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Cycling and Birds Nest Soup

January 5th, 2015 by Henry Gold

Edible bird’s nests are bird nests that are prepared and eaten by humans, particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity and supposedly exquisite flavor. They are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest selling for $2,500 per kilogram for end-consumers in Asia. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup.- Wikipedia

One of the biggest pleasure when one cycles in distant places such as the 2015 Bamboo Road or 2016 Tran-Oceania is coming across something unexpected, unusual, something that stir the mind and emotions. This is particularly true when the object is aesthetic, creative and daring.

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But what if you come up across 3 or 4 stories cement towers with a small door at ground level, with no windows but a few small openings for what you think may be birds? What the heck is that thing?

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You could stop and go investigate but you let it go. After all, it is just uninviting cement building. A while later you see another similar building. And over a few weeks you will see them here and there.

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Not many and each time you ask yourself, they must be for birds, but what is it? Are they raising birds for meat, eggs? But what kind of birds?

By the time you get to the hotel or camp you have seen so many interesting things that cement towers are not one of the things you remember. And then one day you are sitting at home, reading a book called Krakatoa by Simon Winchester and come across this passage describing a small town called Banten in Northwestern Java , once the capital of Batam empire. “Just beside the old Dutch fort… stands a curio of immense and very ugly cement towers. They look mysterious and rather sinister. ..They look as if they might be kin to Fort Speelwijk, fortress of a kind too, a protection for a population fretful about some nameless and more contemporary disaster.” But of course, they are nothing of the kind. The passage goes on to explain that the structures are “homes for birds called swiftlets, whose saliva is the basis for that most celebrated Cantonese Aphrodisiac – birds nest soup“. Who knew!

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“The nests are supposedly rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising libido, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, improving focus and an overall benefit to the immune system. Birds nests have high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium” – Wikipedia. Who would say no all of that.

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Now as you know well from reading my blogs, at the end there is always a point, some advice or just a suggestion. So here it goes. When you look at the picture below and see that a ‘bird nest box’ costs US$ 888.99, I suggest that if you are planning to cycle the next Bamboo Route or the Trans-Oceania (in particular Malaysia and Indonesia ), stop and investigate those unassuming concrete buildings. You just may be able to negotiate one hell of a deal for a box or two of Bird Nests. Of course, you may have some explaining to do if the customs agents ask you what it is.

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