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CFW Dec 8th, 2010 05:33 PM

Salads in Vietnam?
Usually we have been advised to avoid salads and raw veggies in Asia. Weve followed the advice and haven't had any tummy issues in our travels. Everyone seems to talk about the delicious salads in Vietnam, and it does seem that salads and raw veggies are in so many of the delicious dishes like fresh spring rolls, and in the menu items at some of the really great restaurants that posters have described. So, what's your advice?

rhkkmk Dec 8th, 2010 06:48 PM

i blame the many spring rolls i ate in vn for the tummy problems i developed....

they sure are good however....

karen blames ice in a drink in a bar in hanoi for her stomach problems...

make sure to bring some anti-biotics with you...

Kathie Dec 8th, 2010 07:37 PM

It's a risk. Only you can decide what risks to take. I am aware any time I choose to violate food and water precautions, and try to choose wisely. I've been pretty fortunate on the risks I've taken, but still occasionally choose incorrectly.

aussiefive Dec 8th, 2010 08:31 PM

There is no denying - it is a risk. The first time I went to Vietnam I was sick twice but both episodes were short lived and not all that detrimental to my trip. Who is to say if it was salad, ice or something else.

The second time I went I was not at all sick and I was also more carefree about the food. We were building houses in a small village for a charity and we ate whatever we were given. One night the community prepared a big feast and I watched the preparation. Kids mucked in and helped toss the salad - all with their bare hands. Not something we would usually accept but hey we could not be rude. No one got sick from that meal.

One thing is for sure - if you do not eat the salads in Vietnam you will miss out on some of the best food. It is hard to eat a meal there without fresh salad items.

hawaiiantraveler Dec 8th, 2010 10:08 PM

It's like rolling the never know when it will happen or how bad it will affect you. I know in my case, I have gotten "food poisoning" twice and my body does not react well as Mrs HT's body seems to shrug anything off, well almost.

I guess it all depends on how bad you want that spring roll and salad. :)


dgunbug Dec 9th, 2010 05:03 AM

I had the spring rolls on numerous occasions during my three 1/2 week trip and never had any stomach problems. We ate mostly in restaurants and rarely off the streets. While we never ate salads per se, we had plenty of pho dishes with the leafy herbs thrown in at the end. Neither my husband, who has a very sensitive stomach, or I got sick. Be very careful though with the ice.

kmkrnn Dec 9th, 2010 05:21 AM

We ate things like the fresh spring rolls, noodles with fresh herbs, and salads like papaya, banana flower which are salads , but not all raw stuff. Maybe the fish sauce makes the salad less "germie" for lack of a better word. I think part of Bob's problems was the different minerals in even the bottled water. If you avoid the raw stuff you really miss a fantastic portion of Vietman cuisine. It is a risk. Carry antibiotics that your travel clinic reccomeds just in case you need them.

glover Dec 9th, 2010 05:55 AM

While we're on this subject - are those of you who take antibiotics along taking Cipro these days or that other one recommended here (and I believe some places on CDC) that start with a Z - zithromycin or some such.

I'd normally pack along some cipro for the direst illness, but seems this other one may now be recommended for SE Asia?

sf7307 Dec 9th, 2010 08:58 AM

good question, glover....I never take antibiotics with me (Egypt, Mexico, always just take my chances), but I have to go to the travel clinic anyway, so I may as well get something....

Kathie Dec 9th, 2010 09:31 AM

For some areas, Cipro is still the antibiotic of choice, for others, azithromycin or Levaquin are the recommended antibiotics. Talk with a travel med professional and read the info about it on the cdc site.

IMO, better to have the antibiotics and not need them than not to have them and wish you did...

kmkrnn Dec 9th, 2010 09:40 AM

The cipro did the trick for us even though azithromycin is recommened for SEA. I agreee with Kathie...I would rather have them with me just in case. (and it isusally around 3-4 Am that you are in trouble.)

ekscrunchy Dec 9th, 2010 01:42 PM

Bob: I could not help but notice that you consumed a lot of dairy products in creamy my experience, these are often the cause of distress.

Luck must also play a role because I ate just about anything that appealed to me and was never sick in Vietnam.

Perhaps that old adage is true--that people who rarely venture out of hotel dining rooms and upscale restaurants have not built up any immunity and therefore are felled sooner than those who have been less cautious through the years.. (??)

