Hunting giant wasps’ nests with the Ta Oi people of Central Vietnam

Last month, I wanted to take my kids on a family trip – away from the Internet, TVs, etc. – and do something similar to what I do when travelling and taking photos. Following some friends’ recommendations, we decided to head into the Central Highlands, visiting the minority tribes near Hue. We heard about a great homestay that we could stay in, which I highly recommend you try out, too!

Doing something different

We spent a few days at the homestay, enjoying some great family activities like cutting grass and feeding cows, chopping bamboo, exploring waterfalls and hot springs… and, of course, eating great food! After trying all these things out, I asked our host Phu whether I could do something a little more out of the ordinary.

So, on our last night there, Phu visited us during dinner. Taking me aside, he asked if I wanted to accompany him into the jungle to pick up some honey.

I’m allergic to bees…

…So I thought twice about it! But still, I knew it would be a great opportunity. And I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to do such an unusual – and memorable – activity.

At about 7.30pm, we took off on his bike, down a narrow winding road.

Our first stop was in another Ta Oi village, where we met up with some of Phu’s relatives. There we picked up a shovel, some headlights, and a bottle filled with petrol. (I thought that we may need petrol in case we ran out of gas. I was wrong!)

Pics of Asia on an adventure in the jungle of central Vietnam with the Ta Oi people

Welcome to the jungle

We entered the pitch-black jungle by foot, onto a thin path. The other 4 guys seemed to know where they were heading. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying – even though they shared the gist of it with me in Vietnamese. 

After a 10-minute walk, our little group stopped. The guys pointed right in front of where we were standing, to a hole in the ground.

At that point, I suddenly understood that we were not going to pick up honey from a beehive. We were going to dig out a giant wasps’ nest in order to gather the larvae. (Apparently, it’s a delicacy.)

looking for the giant wasks nest in central Vietnam with the Ta Oi people

Light it up

The guys started the process by throwing petrol into the hole and setting it on fire. Not the finest way to do it, in my opinion, but probably the most efficient! 

Some wasps, already alight, tried to fly out of the hole. This really freaked the guys out – so I think it must really hurt when they sting! They started hitting the ground with their tools in order to kill them… which proved to be no easy feat.

Ta oi people hunting wasp nests underground in Vietnam

After the fire had burned a little while, the guys started digging – trying to find an underground tunnel, which would lead them to the nest.

This took about 40 minutes. Why did it take so long? Well, there were lots of these tunnels, leading to various directions… so several times we followed the wrong track. Whoops.

Hunting giant wask nests with the minorities of central Vietnam

There was one trick our group used to find the nest – listening. You see, some wasps will always stay close to the nest – and the “hunters” could hear them buzzing underground.

Once they found the nest, these “hunters” added a little more petrol to the hole and set it on fire again. The last few wasps came out painfully, already dying, probably from overheating.

A feast at home

After digging out the nest, we walked out of the jungle and gathered on the roadside to check out our prize. Everyone was very excited – albeit a little disappointed by the small amount of larvae in the nest.

hunting wasp nests in Vietnam at night

A few minutes later, we drove back to the house that we’d picked up the tools from, where the guys started getting busy in the kitchen. As I came in to see what was happening, I saw some of them eating the raw larvae. Obviously, being as generous as they were, they offered some to me.

taking and eating the raw wasp larvae with the Ta Oi people of Vietnam

You know those moments when you’re faced with something you don’t really want to do – but you know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? What should you do?

Well, I made my decision. And I can confirm that raw giant wasp larvae tastes like carbonara sauce – with the bacon replaced by peanuts. That’s how I’d describe it. It tasted very good indeed.

I had about 6 of them in total. The raw ones.

Cooking the wasp larvae in Vietnam with the minorities

And then, once cooked with a side of pumpkin and a good dose of homemade rice wine, I had many, many more. It was definitely the “out of the ordinary” experience I’d been after! 

eating the wask larvae with the Ta Oi people in Vietnam
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Etienne

Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.

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