Sunday, July 11, 2010

Glodok Market

Glodok is the Chinese neighbourhood in north Jakarta. It's a quarter fragrant with incense, wet with puddles, and bedecked with pretty red lanterns.
Along the narrow cracked lanes traders display fresh wares: slashed guava with hot magenta innards, cages of chirping birds, knots of frogs.
"Each morning I buy 1,000 frogs from local villages to sell here," says frog trader Supardi. Frog in Indonesian is kodok.
"Run, little guys," I encourage, picking up a bundle of ten frogs all tied together with plastic twine. They blink back, quiet and passive.

"I've got bigger frogs," says Supardi, gesturing to a cloth bag on the roadside.
"And I've got even bigger frogs," counters a neighbouring trader sitting at a blue crate beside Supardi's red one.
Suddenly the frog hops right out of my photograph. I snatch at it, replacing it beside the chopping board. Then marvel that I just picked up a cool clammy frog without hesitation.

A female customer approaches. She buys two knots of frogs: twenty in all, for Rp 50,000 ($5.00). Supardi beheads each one on the chopping board.
He peels skin from flesh as smoothly as stocking from thigh.

Further along the narrow alley are buckets of eels, a large turtle trying to flipper its way up and out of a deep yellow tub, crabs in plastic handcuffs, and a man with a trunk full of small coquelicot and grey snails.
"I want Spain to win the World Cup," declares the man with the snails. He pulls a bent cigarette from his shirt pocket and holds it like a conductor's baton. "I have 1,000 snails in here," he continues, pointing with his cigarette at the trunk on the roadside.
"How much do they cost?"
"Rp 50,000 ($5.00) for five kilogrammes - which is around a hundred snails."
"Where do you buy them from?"
"The sea."
"What do they eat?"
Under the shade of an awning, a man leans against a two-chamber glass container raised from the street on a short row of plastic stools. The container is sealed with a plank of wood, upon which are three neatly folded tea towels. A sticker blazes "Kobra Belang" across the side of the container: striped cobra.

"No, I'm not afraid," says Andy, reaching his bare hands into the cobra tank and retrieving a snake. He sets it on the wooden lid. It flicks its tongue. "Hmph, he doesn't want to play," scoffs Andy, tossing the cobra back into the den and taking a second one.
The second snake rears back beautifully, flexing its hood wide. "These cobras are Rp 85,000 each," says Andy. "I've got 450 of them and sell about 30 a day. They come from central Java. No, I don't catch them myself, I don't have the time."

"What happens if they bite you?"
"I die. Look." Andy holds the cobra over the pavement and squeezes the back of its head. A bubble swells at the snake's grim mouth. It grows slowly heavier and longer, a long transparent line of venomous drool.

"Snakes are good to eat and drink. Their blood is very healthy. Especially for men," he winks.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely, if sometimes stomach-flipping photos! I guess your Spain-loving snail guy is a happy man today, eh?