We will be travelling to Laos and Thailand in Jan/Feb 2007 and apart from other attractions we are looking forward to enjoying the food in both countries. However we read in guide books and Travelfish that salads and fruit drinks are high risk and understandibly so ( water etc ). But on reading articles about food, writers rave about the salads and fruit drinks ( markets etc ) and appear to be a vital part of the cuisines of both countries. Should we play it safe and avoid these foods or take the risk of infection to sample what sounds like a beaut food experience ?
Any advice would be appreciated Thanks. Thanks for a great site - it has been our best resource in planning our trip.
#1 robbo has been a member since 6/3/2006. Posts: 23
It tends to come down to where you eat it and how tolerant your stomach is. In Thailand I'd say you'll be fine eating off the street -- in particular Som Tam (green papaya salad) is extraordinary -- just to be sure to ask for one chilli rather than 14!
The main dishes to be wary of in Laos are the Laaps -- these are minced meat dishes -- mostly pork but often chicken or duck and the meat is close to raw (it is mixed with lime juice which kind of cooks it). If you're eating this is a restaurant most likely you'll be fine, but I'd be cautious with street dishes like this.
The mantra tends to be if it is fruit peel it, if it is meat cook it. If the stall is angled towards tourists then you should be fine.
With ice -- by and by Thailand is fine -- i wouldn't even worry about it. In Laos, it depends -- they still use a lot of "block ice" there -- huge slabs that get dragged all over the place -- not very hygenic. Look at the ice -- if it is round with a central hole through it, it has been made from purified water and will be fine, but if it is in rough shards then it is from block ice and may be dodgy. If the place has a menu, chances are the water is ok.
All that being said, I eat anything, anywhere and until my most recent trip to Vietnam (a few weeks ago) when I got really sick and was delirious for a few days, I've not had any serious problems, other than the occasional bout of Bangkok-belly...not bad for a dozen or so years eating anything that would stay still long enough for me to gobble it down.
Look at the place where you're eating -- is it clean, is the food well cooked, is the ice ok, chances are you'll be fine.
As you say, food is an integral part of the Asian experience -- tuck in -- you'll love it.
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,789
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I tried that Laaps dish in Luang Prabang, didn't realise the meat was almost roar! Really tasty though.
Don't worry too much about what you eat in SE Asia, if you worry too much you'll miss out on some of the best food! Most of food is generally pretty fresh. I didn't experience any problems with food when travelling in SE Asia, not sure if I was lucky or I've just got a stomach made of iron??!
And if you become tired of eating noodles & rice, check the baguettes in Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam! Very fresh and tasty. I suppose that's one good thing that the French taught them.
When you arrive, gently ease yourself into the lifestyle, it can be a culture shock. Don't over do it on the chillis, cheap beers & sun!
I'm now dreaming of beef noodle soup I had in Saigon. mmmmmm