Jun 17th, 2010, 01:32 PM
Original Poster
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How seriously do we need to avoid (if at all) the tap water and ice cubes in Thailand, particularly Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui? We are ice-addicted Americans, so this is a "major" concern of my brother's.
misserbee is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 02:11 PM
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No tap water!!! Absolutely!!! Nada!!! Drink only bottled water. Hotels will typically provide you with free bottles (I usually have 2 on my counter everyday) of water, but 7-11, which is everywhere, sells bottled water very cheap.

As far as the ice goes, you only want purified ice. I would ask first before taking chances. Your major hotels and restaurants should have purified ice. Like I said, ask first if you want to be sure. I always ask my Thai friend about the ice before I have some put into a glass.

I'm curious to see what the other regulars have to say about this. For me, only bottled water and usually very little ice!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 02:19 PM
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Yes bottled water only and can soda etc. Avoid tap water and don't eat street food from the vendors. Others disagree on this last point but I only would point out that the street vendors do not have the proper food handling and sanitation as well as refrigeration necessary- your vacation is not worth the risk!
BillT is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 02:50 PM
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The commercial ice you find in Bangkok (cylindrical, with a hole in the middle) is made from purified water. Avoid all crushed ice or any ice you have doubts about.

And, as others have said, bottled water only.
Kathie is online now  
Jun 17th, 2010, 03:29 PM
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The no water rule applies to brushing your teeth too. Seems only common sense -- but I was on a tour w/ one gal totally stuck to bottled water/purified ice --except she had brain fade and completely disassociated tooth brushing from -- "oh yeah, that's tap water".

Lived (barely) to tell the tale, but she was one sick puppy.
janisj is online now  
Jun 17th, 2010, 03:40 PM
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The tap water, in Bangkok, is actually safe, when it leaves the plant. Unfortunately, the bad condition of the delivery system usually contaminate it!

Same holds true for crushed ice. The original blocks can be just fine. But, the crushers may be marginally maintained, the shipping bags can be reused and the ice could have been sitting anywhere, getting contaminated.

Bottom line is that, even "good" water can upset someone not accustomed. Different regions have different "benign" bacteria. Although locals are used to them, visitors can have negative reactions.

Bottled water is available everywhere. Drink plenty, more than you think you need.

BTW, "asking" any "yes or no" question will, almost always, result in a cheerful "yes". Besides aiding any possible sale, "yes" is just more polite!
Curt1591 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 05:39 PM
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Curt, another answer I've heard alot is 'sure!'
simpsonc510 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 06:51 PM
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Kathie's advice is, I'm afraid, outdated and just plain voodoo. The ice machines that make tubular ice are ancient and not sold anymore. The shape of the ice has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it's any good. In truth, all commercial ice is made with purified water. Whether or not it's any good depends on how it's stored. Road side stalls, and even some restaurants, don't have ice machines, they buy it from a vendor (in Thailand, the ice man still cometh every day). If the ice is 'bad' it's because it's stored in a dirty container, which is a bit more likely at a stall.

I don't hesitate to take ice in my drinks from a restaurant, and really have never refused it in a stall either.
MichaelBKK is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 07:03 PM
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Really, Michael? I do believe I saw the cylindrical ice when I was in Bangkok in November. That was my rule for years, but perhaps it's outdated.

I agree that commercial ice is made with purified water, but the handling can be an issue.
Kathie is online now  
Jun 18th, 2010, 04:52 AM
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So what's the consensus? do street vendors use safe ice or not in their drinks/smoothies? I so want to drink exotic thai drinks and smoothies from the vendors as part of the street food experience, but not if it will make me sick...
suep1 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 05:07 AM
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When I used to stay at Patumwan House, near MBK mall, I walked past an ice smaking/selling/storing facility. I was not impressed. Nowadays, while having my breakfast at Adelphi, I see the ice truck coming down soi 8 with its white rice bags of ice to deliver along the street. I'd be hesitant...

