Drinking Snake Blood in Vietnam

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Hanoi is well-known for its snake restaurants — restaurants that serve every body part of the snake. If you’re lucky, the snake will be a cobra; if you’re the guest of honor, you’ll be served the heart.

I could not imagine a better adventure in Hanoi!

Hanoi Backpackers Hostel runs trips to Snake Village most nights.  For $15, you get to visit a traditional snake restaurant on the outskirts of Hanoi and enjoy the full snake dining experience.  There’s a snake buffet, plenty of rice wine, and since it’s organized through the hostel, you know that there will be a great group of people.


You can help kill the snake.

You drink the snake’s blood and bile.

And if you’re truly adventurous, you can bite the heart out of the living snake, feeling it beat in your mouth for a few moments before you swallow it.

BEYOND badass!

When we arrived, we chose five snakes.  These wouldn’t be the ones we would eat, but they would definitely be the ones that we killed.

The snakes were killed one by one by inserting a knife just underneath the head.  Each snake was sliced open lengthwise, which gave these guys easy access to the blood and bile.

I initially wanted to eat the heart myself, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. Even I have my limits, I guess.  Someday.

My friend Dave, however, did splendidly.  He later told me he wasn’t sure whether he felt the heart beating in his mouth or if it was just his imagination.

Next, the blood was squeezed into glasses filled with rice wine.  How amazing is that picture?!

The bodily fluids were poured into shot glasses for us.

On the left: snake bile and rice wine.  On the right: snake blood and rice wine.

Down the hatch!

Honestly, it tasted more like rice wine — which tasted like whiskey — than anything else. But simply knowing that it was blood, blood that had been flowing through an animal only moments ago, was an insane rush!

We then feasted on a snake buffet.  No part of the snake was overlooked — we even ate the bones!

To answer your imminent question, snake kind of tastes like chicken.  Doesn’t everything, though?

Two of the best dishes:

Snake wrapped in seaweed.  So juicy and tender.

Snake spring rolls!

We toasted, again and again, with shots of rice wine.  (A word to the wise — rice wine is extremely potent.  Treat it like liquor, not wine.  Don’t do all the shots you’re offered.)

To conclude, I doubt PETA will be inviting me to hang out anytime soon.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to lose a reader or two over this.

But I don’t care.  My experience of drinking snake blood and bile was nothing short of extraordinary — and one hell of an adrenaline rush!

You can see my friends agreed!

Next time, I promise you, I’m going for the heart!

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83 thoughts on “Drinking Snake Blood in Vietnam”

  1. I love your pictures! You guys truly had a great time!!! 🙂
    You know what I was in Vietnam a few months ago and I never got around to trying snake blood! I so wish I had! I will come back though! 😛

    You are awesome!!!! It’ll be a great story to tell the grandkids when you’re older haha.
    – LAUR 🙂

    1. darren blewitt

      Hi kate, we are currently in hanoi and leave on tuesday. can you please give me the name and location of the snake restaurant. even better im on twitter as darrenblewitt. cheers darren.

  2. You certainly always live up to your name Kate!!! :). I felt so sorry for the snakes though :(. I love snakes (not to eat!) and would have a pet even if I didn’t feel sorry for the mice too.

    I do hope you don’t lose any readers over this like you said you might. You have set out to do all the adventurous things and I am always so impressed that you really really do! I like that you aren’t shy about blogging about it and don’t leave out any details. It makes for fascinating reading.

    I hadn’t heard about the snake killing in Hanoi. I must admit I was a little shocked that everyone was so into it. Do you think it’s because it’s a snake being killed and most people find them scary or repugnant. Do you think the people on your trip would have felt different if it was furry and cute? Would you have? I’m not judging… I am just interested to know what you thought. Maybe I am overly squeamish about eating things when they are still alive (I’m certainly not a vegetarian). I was so horrified by those guys on the amazing race having to eat the octopus tentacles while they were still moving. Ugh. The most alive thing I’ve eaten is a scallop and I don’t think they have too many feelings :).

