This is in reply to a story I was sent. The story was about Vietnam and appeared in the NY Times. The guy talked about street food in Saigon, and I think he got permanent brain damage from food poisoning.
The story is nonsense. Some of the Viet food he mentions is too dirty for foreigners to eat, although most street food, if the vendor and cart look clean, is safe to eat. My problem with street food is the dishes. They rinse the dishes in a bucket and then another bucket, but the water is not that clean and I’m afraid of catching what the people before me had.
Today, in a very clean restaurant we often eat at, I watched the waiter pick up vegetables with his hand and put them on top of my food. A minute before he was picking up dirty dishes and I know he did not wash his hand between that and putting raw veggies on my food. What I don’t know or see doesn’t bother me as much as what I do.
The idea of people washing their hands with soap after using the toilet is pretty strange to most. My wife finally tired of my nagging and washes her hands often–far more often than 99% of anyone here in VN. I see people using a toilet in a restaurant, both guests and employees. When they use the bathroom, they do not wash their hands with or without soap. Before you get too upset, I saw the same thing in a toilet in a Safeway supermarket in Annapolis, MD. A guy defecated and left the bathroom without washing his hands. He then proceeded straight to the meat counter where he worked butchering meat for sale to the public.
Most people in VN, China, and Thailand do not throw toilet tissue in the toilet after wiping. Instead they put it in a bag in a basket which is changed every day, or when overflowing. Here and in China there usually are not any ‘flush’ toilets, and not often real toilets with seats. Just a hole surrounded by porcelain that you squat over. The trick is not to dirty your pants. There are no handles to hang on to, and I am just too fat and old to be using a “Squat Toilet”. The expression, “Shit or Get Off the Pot” does not apply here. More appropriate would be: “Stand and Deliver!”
Some of this makes sense. If you think of 1,500.000,000 people throwing used toilet paper down the sewage system, you realize that without flowing water (squat toilets are flushed by dumping a small pot of water down the hole after you defecate or urinate), the paper blockages would rival the Three Gorges Dam.
Of course, many swear that China is full of shit anyway…