Bookshelf: How to Drink Snake Blood in Vietnam

True story: I once drank a shot of snake blood mixed with bootleg arrack. This occurred about halfway through a night of drinking in Jakarta (alas, not Vietnam) within sight of the Monas. The old Chinese man who prepared the shot, which included theatrically chopping off a snake’s head and bleeding it, promised it would increase my vitality. Or some damn thing. I have no idea if it worked, but I spent the rest of the night scarfing down bowls of nasi goreng in a vain attempt to rid myself of the taste while off duty Indonesian police laughed at me.

If that’s the sort of misadventure that interests you—or, the sort of misadventure you’d like to have—then pick up a copy of Gareth May’s How to Drink Snake Blood in Vietnam, a miscellany promising “101 things every interesting man should know”. For example? How to toss a Scottish caber. How to scale a tree like a Keralan coconut picker. How to join the mile-high club. Oh my.

Trivia isn’t the beginning and end of the book, however. Sure, a list of drive-on-the-left countries or knowing all the Seven Summits might come in handy on trivia night, but this book is much more than that. It’s also equal parts vacation planning for the slightly unbalanced (How to get married by Elvis in Vegas!), worst case survival guide (How to avoid a bear!), and list of awesome things to do before you die (get fitted for a bespoke suit!). It’s the book that the protagonist of Far Cry 3 should’ve read before packing his bags. Advice ranges from the practical (worldwide etiquette for waiting in line) to the zany (penis lollipops and chasing cheese: the world’s wackiest festivals). If there’s one part to be sure to read, it’s the section on how to haggle. Not your strong suit, North Americans.

The man who reads this book will have a few interesting tidbits for conversation; the man who actually does, say, a quarter of these things will be in the running for most interesting man in the world. After all, I bet that Dos Equis guy hasn’t been drinking any snake blood, in Vietnam or otherwise.

How to Drink Snake Blood in Vietnam: And 101 Other Things Every Interesting Man Should Know is available from Indigo at $13.

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