      1. I think it was in Korea. It was so horrible to watch I want to cry… all those tentacles clinging to his tongue as he tried to swallow. Yuck!

        My ultimate favourite Amazing Race moment has to be when that guy threw up into the bowl of superhot soup he was eating and had to continue and eat his own vomit. I think I might be a little sadistic when it comes to watching people suffer in the name of television (survivor is my favourite sure after all ;).

  3. How flipping amazing was that experience! Gosh, you had my adrenaline pumping just reading your awesome post! 😉

    I don’t think there’s more any words to say, except AdventurousKate keep living it up! 😀 You certainly live up to the name! I cannot wait to see what’s next! 🙂

    *A huge fan that may decide to try snake heart one day! 😉

  4. You’ve got balls, Kate!! Looking at that photo of the dinner table, the snake dinners seem to be a guys thing to do! Respect for drinking snake blood, we definitely would’ve passed on that (even if we were not vegetarians). We will still keep reading your blog though 😉

  5. I wussed out of this when we stayed at Hanoi Backpackers… I’m terrified of snakes put that together with a guy we met went the previous day and explained in gruesome detail how he ripped the heart out and ate it, even describing it still beating as it went down.. and it was a no!


    1. I am sure he tore the beating heart out with his canines and chomped into it so hard with his molars that snake blood shot out of his nostrils and into the face of his host, which triggered a sudden and violent blood frenzy reminiscent of, “From Dusk ’till Dawn”. Um, maybe he exaggerated a wee little bit?

  6. OMG – EWWWW!!! How could you possibly want to kill a living thing with your bare hands and tear out its still-beating heart with your teeth and eat it?!!!! Not only is that disgusting, but it’s SICK! Especially if you get some sort of sick pleasure out of doing it!

  7. It’s weird the type of animals we’re sentimental about and not sentimental about. Like oysters, which I’ll eat live without a qualm. And snakes, as cold-blooded creatures, fall into that category for some…

    I’m not entirely sure I’d do this, however. Because I think snakes’ nervous systems are close enough to ours to enable them to feel pain.

    Glad you did, though, so I can see the photos…

  8. It’s interesting what Theodora says about different animals getting us more sentimental than others. I couldn’t imagine a hamster-eating experience being so popular. I’m a veggie, so it’s not something I’d do and I understand that this enables the people running it to have an income. But, it does seem a little savage to get so much enjoyment out of the killing of all those snakes. I’d love to know more about the background to this. Is it a tradition, or something cooked up for tourists? How are the snakes bred for this? How ‘humane’ is this method of killing them?

    1. I think it was a tradition among one of the hill tribes in the north of the country. Then Anthony Bourdain featured it in his book about eating his way around the world — I forget the title, and also on TV — and it became popularised.

      In Hanoi, unlike the dog restaurants which are a real and genuine part of Hanoi eating — another example of food experiences we’re sentimental about — it’s not something that Vietnamese would normally do.

      Though snake blood tonics are an ancient tradition in Chinese medicine — and Vietnamese medicine borrows from that — this sort of ritual is largely for the tourists. Something you book through your guesthouse rather than happen upon in a back street.

      1. This is the most heartless and cruel thing I’ve come across in a long while. The type of person who would go out of their way to participate in such truly horrible goings on must not know the karmic repercussions. These are sentient beings, and just because they seem so distant from our own makeup is no excuse for gleefully slaughtering them. One should always learn and examine the nature of a living thing. If you are a believer in any God, ask yourself if you think God made these wonderful, living, complex animals for you to kill, and ask yourself why it is that you derive pleasure in doing so. If you don’t believe in a God, the questions still stand. Please don’t support this behavior, and think hard and long before you kill any living thing.

        1. I am sure the locals are chuckling all the way to the bank. How much do you suppose a half dozen snakes cost them? Maybe a dollar apiece? And then they fill a room with tourists, who get a sample plate, at $15 a head. What have the snakes been eating meanwhile, insects, mice, rats?