Cicerone Dec 10th, 2010 01:50 AM

It’s hard to enjoy Vietnamese food witouth having the fresh lettuce and other wrappings that go into the food. Just ate a lovely meal in HCM yesterday including several fresh lettuce items. This was at a good restaurant and to be honest, it did not even occur to me. I would not give a lot of thought to it if I were you. But wash your hands (it’s often the germs on your hands that are the issue, not the food handler’s), and I would be wary of fresh veggies from street food vendors.

On the Cirpo issue, I have never understood why people would want to take something as potentially dangerous as an antibiotic for a completely undiagnosed “illness”. I also don’t trust a doctor who would prescribe something to you when the doctor is aware that you have no illness.

Any “upset” stomach you have may be:

(i) simply a reaction to the difference in the <i>taste</i> of food and water, or more heavily spiced food than you may be used to;
(ii) a viral infection for which anti-biotic will be useless <i>and may even be harmful</i> as you are destroying the good bacteria in your gut which can help you fight infection, or
(iii) bacterial, but unresponsive to the antibiotic you have, as often you need a specific med for a specific infection (e.g. Guardia).

You are of course also potentially contributing to the serious problem of wide-spread resistence to antibiotics and/or the creation of “superbugs”. But I think the placebo effect of taking a pill goes a long way with some people. The pill makes you <i>think</i> you feel better. This is especially the case when you in fact have a viral infection but don’t know it, and you think the Cipro is helping; when in fact it’s just your body healing itself as it does in the majority of cases.

CFW Dec 10th, 2010 02:59 AM

Thanks everyone. We'll enjoy the food, forget about ice, and take our chances! Speaking of which, where did you have the lovely meal in HCMC yesterday, Cicerone?

We're compiling our restaurant list, so maybe I should post a separate thread.

RedKite Dec 19th, 2010 12:41 AM

CFW, if you eschew ice you'll miss out on one of the most addictive treats that Vietnam has to offer: ca phe sua da (iced milk coffee). And then there are the wonderful fresh fruit juices that are blended with ice.

In the main, the ice served in cafes and restaurants in Vietnam is made with purified water and is completely safe, although I've never suffered ill-effects even from the less pure jagged ice that is chipped from large blocks.

qwovadis Dec 19th, 2010 02:49 AM

Good health info from CDC Travel MDs always review

for a safe journey...

A good rule of thumb for me to avoid Traveller's Diarrhea

#1 cause of acute traveler disability worldwide

"Boil It Bake It Broil It Peel It or Leave It"

Always carry antibiotic/nausea/diarrhea med

in my travel medical kit.

Happy Journey,

mishkah Dec 20th, 2010 03:09 AM

I've been to Vietnam five times, and got hideously ill.. five times. I love Vietnam, and will continue to happily go there and get sick, but my advice, in short:

1. Start taking charcoal tablets a couple of days before you travel. I did this the last few times and while it didn't stop me getting sick, it definitely lessened the duration/intensity.

2. Assume you WILL get sick. I have gotten seriously strict about ice/salad/whatevers and still manage to get sick. Take your own chopsticks..embarrassing maybe, but think about how many mouths those chopsticks in the pot of the table have been in and the less than stellar water they've been washed in afterwards. And close your mouth when you're in the shower..etc.

3. Take cipro. Antibiotics are virtually impossible to come by in any recognisable form in Vietnam (except as below) but avoid the diarrhea drugs that basically do nothing but stop the flow without stopping the production until you explode..enough said.

4. Work out whether your insurance will cover you going to the International SOS clinics in Hanoi/HCMC. These will be your main choices for treatment/drugs once you're there. Although the one in Hanoi is located quite near some delightful lunch places - I once left my boyfriend on a saline drip in the clinic and popped out for a lovely lunch nearby..minus the salad, of course.

5. Take hand sanitiser gel. Agree with Cicerone, I often think I might've infected MYSELF, touching money/handrails/whatever and you can't always wash your hands before you eat (or be sure of the water you're washing in). Have noticed much improvement once I started hand sanitising religiously while travelling.

Other than that..enjoy Vietnam, and just factor in the hassle of getting sick as the 'cost of doing business' with travelling in that magical country!

Karen246 Dec 23rd, 2010 08:41 PM

Always eat where there are lots of other people and ask fellow travelers or locals or even the desk at the hotel. Have travelled through Asia extensively and the only thing I don't really touch is red meat. Have eaten some great salads and seafood and found the food to be extremely tasty and of high quality.

If you are really worried then check out Trip Advisor in the areas you are going and read other travellers experiences about different restaurants.

One thing I learnt years ago was to avoid the places that only really cater for Western tourists as often the food is not authentic and they tone the flavours down as they think we can't cope with the spice, heat etc.

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