If there is one reason I can’t do Fear Factor, it’s because of the food segment. You’re talking to a girl who doesn’t eat sashimi (raw), blue cheese (smelly) and oysters or mussels (slimy). Yeah, yeah, I’m a cheap date.

But being a travel writer pushes you to try new things for the sake of the story.

That was how I was suckered into going for my first onsen (hot springs) experience in Hokkaido. Mind you, we were on a media FAM trip and those ladies were journalists I met often at press conferences. They were magazine editors like me, writers and newspaper reporters, and I had to continue seeing them at future press events.

The thought of sitting in a public bath naked… and with them naked around me… was just inconceivable.

And then Angie said, “But don’t you want to write about it?”

Damn. Yes. I. Did. And so my resolve crumbled and I hung my head and went along. For almost an hour, we sat around in a public bath – buck naked – with snow falling lightly all around us, chit-chatting like it was the most normal thing in the world.

I have to admit it was hard not to glimpse a boob here and there, or pubic hair when my fellow journos stepped out of the bath…. Traumatic.

But oh well. Such uncomfortable experiences become worth it at the end of the day when you have a funny travel story to share. And as they say, the first time is always the hardest.

When I covered a story on Chiang Mai for SilkAir‘s inflight magazine, SilkWinds back in 2006, I ate insects for the first time at the night market. But it was a “safe” insect, in my opinion, because it was some kind of maggot or caterpillar which didn’t have hairy legs or scary eyes…

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And when lightly salted, tasted a little like… French fries? Or rather, chickpea with a metallic after taste.

So when I was back in Chiang Mai last December, I decided to be braver and try a wider variety of insects. And so my dear friend Vera (an old classmate now based in Chiang Mai) did me a favour and bought some insects from the local market.

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Whoa, it was a huge bag of bugs! I thought we were all sharing this, but as it turned out, everyone bailed out on me (including the boys), and so I could pretty much take my pick.

The bag was drenched in oil and so I figured the locals must have just deep-fried the whole damn bunch of insects. I can’t do raw, but how bad can deep-fried stuff be? They can only be crunchy, no?

But oh, this one was foul. It ended up being the hardest bug for me to eat…

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It looked like a giant cockroach. Or was it a cricket? Grasshopper? It had many long hairy legs that I imagined I’d choke on, and a huge head with large bug eyes.

How do you even bite off its head? What was inside the head? Would it be gooey?

I nibbled off its legs first, one by one, because it seemed the easiest and safest to eat. Everyone was squealing around me, even the boys. Then I held its legless body and head in my hand for a moment and stared at it. I have to admit I actually did not want to put that in my mouth.

But oh well. I bit off its head – midway – just to have a look inside.

There were no squishy brains, nothing oozed out. Everything was charred. But man, did it taste foul. There was this smelly metallic taste, and the insect was chewy. There was only a slight crunch as I chewed, but mostly, it was just oily.

But that’s what I love about travel writing! Ordinarily, I would have flatly refused. But having to write about your personal experiences gives you a certain bravado. And that gained some brownie points with the boys too! *beams*

And wadya know? In the latest United Nations report (released yesterday), the UN urges people to eat insects to help fight world hunger. Apparently, over 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects.

Bug salad anyone?

Bug salad anyone?

Apparently, there are about 1,900 edible insect species currently known to man (there could be more!), and they are generally high in protein, low in saturated fats, and pretty nutritious on the whole. Perfect if you’re on a diet.

And if you dare eat insects, well the good news is that the world is full of them – each human can pretty much have about 40 tonnes to himself! Who knows? Maybe we can totally do away with pest busters one day?

Well, at least I know one thing for sure: I will NEVER go hungry.

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