          1. The locals are dangerously harvesting these snakes in order to meet the demands of the tourist industry. Meanwhile, several species of these snakes are heading for extinction. The overexploitation of sea snakes is a huge problem. Also, when the locals get bitten whilst harvesting these animals, the ‘medicine’ they use to treat the bites is garlic and ground up rhino horn….need I say anymore about this hideous tourist attraction?

    2. I’m a vegetarian too and I dont believe in “humane” killing of any sort. There is nothing humane in killing inocent animals. They might kill each other because they dont know any better, right? We do. If we were kiling to survive like they do, maybe I would understand. But we dont. We eat animals because they are delicious, which is so selfish and insane. We say we do it to control the especiies and stuff… oh well, so feed the kids in africa with them, because they need for sure, that would maybe justify why we eat animals. But we dont, we do it because we are selfish 🙁 I love the blog but this post did made me see how heartless we can be 🙁

  9. One day, the tables might turn and we might be the ones getting sliced open and eaten – be careful what you do for a great photo op.

  10. I found your blog today and have completely wasted my day away reading it. I blame you and your entertaining tales 100%.

    I keep hearing all these bad things about Vietnam but you portray it in a much better light.

    Anyways, headed out next month and my first stop is Southeast Asia thanks for the additional inspiration.


  11. I popped onto the site from the feed because I was intrigued as to what the response would be from your readers. I’m actually quite surprised, as I thought there would be quite a lot of revulsion, but apparently snakes don’t feature highly on people’s cuddly animals list.

    As someone else suggested, it would be interesting to see the reaction if you substituted the word snake throughout with “cat” or “dog”, and had photos of that instead. An interesting read though, and an interesting experience. I love trying out new food, although the slightly ritualistic nature of this does seem a bit weird. Still, it’s not like the cow that goes into my steak is slaughtered in a happy meadow surrounded by pipe playing fairies…

  12. There is a Vietnamese/Australian chef who has a tv show here in Australia and it shows him touring around vietnam. One night I was eating dinner and watching his show and he ate the heart and all…eeeewwwww…sorry but i hate snakes…you are a lot gamer than i am…

  13. You know me and you know I couldn’t eat nasty snake! But way to go for muscling past the comfort zone and trying it out!


  14. Great adrenaline rush eh? If you google it, there are plenty of websites where you can look into going to shoot safari animals as trophies, skin dogs alive and do other ‘adventurous’ things that would give you an even better ‘adrenaline rush’. How about going to one of the bear bile farms in Vietnam or China and getting a paw cut off one of the bears there? That’s meant to be tasty and after all, why stop at one type of bile when there are so many endangered species you could drink the bodily fluids of?

    Seriously, EVOLVE!

    1. Lindsay, next time you’re in Boston, let me know — I’d love to take you out for foie gras-stuffed gnocchi at No. 9 Park.

      Or we could be low-key and stay in. My mom makes the best veal cutlets.

      1. Hey Kate, if I am in Boston, can we have both? I love veal cutlets and I don’t don’t think I’ve ever had gnocchi, hahaha…

  15. Loved the post! I have to say that I was also quite curious about the comments you would get, and as others, I’m surprised about only finding few negative ones.

    Don’t let PETA find your blog 😀

    Can’t wait for your next post!

  16. Wow, way to live up to your name there Kate! Not sure if I could have done that but that is definitely quite the experience. My parents brag on me that I ate rattlesnake when I was two but this is just a bit different! 🙂

  17. Hey Kate,

    That sounds really weird but I am sure an amazing experience! I am going travelling for my first time for 6 months to a year and Asia is my destination. I heard lots of bad and good hings about Vietnam but reading your blogs and website just makes me want to go even more!

    Ignore these narrow minded people on here who say your disgusting. Its fine if a person is a vegetarian but HELLO! not everyone is (can’t say I personally agree with killing animals either although we eat beef etc in the West) and it might just be disgusting to us because we are not used to it whereas Vietnamese people in Hanoi are! Snake is what they eat! Some people should get a grip and not criticise someone for trying something dfferent. So I just wanted to say good on you for trying something different and I think you have inspired me to do the same when I go to Vietnam (well drinking the blood not killing the snake!). Also great site. Loads of content!! 🙂

    Best Regards


  18. Yep I’m one of the ones you’ve lost!

    Am quite disgusted and disappointed because I enjoyed your blog until now.

