So, after ages days in Phong Nha, we had realised that we would never be short of things to do here. We'd been on a caving expedition, we'd found our own caves (we would like to think we found it anyway), we'd hit the dirt tracks on our motorbike and throughly explored the city. But we had missed out an activity here... Something you could do whilst you were in Phong Nha, that we definitely hadn't seen in any other city/country we had been to so far. So, as you are reading this blog post at the moment, let's get your opinion on the matter.. How do you fancy catching and killing your own chicken?!
I can imagine quite a few bewildered faces, just the same as ours were, upon reading that question. We came across a poster in Phong Nha, exclaiming that you could catch and kill your own chicken before chowing down on it yourselves after. You can do this at a restaurant called "The Pub With Cold Beer" (however, we think they should add on "and Very Unlucky Chickens"!)
Obviously, travelling at the moment with two big kids, I knew that I would be going to this restaurant as soon as Jac and Nil's read the poster. The thought of being so boisterous, so manly, so in touch with their inner-cavemen in killing their own chicken... They had to give it a go. Me on the other hand, I was just content for the dinner of roast chicken! So, with a bit of anticipation, we headed there the next day.
When I said headed there... I meant somehow we got there after bumping, bouncing and seriously imagining the bike toppling over on the long dirt road up to the restaurant. The track is renown for being a bit crazy, with deep pot holes, hard-to-miss humps and indents of bike tracks zig-zagged all along the road. It's a fun drive, but be careful and don't forget to reward yourself with that cold beer at the end (just the one)!
When we arrived to the Pub With Cold Beer, it was surprisingly empty. Although, we had got there at around 4pm, so maybe it's wmore busy around lunch-time or dinner-time. There was one group of people already sitting down, with what looked like empty plates in front of them. Jac, Nils and I shot a look across to each other, all wondering the same thing: did they do it?
We asked the group if they had killed the chicken themselves and they all grimaced and said they didn't do it.. Which was so peculiar as the restaurant is literally known for this niche activity and at 200,000VND per KG of chicken, it's not exactly a cheap-eat. We figured the higher price range was in essence of the unique experience that comes with eating your meal.
So, we sat down and a lady came up to us and took our order. We said we would like to order 2 chickens, to which she replied "do you want to do it?" We nodded and she called to her husband to take us out the back. It was a really strange feeling, walking towards the chickens, knowing what's about to happen. I'd never seen an animal die before, so I was really nervous to even watch it happen.
The man took us to a pen full of chickens and ducks. He led Jac and Nils in and signalled to them that they both needed to catch a chicken. This part was absolutely hilarious. It was literally like a scene from a cartoon, watching the two of them almost fall over numerous times trying to catch these chickens. All of the chickens ran away from them, diving across the pen with their wings flapping at a million-times-a-minute. Jac and Nils closely behind them trying to corner them and failing as the chickens ran in between their legs. Luckily, they both managed to grab one in the end!
The thing is with this part... As said above, you pay 200,000VND per KG of chicken. When reading is on the menu, you would think you had a choice on the weight of your chicken. However, after 20 minutes of flapping (from both the chickens and from Jac and Nils) it's more the case that you are lucky enough to catch whatever you can! The chickens that they finally caught weighed in at 2.5kg, therefore we had to pay an extra 100,000VND. It was either that or catch another bloomin' chicken?! We chose the extra 0.5kg in fear that Vietnams very own Laurel and Hardy might not catch another smaller chicken before it got dark!
Now, the next part. I'm not actually sure how to write something like this, as it's a bit of a dark matter and not particularly something that a lot of people would agree with. But... blog posts are out there to discuss subjects, reveal opinions and uncover the truth, therefore that is what I'll do. To kill the chicken, Jac and Nils were given a blunt machete and a chopping block. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a very grim thing to watch. I was happy to let Jac and Nils do it as after all, we only wanted to pay for two chickens. But saying that, given the ultimatum that I had to kill a chicken to feed my family or survive, of course I would do it. Jac and Nils are both of the opinion that if you are able to happily eat an animal, you shouldn't be ignorant to how it is killed and even more so, you should be at least willing to do it yourself.
We sat down and waited for the chickens to be de-feathered, cooked and served. It was served around 40 minutes later, with rice and fried vegetables. It was so nice and was the first decent bit of chicken we had had in very long time! Usually in Vietnam, chicken in anything had normally resulted to tiny slithers of chicken, still attached to the bone with a whole lot of gristle attached to it. So to have two whole chicken to ourselves was pretty good indeed.
At the end of our meal, another group of guys came in to the restaurant. They saw the plate of bones in front of us and asked us the same thing we thought to ask the group before us.. "Did you do it?" We answered yes and they asked us what it was like. Jac described that it was a pretty unique experience and that they should definitely give it a go. They agreed and went out the back with the owner.
Just before we left, we decided to go and watch them try to catch their chickens. However, when we arrived at the scene at the back of the restaurant, they had already caught the chickens and were all standing around in a circle, shifting the responsibility of actually 'killing the chickens' around the group. The owner had disappeared somewhere, so his daughter (of whom was about 8 years old) was standing in the middle, asking who was going to kill the chickens. They all shook their heads and said they couldn't do it... Therefore, the little girl rolled her eyes and took it upon herself. The next part was really hard to watch as the little girl just didn't have the strength or ability to kill the chicken with a machete. The chicken became really distressed and started trying to fly off, the little girl started to panic so one guy from the group stepped up, took the chicken off her and put it out of its' misery.
The rest of the group stood there in silence and unsurprisingly, not one person wanted to kill the other chicken after what they had just seen. Bare in mind, this group are all grown men and came to the restaurant to catch and kill their own chicken. Jac said that he would do it and killed the other chicken for them. I think the moral of the story for this group is to not put yourself up for something that you aren't actually going to do, for the sake of recording the experience. The first chicken suffered a lot more than it should have after none of them, quite frankly, had the minerals to kill it themselves. But, every single one of them happily had their phones out recording what was happening, probably to post on Facebook and exclaim what a weird experience it was to kill their own chicken...
Overall, it was a really strange/unique experience, for myself to watch and for Jac and Nils to actually do. The chicken tasted lovely, it was a little over-priced, but you pay that little bit more the experience if you choose to do it. If you don't feel like you need to do it, like myself, then don't. However, if you chose to do it, then go for it (actually go for it, unlike those guys) as it's something you probably won't ever do again and definitely opens your eyes to the reality of what happens for your food to be put your plate.