I hope you won't view this as too paranoid, but after getting sick in India and Bolivia we have some questions.
If I step into one of those western-feeling coffee shops in Vientiane and order a drink with ice, how is the ice made? Is it ice made from tap water, or has the water been purified/filtered? Similarly in a restaurant serving fresh vegetables (they have not been part of the cooking process), are these vegetables washed in the tap water, or filtered/purified/bottled water?
Thanks for anyone who can answer either question. Restaurant staff usually don't speak English (which is fine of course!), Hostel staff doesn't understand why we care (you won't either till you get food poisoning in Bolivia), and other travelers mostly take guesses......
#1 dhet has been a member since 13/12/2013. Posts: 2
Clean drinkable water would be used in pretty much every instance to make ice, and same goes for washing vegetables. Sure some locals may drink tap water but their systems have built up immunity to the local cooties. It would be fairly unthinkable to give tap water to tourists who would then promptly fall sick and return to complain. The word for ice is "naam gon" in which "gon" means "shape" (naam=water) and when you see ice being added to your drink it should be in a factory-made shape, which indicates it's been made from purified water. Of course there's no guarantee that the person handling your food at a restaurant washed their hands since using the toilet. So get your hepatitus-A vaccine before travel.
What Captain Bob said.
You've got to remember that the cafe isn't going to be making it's own ice using little trays in their freezer (they get through far too much ice for that). Instead they're buying it in bulk, and it is normally manufactured in the same factory that makes bottled water, using the same purified water supply. So as Captain Bob says, "tubular" shaped ice is from the factory and perfectly safe.
In some more rural areas you do still get some old-fashioned ice-making in cottage industries, but that comes in big blocks rather than shaped cubes, so is easy to spot. The guys who make it, sell it and buy it will all tell you it's for local consumption only (at least they certainly did when I saw this in Vietnam). Sick tourists are bad for business. :)
UPDATE if it helps anyone. Yes, the ice is manufactured somewhere and seems very legitimate. I'm afraid our experience with fresh vegetables has run contrary to the advice given here, however. We received some dodgy lettuce from Cafe de Paris in Vang Vieng that we are fairly certain was the cause of some illness by one member of our party. She was the only one who ate it and the only one who got sick. Since then we have been asking, when the staff speaks English, if there is tap water in various drinks/fresh veggies. Often they say yes! So, be careful fresh veggies :(
#5 dhet has been a member since 13/12/2013. Posts: 2