Having had a sudden increase in the numbers of sick volunteers, leading me back and forth to the hospital and hotels, I was thinking about what they must be doing to get so sick. Chances are that they aren’t doing anything and thinking that standards are the same as in the Western World. As much as I will go on and on about the safety of the places I eat and drink from everyday, I obviously haven’t been to every place in Surin so can’t vouch for them all.
I know that I am terribly neglectful when it comes to health and safety of myself not only with food but just in general life. I am well known as the strange rainbow who does stupid stuff hahaha This is, in all fairness, a very apt description of my life. If there is a 50% chance I will survive I will do it.
My famous line is:
‘I’ve had a good run, so you know………..
it’ll be alright’
I do understand that 99% of people aren’t like me and actually regards about their own safety so after some thinking I came up with a couple of tips about how to stay healthy and not get sick when travelling Asia.
Wash Your Hands Often
This is one of those things that I was always discouraged from doing as a child, my mum knew I was going to get dirty and realised that getting me to clean my hands after every situation I got into would probably cause a drought in our area. I am incredibly resilient though so for the normal population I would recommend that you do wash your hands often whilst in Thailand. It is also a great idea to carry around one of those small bottles of hand sanitizer if you aren’t sure whether or not you will be in the vicinity of a bathroom, which chances are, in Thailand, you won’t be.
Keep An Eye On The Water
In Surin all of the restaurants use purified water in their cooking and as their drinking water, this is also true of the ice as well, so please don’t feel as if you can’t be drinking any of the water or ice here!! For places you haven’t visited before, just ask them if the water is purified or not, if they say no, then obviously don’t drink it and if it tastes weird, don’t drink it. Simples 🙂
Cooked Is More Reliable Than Fresh
As with everywhere in the world, cooked food is more reliable than fresh produce. Don’ t let this fact deter you from eating fresh produce jut make sure you wash it before you eat it. When it comes to restaurants, again the ones I take people to regularly in Surin, are clean and you won’t get sick. Don’t let the initial Thai tummy convince you you are sick though. Everyone gets sick in their first few days but that won’t be from the quality of the food, it will be your body getting used to the sudden temperature, climate and dietary changes.
When In Doubt, Take It Easy On The Meat
Meat does attract more bugs and flies than anything else you can buy, this means that it can turn quicker. If you aren’t sure of the restaurant then just stick to vegetarian dishes that obviously contain no meat. If you ever go to one of the incredible Thai BBQ places you do need to make sure that the meat that you pick up is cooked properly. This is where pretty much all of our currently ill volunteers got sick. They didn’t cook their food properly and obviously their bodies were not one bit happy with it! Just follow the same rules of cooking you would in your home country.
A Little Bacteria Is A Good Thing
The only way you will ever be able to achieve my iron stomach is to constantly maintain a layer of good bacteria within your system. You can’t possibly hope to fight off any kind of infection or illness if your body has none of the antigens or intelligence about how to defeat it. It is kind of like going into a test without revising. You will definitely fail if you don’t try in the first place.
Obviously be careful with your creativity and food choices, you don’t want to end up in the hospital now!
So consider keeping things clean, but don’t sanitize everything you touch – living in an anti-bacterial world can put you at risk when you leave the bubble more than a little bit of exposure.
Look For High Turnover And Low Fly-count
When you are looking for street restaurants to visit, this is a great rule of thumb to have. If you see a high turnover of food that means that the people cooking are always doing so, so ingredients won’t be left to get walked all over by flies or other beasties. This doesn’t mean however that quiet places aren’t clean or safe though, so if you see somewhere that is quiet and you fancy trying it, then take a look at the level of flies, if there are a lot then it probably means they have a lot to eat. If food is covered then flies won’t hang around, ain’t no fly got time for that!!
Check Your Glass And Silverware
Don’t obsess, but give it the once-over. It may be better to drink your soda or beer directly out of the bottle than from a glass (or wipe the glass if you must). You can always ask for a straw to drink fruit juices or sodas, chances are you will be given one anyway when you are in Surin and other places in Thailand. Thinking about it, I never see Thais drinking direct from anything but a beer bottle haha Don’t be scared to ask for new cutlery if the ones you are presented with seem unclean. Many places in Thailand have their cutlery stored in small pencil case type boxes on the tables so they aren’t susceptible to flies.
Peel Your Fruits And Vegetables
When everything you eat is cooked, you will crave fresh fruits and vegetables, I know I ADORE pineapple! Make sure you try it when you are in Thailand as it arguably has some of the best pineapple in the world. When you buy fruit, buy the kind you can peel – bananas, cucumbers, carrots, papayas, avocados, etc. Avoid lettuce or anything with a skin you eat (e.g., tomatoes), but if you really fancy one, don’t think that you can’t just because of the skin, just give it a wash and it will all be good 😀
A lot of the time though, no matter how clean a place looks, you may just be the unlucky one that gets something that your body doesn’t agree with. I know that I have eaten at restaurants I know are clean and safe but have managed to end up getting a little ill, not for any particular reason, just because I was unlucky that’s all 😀
One major tip I can give you to keeping your stomach and everywhere else in check it be consistent. If you are eating Thai food, stick to Thai food. I’m not saying you can’t have pizza or KFC if you fancy it, i’m just saying that your stomach gets comfortable digesting one kind of food, so if you mess around with that then you will pay for it.
I know that if I eat western food that I do get a little ill, not because of the quality of the food, just because my system isn’t used to it anymore 😀
Just don’t worry too much about getting sick, it is very rare that people end up in the hospital, most people get a day or two and then they are perfectly fine.
If you still haven’t planned your trip to Thailand and want an idea of what you can do then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, for some incredible volunteer projects from Medical Care to Elephant Conservation.
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto