Can I Drink the Water and Other Important Questions

In another week and a half, Tawn and I will have some very special guests.  My longest-time friend, whom I’ve known since we met in three-year old preschool, and his family are coming for a visit on their way to China.  Of course, I enjoy all the guests we have visit, but with Brad and Donna and their children, it feels like family coming to spend time with us.

In the course of preparing, they’ve been sending me emails with loads of questions.  What should we wear?  What will the weather be like?  Is it safe to drink the water?  What about when we brush our teeth?  Should we bring toilet paper?

I love these questions because they remind me of my early visits to Thailand.  Tawn and I met on my second trip to the kingdom and in the nearly six years between that first meeting and when I moved here, I must have made ten trips here, each time learning a bit more about the country and culture, and each time figuring out what it might be like to move here.

The water issue was one of my big fears.  Every hotel you go to in Bangkok provides a couple of bottles of complimentary drinking water, the implication being that drinking from the tap is not a good idea.  And it isn’t, kind of.  Tawn’s uncle used to run the water department and swears that the water coming out of the department is world-class.  And it is.

The problem is, that world-class water has to travel through all sorts of maybe not world-class pipes in order to arrive at your tap.  Every so often I have to unscrew our facet heads and clean out sand and grit from the screens inside, so there is definitely some organic matter that makes it through the system.

That said, we still drink tap water at home after it has been run through a three-part filter.  In the two and a half years we’ve been in this condo, we haven’t had any problems catching ill from water-borne bugs.  In our previous apartment we actually had a bottled water service, but when we moved into the condo I didn’t want to deal with large bottles of water sitting about.

In fact, when I first moved here and before we got the bottled water service, we used to buy 5-liter bottles of water from the store and cart them home.  For the longest time, I didn’t understand that there is an informal recycling system here (scavengers go through the trash and sell the recyclables) so on my first trip back to the US after moving here, I actually brought a suitcase filled with old bottles, cut in half and nested together to save space, so I could recycle them.  Once I learned about the informal recycling system, I realized how silly my action had been.

Also when I first moved here, I was worried about getting water in my mouth when taking a shower or brushing my teeth.  It wasn’t until I did some research and read expat forums like that I realized I was being silly about that, too.  A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now, as Eponine sings in Les Miserables.

But those questions are a good sign, I think.  A curiosity about the world and a desire to be prepared, things I value in myself and in others.

What questions have you asked in your travels that you later felt were a bit silly?

0 thoughts on “Can I Drink the Water and Other Important Questions

  1. Very legitimate questions. By the way, to date, whenever I visit China I still bring with me a bottle of distilled water, a roll of toilet paper, and some biscuits, in case I am thirsty, hungry and want to go to the toilet.

  2. “I plan to drink boiled water or Coke when I visit.  Is it ok?”  This qualifies for a silly question, right?  One time, my friend bought a bottled water in China, and noticed a layer of sediment on the bottom.  My friend asked me, “Is it ok to drink?”.   Seriously, I think it is better to ask before hand than to ask after having to sit on the “throne” for hours.   

  3. When Pat was already living in Bangkok and I was getting ready to join him, I asked him where the nearest laundromat was…I thought he would expire from laughter!!! Turns out the “laundromat” was the tub of water out in the back yard that our maid used to hand wash all of our clothes!!! I have a picture of Noi…our #1 maid, kneeling down on the ground in front of my “laundromat”…washing my clothes in one of my picture albums!!! I have been MIA around here for a while…just too crazy around here to allow me to sit down and read anyone’s entries, much less write anything of my own. Hope things are going well over there with you all. It sounds like things have settled down and it is starting to return to “normal” there in Bangkok.  Of course it is going to take a long time for all of the damage to be taken care of and I am sure that some of the smaller businesses may never be able to reopen and get things back to the way they would like them to be. Ruth Ann

  4. Not sure about questions I’ve asked that were silly, but I remember being asked some silly questions about MD. Someone from CA once asked me how can I stand the cold weather all the time. I had to remind her that our state does go through hot and cold seasons haha.

  5. I always have water questions whenever I go to another country. Sometimes they’re silly, other times they’re legit (I’ve been to Mexico a lot but I still always have water questions).

  6. Any anti-diarrhea measures are certainly not silly. Have fun with your friends, goodness since you were in preschool? I too have some friends I’ve know that long. It’s the absolute best, when you get to see them.

  7. It is prudent for those who don’t travel much to boil the water they use. I’ve gotten sick off of the water in Thailand before. Not the greatest feeling in the world, but then again nothing a little pepto and immodium couldn’t solve.

  8. @yang1815 – That explains all the Taiwanese boys with strong glutes.@LostSock21 – @Texana – @choyshinglin – Certainly not implying that questions regarding water safety are inherently silly.  What I found silly was the extent to which I was worried about something that wasn’t really a factor.  A few drops of water in my mouth when brushing my teeth in modern-day Bangkok would not put me at risk.@Texana – Yes, I feel really lucky that I still have a close-knit group of friends that tie back to elementary and junior high school.@Roadlesstaken – Just like New Mexico being a part of Mexico.  How can Americans be so clueless about their own country’s geography?@TheCheshireGrins – I find if I stick to Perrier or Evian anywhere I go, I’ll be fine.  Ha ha…@Redlegsix – Actually, we had problems with that same thing when we moved here.  There really aren’t any laundrymats to this day!@ElusiveWords – You can’t do the Asian squat?  Watch this funny 1950s-style video and learn:@stevew918 – At first glance, I read “boiled Coke”… blech.@Dezinerdreams – While we’re in town, can we visit Old Delhi, too?  Ha ha…@Bodhiseeker – No, no, let’s get you started with them!

  9. @Wangium – Broadly speaking, it is a good idea to drink bottled water here just to be safe, but no need to get freaked out about things like brushing your teeth with tap water or rinsing your mouth out with it.

  10. Gosh I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone questions before. I’m always reading up on website and travel guides to get my lay of the land before I arrive anywhere. 🙂

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