the hotel is another adventure.