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Thailand forum

Food/Water and Hygiene

Posted by she_spools_180 on 3/11/2010 at 12:44

I will be travelling to thailand for a month in december. I have beenbefore, in january of this year.
Now last time, as I remember, there were a few warnings, via word ofmouth. These included (of course) don't drink the tap water.
Can any one confirm what the truth behind this is?
Is it not drinkable at all? Can it be consumed after boiling? How longfor? Does the water differ from Bangkok to Samui to Phuket to Phi Phi? Dosome NOT need boiling, or can't be boiled?
Don't worry, I don't plan on drinking the water, but it sort of leads meonto my next question.
I also was told not to eat salads, as the lettuce/veggies will be washed intap water = becoming sick. I don't remember eating any salads when I was there last time, apart fromlettuce in a Big Mac maybe. Is this clean lettuce? Do they wash it with cleanwater? As I was not sick beyond what I have mentioned below.
Where does this then leave veggies in a curry? I am guessing, becausethey have been boiled in the curry, then that is what makes them safe to eat?As I ate many of these dishes last time.
And finally, the only roadside cart food that I had last time was theinfamous banana pancakes. But this time I am thinking of being moreadventurous, and eating cooked meat from a cart, or, I remember seeing fruitstands that, I assume, served blended fruit smoothies/juices.
Are both of these safe? I am a bit wary about the meat on these BBQgrill carts, and the ice and how the fruit has been washed on the fruitcarts. I know about asking if it is 'clean' ice, but that doesn't stop thevendor from just saying yes. Do they usually have clean ice, and fruit washedunder clean water? How safe are they?
Basically last time, the worst I got was, most of the time I had theruns (I am guessing this is practically unavoidable?), but it did not disrupt my travel, asI just took some ‘anti-runs’ tablets, and it was ok. But I am worried that eatingfrom these roadside vendors could be worse, in terms of symptoms. I just don’twant to be sitting with my face in the toilet for a few days on end.

#1 she_spools_180 has been a member since 9/9/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by rawjer on 3/11/2010 at 13:07

As for the water, I'm guessing the nearest place to here with safe drinking water would be Singapore, and I'm not even sure about that one. In this whole region they don't treat their tap water up to drinkable standards, which is also true of most of the world, I believe.

I've been in Thailand for most of the last 5 months, and I do boil tap water to make my morning coffee and I'm sure that's safe, but bottled water is so cheap and easy to get that there's not much point in boiling unless you are boiling anyway. There are places to buy water to fill up your own bottles, which charge almost nothing, and that's much easier on the environment.

As far as the street veggies and meat, you'll get plenty of people (like me) who eat it frequently with no problems, but even many of the expats who live here continue to rant that it'll make you sick every time. I think it can be different with everyone, so probably best to try a few things early on to see how you feel.

And there are the usual warnings of buying only from busy stands and only getting things prepared freshly instead of those that have been sitting there for a while, and following that advice makes sense for anyone.

Weirdly, I've recently been thinking that it's strange that I rinse my lettuce and other vegetables in water that isn't necessarily fit to drink, and I've been fine for months. It's true that once in a blue moon I "feel a bit different" the following day, but nothing that really ever slows me down, and I'm not willing to eat a bland diet just to minimize that small risk.

#2 rawjer has been a member since 20/1/2010. Posts: 104
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Posted by guava_girl on 6/11/2010 at 11:18

You should never drink tap water even if boiled. This is why there are the big 20L water jugs. Almost every Thai home will have these which they use for cooking and drinking and even for their coffee or tea. As well, this is used for cooking rice, noodles, etc. Ice is also made from this water by companies who usually also deliver these water jugs.

However, I would think that everyone washes their fruits & veggies in the tap water but I can not confirm this 100%.

I have lived in Thailand for 5 years and follow the above and have never been ill. I wash all of my fruit & veg with the tap water, but never drink it even if boiled. But I also don't eat from street venders. This is not a water issue but more because the food is sitting out in the heat all day.

If you worry too much about it you will not enjoy your holiday. Just use common sense and you should be fine.

#3 guava_girl has been a member since 21/10/2010. Posts: 252

Posted by sirhalberd on 6/11/2010 at 13:06

I think probably all Thai restaurants use some tap water in their cooking and prep work. If you avoided all places that use tap water you would probably have a difficult time eating anywhere. I sometimes use tap water for coffee when I am down on bottled water but I think there may be too much metal content in the water to make it safe enough to drink often.

Some people get sick eating from street vendors and some do not. Personally I prefer places where the cook can wash his hands after using the toilet! Also running water to help rinse the dishes off too. There is no way to know if that chunk of meat has been on the grill a half hour or left over from last night! Even some Thais end up sick from street food every now and then!

I do choose some items off the street from known vendors. I do like some of the boiled pork shoulders but I always have to tell the cook to leave off the fatty skin that many Thais love. The cooking vat has to be boiling hot for me to be interested though. For soup from the street vendors I choose what goes in the pot - no feet, no heads, no chicken @sses and no intestines. I usually just choose white meat and noodles, maybe some "green vegetables" for color. The soup has to be boiling hot and I make sure the meat is well done.

Drink bottled water it is cheap enough!

Happy eating.

#4 sirhalberd has been a member since 30/12/2007. Posts: 295
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Posted by neosho on 6/11/2010 at 16:02

guavs-girl....Come to Issan where almost every Thai home will not have those big water bottles. Villages have a community well, unfiltered. When the well is down, then there's the rain barrel. I make my coffee from the tap but normally drink bottled, everything else is tap. When we go into the city we eat from the street vendors all the time. I have a British friend that can't pass one up. :) The only time I've ever had a problem was with those meatballs on a stick. Tried them twice and had a problem. Probably just something with my own system. I used to have a problem with Taco Bell back in the states, just couldn't eat it without passing it immediately.

#5 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

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