Where drinking urine and other taboos are normal

DAVID WHITLEY
Last updated 13:17 02/07/2014
Colacho
Reuters

THIS IS ODD: During El Colacho, babies are laid out on mattresses in the streets, and men dressed as the devil run through, leaping over the squawling, no-doubt terrified toddlers.

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Poor Todd Carney has been marched out of the Cronulla Sharks for his unconventional taste in beverages.

His now infamous "bubbling" photo, in which he allegedly drinking his own urine, has caused widespread disgust.

But in other cultures, it's not seen as such a big deal. So, as a crumb of comfort to Carney, we've tracked down the places where he can guzzle his own amber nectar without anyone batting an eyelid.

And, while we're at it, we've found a few other things Todd might like to try that aren't quite as taboo elsewhere...

Drinking urine

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are few cultures where urine is seen as a pleasant alternative to a nice glass of Semillon blanc, but the Koryak people of Siberia aren't averse to a drop.

The tradition is for shamans to make a preparation out of hallucinogenic toadstools, which is then given to the richer members of the group. They go into a trance, pee and the poorer classes drink it to get their fair share of the mind-bending wholesomeness.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of adherents to 'urine therapy', something most commonly linked to yoga practitioners in India and China. It's particularly prevalent in the Indian state of Gujarat, where self-confessed urine-drinking former prime minister Morarji Desai hailed from. Scour the shelves of a newsagents there, and you may find Shivambu, a magazine devoted to the practice.

Spitting in the street

Hawk up a great big wad of phlegm and unleash it on the pavement at home, and you're likely to get - at the very least - a few disapproving looks.

But in China, spitting isn't generally seen as being so disgusting - particularly among older generations. Spitting out phlegm and vomiting are generally seen in the same category. They're regarded as involuntary actions, and necessary to get bad things out of the body. In other words, it's far more repulsive to swallow the phlegm again than just spit it out as nature intended.

This is something that's gradually changing - ahead of the 2008 Olympics, China ran education campaigns encouraging people not to spit. But travelling, internationalist youngsters are far more comfortable with keeping it in than their parents.

Before getting on a high horse about it, it's worth bearing in mind that it's not too long ago that spitting was commonplace in Western culture too - bar spittoons were the tip of the green, sticky iceberg.

Eating dog

While we may turn our noses up at eating man's best friend, in other cultures tucking into Fido isn't seen as being any more abhorrent than eating pork, beef or chicken.

South Korea and China are the most notorious places to find it, although the tide of public opinion (and government regulation) has turned against bow wow chow. Western pressure and a desire to look good during the Olympic Games (Seoul in 1988, Beijing in 2008) has seen the number of places openly selling dog meat dwindle, but there are still plenty of restaurants that do.

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Dog is most openly and prevalently eaten in northern Vietnam. Should you wish to horrify friends and family by giving it a go, Nhat Tan Street in Hanoi is the place to go. Numerous restaurants serve up pooch (look for thit chó on a menu), and there's an open air market where you can pick out the choicest cuts.

Throwing babies off a roof

Chucking a baby 15 metres off a temple roof may seem an odd way of bringing them good health, but in a few villages in India's Maharashtra state, this is a long-standing tradition that has been practiced for 500 years. The Baba Umer Durga temple, near Sholapur, is the epicentre of this questionable custom. The babies are dropped from on high, then caught by villagers in giant bedsheets.

It's not the only place in the world where infants get the rough end of centuries-old rituals. In the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia, the Sunday after Corpus Christi is particularly terrifying for the nippers born in the previous year.

For the event known as El Colacho, they're laid out on mattresses in the streets, at hurdle-like intervals. Then men dressed as the devil (or, rather, weirdos in red and yellow jump suits carrying whips) run through, leaping over the squawling, no-doubt terrified toddlers.

Eating whale

We may lead the world in revulsion at Japanese 'marine biologists' harpooning any ocean creature larger than a goldfish, but other nations are more laissez-faire about the mass slaughter of whales.

Iceland is one of them, and it's not too tricky to find somewhere in Reykjavik serving up a juicy whale steak or burger. Tapas Bar will serve up minke whale with cranberry sauce, and for extra disgust points, you can gorge on puffin too.

Consuming the dead

If someone here grabbed the ashes of a cremated relative and started eating them, it would be somewhat frowned-upon.

Not so amongst the Yanomami people the border of Brazil and Venezuela. The Amazonian tribe believes that the soul needs to be protected after death, and that no part of the body should remain.

So they cremate the bodies, grind down the bones, then mix the ash with bananas to be eaten as part of a ceremonial meal. That way, the soul enters the relatives of the deceased.

Have you ever seen - or engaged in - taboo behaviour while travelling in another culture? Share your stories below.

- FFX Aus

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