    I believe in travelling and causing no harm to people or animal. Killing snakes and drinking their blood for your amusement – which lets face it, that’s exactly what it was for – does not fit in with that. An awful thing to do and to encourage others to do the same – so cruel!

  19. Not a stupid sadist

    Nice, a traveling sadist. Yes you should be ashamed but I doubt you are smart enough to know the environmental and just plain ethical reasons against partaking in this. Idiotic braindead bimbo.

  20. Love it, Kate!
    Heading to SE Asia in 3 weeks and I will most definitely be staying at Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel and be taking part in this. I read this post for the first time this summer and since it has been on my life list. Keep rockin’, girl!

  21. It’s sad. Glad you fit it with “the guys” but you look just as idiotic as them. Killing for pleasure is not a possitve travel experience..

  22. I’ll count myself as one of the disgusted and disturbed here – I keep “creepy-crawlies” as pets, and my snake was one of my babies. However, I couldn’t help laughing at the gnocchi and veal exchange. Well done, Kate.

  23. As an ‘educated’ westerner did you even stop to think whether this was a humane way to kill the animal or consider the suffering it would experience as it was disemboweled and its heart bitten out whilst alive for your tourist kick? Or were you too concerned about your ‘badass’ experience. It wouldnt have taken a second to kill the snake quickly with the knife to the back of the neck before continuing and preventing inevitable suffering in its final seconds of life.

  24. I saw the movie, the beach and that is what got me interested in world traveling. He takes a shot of snake blood, and after reading your post it’s something on my top ten list for SE asia. Im loving your website.

  25. Thought i had found a great travel blog, so happy i just found this shit tonight – cause I’ll never give YOU another click aka another chance to ” travel the world ” aka torture innocent animals for your own entertainment. And then actually recommending people to go there, wow! Wish you nothing but the worst, and I hope someon you love gets tortured! People like you are the reason why i am ashamed to be a human being. Congratulations, life waster;)

  26. I just show some of my friends this article and we are contemplating visiting Vietnam, snake blood is a bit extreme from our perspective, but have experienced drinking goat blood with the Masai community in Kenya, I think its time we took to the next level.

  27. You are only feeding a trade which has no future, the snakes used for these restaurants are not sustainabley harvested they are just take. Most are endangered species . Tourists are encouraging the destruction of Vietnam’s ecosystems

  28. “One humans food is another humans poison” ? Saw this episode on Telivision and was aghast.Snake species are getting extinct in the wild due to wanton human killing and seems in Vietnam its a part of exotic Vietnamese cuisine! I will be touring Vietnam and cambodia in December-2013 and will definitely visit this place for curiosity and experience as i am also a solo travel writer.IDogs,Cats and snakes are not on the common menu of most non-vegetarian cuisines and have to accept the fact that in certain cultures the food eating traditions have to be respected although appalling to most of the World’s human population.

  29. You promoting this torture of animals to other brainless travellers is appauling. JUST KILL THE SNAKE!! Instead of making them suffer in you sick game to give you a buzz. Lets travel the world and have a “radical” time, but totally close our eyes to the negative impact that we’re having around us!
    Travellers like you should stay at home. I’m in dispare.

  30. Wow, magnificent website arrangement! The length of time have you ever been posting regarding? you have made running a blog look uncomplicated. The entire start looking within your web site is great, when snugly as the subject material!

  31. hi kate

    i have been interested in your blog, but am disappointed to see that you are promoting unnecessary cruelty to animals for fun. no it’s not cool or daring to eat an animal alive and would be totally illegal in the west and against animal welfare laws and shows a lack of compassion, would you do this if they were puppies or cats?? there are many vile traditions including animals all over the world, you don’t have to promote this or be involved in it and no this is not a personal choice, that’s something that only effects your body. also there are somethings which are universally incompassionate regardless of what culture, tradition or religion endorses.


