Arts + Culture

Mind–Altering Vacations

by Barbara Cleveland


The buzz: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you poisonous snakes, you can apparently make snake wine. The people of Le Mat, a village in northern Vietnam, have been known historically for their skill at capturing serpents. Their annual Snake Wine festival in late April/early May is your opportunity to down a few shots of the local aphrodisiac: a glass of super-potent rice moonshine, served with the still beating heart of a cobra.

Where to score: In Le Mat, an easy day trip from Hanoi, nearly every restaurant serves some kind of snake wine, be it a glass of fermented snake blood, snake liqueur, or rice moonshine with a snake pickled in the bottle. Velo Asia can organize a private cycling trip to burn off all those insidious serpent calories, or you can ask any of the day-tour operators in Hanoi to take you in a minibus.

Where to chill: You can get surprisingly drunk on snake wine. Set your watch so you don't miss the snake parade, when locals mime snake legends and march down the street in a gigantic cobra costume.

Where to come down: Sleeping in a town filled with dead snakes is a recipe for bad dreams, so head back to Hanoi for some luxury R&R at the famous Metropole, a post-colonial wonder with period furniture and bamboo-covered walls. Legendary literary drunkard W. Somerset Maugham paved the pass-out-cold route at the Metropole years ago, so they're used to guests that smell like the bottom of a wine bottle.

Next: Trip your way to mental health

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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