Sue, you can get exotic Thai drinks at restaurants and bars, where you don't really need to worry about the ice. For my street vendor experience, I'd be more apt to get just the fresh fruit that has had its outer skin peeled away while I've watched.

Up to you.

Michaelbkk lives in Bangkok, so he is probably right. But since he has been there for a number of years, maybe his stomach is much more attuned to Thai food/spices/'bugs'... maybe? I don't think I would risk it, personally, but I'm not an ice chewer at all. Just my own thoughts.

Have a fantastic time, by the way, miserbee.


(I've used tap water for teeth-brushing in my hotel/apartment and have not had a problem, but I don't swallow, and I immediately swish with mouthwash and bottled water)
simpsonc510 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 06:51 AM
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There is plenty of controversy here about the safety of street food. Hanuman posted some time ago about an area of hawker stalls that has been set up like Malaysian hawker centers with running water, etc to improve hygiene. But hawker stalls on the streets of Bangkok do not have access to restroom facilities and handwashing facilities. Read the cdc food and water precautions and know when (and why) you choose to violate the guidelines. Over the years, I've developed my own sense of where I eat salads, for instance. But this is my experience, and you need to make your choices.

As Carol says, you can get any of the street food dishes/drinks in non-street food venues.

I mentioned earlier not taking crushed ice. I've seem the big blocks of ice hauled into bars and eateries, dragged across sidewalks, etc, then chipped for making crushed ice. Just the act of crushing ice introduces more opportunities for contamination.

(I've done the same with teeth-brushing in Bangkok, but I know water quality varies from one hotel to another, as per Curt's comments above. And I know people who have gotten sick from brushing their teeth with tap water, notably own own beloved gpanda who got quite ill in LP.)

Do your research, sue and miserbee, and make your own best decision.
Kathie is online now  
Jun 18th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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Thanks everyone for your input. My problem is, I have done a lot of research from many different sources, and am really just confused. It seems everyone does their own thing, so maybe I just have to live and learn? I'm not sure if I have a "sensitive" stomach or not, but I do know that I have gotten very sick from water in the states before. I do live in the city with the country's "best water", so maybe it's best to be extra cautious. I really do want to experience "street food", though. And, I have heard that some people have found their favorite meals/foods that way. I'll just use good judgement, and watch how they are making the food for others before trying it for myself I suppose.
misserbee is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 09:43 AM
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Street stalls are diferent from each other, people are different from each other.

Know the food and water precautions, then make your own choices. If you opt for street food, you are safest with items cooked right in front of you. Items that have sat around for a while, or uncooked items like cut up fruit are riskier.
Kathie is online now  
Jun 18th, 2010, 04:14 PM
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"Hot off the grill (wok)" is a good rule.
Curt1591 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 05:06 PM
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misserbee: Here's the best advice I can give: don't worry about it so much.

Yes, definitely take the general advice heeded here (translation: use common sense and don't drink tap water) and then go enjoy your trip.

Trust me, it's not worth fretting over all the things that could go wrong or could make you sick. In general, stay away from things that 'don't seem right' and trust your instinct.

There is no way to guarantee not getting sick when traveling...it can happen to anyone. But luckily, it really doesn't happen all that often.

I say this in the best spirit and most earnest way possible. There's so many wonderful and beautiful things to see in Thailand...the last thing you want to be doing is constantly worrying while you're there.
filmwill is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 05:16 PM
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ok, i will expand this a bit....we do not eat salads except in top notch restaurants and hotels for the same reason....washing with what water???

we shower and keep our mouths shut....we drink only bottled water....we avoid ice except in 5* hotels and top notch restaurants....

gpanda always suggests: drink the water fast before the ice melts to avoid any problem
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 05:52 PM
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"gpanda always suggests: drink the water fast before the ice melts to avoid any problem"

That would have to be pretty fast. The biggest chance of problems is surface contamination.
Curt1591 is offline  
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