In Vietnam, don’t order the Mutt-on

I have just come back from Vietnam, where I have seen many amazing things, including Ho Chi Minh himself.

I have just come back from Vietnam, where I have seen many amazing things, including Ho Chi Minh himself.

What’s left of Uncle Ho (his mummified corpse) reposes on display in a gargantuan, graceless mausoleum in the centre of Hanoi.  I saw other amazing things — pagodas, sacred caves, water buffalo placidly plodding through rice paddies, sylphlike sampans, graceful as eyelashes, skimming the surface of canals and rivers …

But I think the most amazing thing I saw was in Ho Chi Minh City — the motorbikes. Motorbikes are to the Vietnamese today what the automobile was to North Americans in the 1950s.  Times ten.

In Saigon alone (nobody other than government flunkies call it Ho Chi Minh City) there are four million motorbikes.  That is not a misprint.  Four million.  Virtually every Saigon family owns at least one. It functions as the family station wagon does for us. Again — times ten.

It is not uncommon to see a family of five on one motorbike, the youngest wedged between the handlebars, the rest hanging on anyway they can. It is also not uncommon to see motorbikes carrying multiple bags of animal feed, freakishly high tiers of lumber, a refrigerator (I’m not making this up), 20-foot stepladders, butchered hogs, mattresses, aluminum doors, toilet bowls …

And — Culture Shock 101 — crates stuffed with live animals, including puppies.

Saw this myself from a bus outside Hue — a little Honda putt-putting along, one rider, with a dozen wooden crates full of what looked like Akitas or Huskies, weaned, maybe three months old, lashed down and teetering behind him.

And you just know they weren’t heading for the Hanoi Obedience and Agility Dog Trials.

Unpalatable fact: South East Asians eat dog — or some of them do. It’s an old tradition bound up with beliefs about the merits of dog meat as an energy booster and an aphrodisiac.

The natives are aware that canine entrees on the menu would make tourists nervous if not hysterical, so you don’t see escalope de poodle or barbecued border collie advertised but if you go to an obscure Thai or Vietnamese restaurant that caters to locals you might come across a dish called, ironically enough ‘pad krapaw’.

That’s um, stir-fried dog meat with basil leaves.

Eating dog meat is, I’m delighted to report, a disappearing feature of Southeast Asian life.  It’s a cuisine phenomenon mostly restricted to working class clientele. Kids in school are being taught that it’s not cool to eat pets — and in any case it’s relatively expensive, dogs being rarer than carp or chickens.

Did I try it? Get serious. I’m a bourgeois North American geezer. I’m so reactionary I seldom even buy sushi — unless I’m fishing and I run out of bait.

Besides, I knew if I indulged I would have to avoid eye contact forever with a Bearded Collie and a Golden Retriever/Border Collie cross back home.

Still I didn’t raise a fuss when I saw unfamiliar, possibly pooch-oriented entrees on the odd South East Asian menus.  Wouldn’t do for me as a Canadian to get too holier-than-thou over animal cruelty.  I remember two other times when I saw cages of animals crammed together and stacked in tiers.

In one case the cages were stuffed with battery hens on a ‘factory farm’ in southern Ontario; the other time was a barnyard crammed with tiny, windowless plastic cubes on a farm near Vancouver. The cubes were the only home that veal calves, brusquely separated from their mamas, would ever know.

South East Asians can’t teach North Americans much about cruelty to animals.


Arthur Black is a humour columnist who lives on Saltspring Island

Just Posted

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van burst into flames just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville will host the 2021 B.C. Junior Golf Championships. (PQB News file photo)
Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville to host 150 of B.C’s top junior golfers

Provincial boys and girls championship begins June 28

Hannes Grosse, left, and Iris Steigemann, right, as they prepared for their 'Moments of Silence' exhibit. The father-daughter duo are showing at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach until June 26. (Submitted photo)
Cortes Island artists exhibit at Qualicum Beach’s TOSH in first father-daughter show

Both artists will be present at shows on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26

The Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society will get more funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo. (Submitted Photo)
More PQB communities to fund Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society

RDN to introduce amendment to service bylaw contribution

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read