  32. hi kate

    also can’t believe you are promoting foie-gras which is also one of the most torturous ways to raise an animal, the production is banned in the uk and many parts of europe on cruelty grounds, i often wonder whether you have had pets or feel any compassion for animals? is there a line which you would n’t cross in regards to products of cruelty and those which harm the environment? in south korea they tortue dogs before eating, would you put this on your blogg???

    please watch the following links to see why these practices are so sad and reasons why we do not want to go backwards in brutality. these videos contains images which are disturbing, the first one taken by friends of mine who do undercover work in farms and slaughterhouses.



    i admire what you do but i’m sorry, i hope you start to respect the other species with which we share this planet and realise that they were not put here for your entertainment.

  33. Completely insane and foolish thing to do.
    No humanity.. Put yourself in the place of snake and picturize the experience again ..!!!

    1. interesting kate makes a distinction between cuddly animals, she thinks that eating live monkey brains is somehow different to killing snakes purely for entertainment. snakes and mammals have central nervous systems and therefore feel pain. this is a custom aimed at wealthy westerners who think they are cool for killing the local wildlife, when in reality it’s not even an eye opener, just sad. it’s like killing live cows, chickens in cambodia for entertainment and eating live animals including monkies in china, cos that’s fun right???

  34. Hi Kate,
    I have just returned from a tour of Vietnam and Cambodia and was surprised at the cheap “Snake Wine” bottles sold to tourists. At this rate the “Cobra Snake” population of Vietnam could be wiped out into extinction. In Hanoi i did not visit the “La Mat Snake Village” but came across “Cobra Snake Wine” sold in department liquor shops during a road tour to Ha Long Bay.Tasted “Cobra Snake Wine” near My Tho Village in Ho Chi Minh and found it repulsive and crude akin to illicit liquor manufactured in my home city of Mumbai.Did taste barbecued “Water snakes” at Siem Reap in Cambodia.I only hope that the cobra doesn’t go into extinction in Vietnam and Cambodia due to excessive killing of the species.Check my blog on Vietnam & Cambodia :- http://vietnamcambodiasolo.blogspot.in/

  35. Hi Kate,

    Your experience is unique. Having snake is something unusual for tourists but once you try it, you will love it. Let’s google Quoc Trieu restaurant for best nakes. You’d better to order set menu instead of buying the whole snake which is a bit pricy.

  36. This is very sad indeed. I as a tourist would never promote or contribute to this disgusting cruelty. Snakes are wonderful and fascinating creatures. How would you like it if someone cut your dog or cat open for laugh and drank its blood and ate it’s heart? Taking such pleasure in the cruelty of another living creature is sociopathy.

    1. It all depends on cultural difference. Cow slaughther house in North America will be viewed “disgusting cruelty” by Indians.

      1. There are cultural differences, of course, but those idiotic “western tourists” don’t fall into any standard catagory. They are simply enjoying themselves and not caring about anything else. However, they’re encouraging and promoting killing more snakes which are truly wild animals.
        As for our normal standard meat in most parts of the world, it comes from some sort of farms where people raise them and care for them. Sadly, snakes and most reptiles get on the dinner table as a result of poaching or illegal trade, especially in Vietnam. So let’s not confuse eating snakes with consuming chicken, pork or beef. The major difference is that not the farm animals but most reptiles will soon become extinct if this current trend goes on for long.

  37. Sorry to be “that guy” but it should be advised to stay away from these places. This isn’t an actual Vietnam or Thai tradition. It’s popular because people watched “the beach” one too many times. I wanted to do it myself before I read how cruel it is and put together for tourists. Kinda like eating scorpion on kao San road.

  38. Was going through some of your old blog posts when I came across this one. I must say I admire your adventurous spirit but isn’t this a bit too much? It makes me wonder how the killing of a snake for pleasure is any different from the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Curiosity is one thing but enjoying cruelty just because it sounds cool or you want to “fit in” is not correct, in my opinion. But then again, to each his own..

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