food, food in Third World countries, haiku, Indian food, nomadic life, spicy food, travel, travel diet, travel meals
Yummy spicy food
Novel exotic flavours
Tummy shrieking NO!
English in other countries
Conned fish and checken
And a third – a joint effort with Don:
Khmer menu choice
Omelet with chess, and long beens
Play to win good food
Diet is a constant issue when travelling. We can’t eat the way we did at home, when we had a home. Also apparently our bodies are less tolerant than when we were younger.
In India we had some pretty awful, but “serviceable” breakfasts of eggs and bread. For other meals we ate Indian for about the first three weeks. As long as it wasn’t too spicy we were fine. But . . . . an Indian’s definition of mild is quite different from ours. It was fine for Julie and Robbie who had long since developed a taste for highly spiced food. Don and I were on fire. I was determined to get used to it, and did with time. I loved butter chicken and chicken tikka and some of the other dishes. But when we forgot to ask for mild both Don and I were in trouble. Holy moly I am not into masochism. It was painful. Not only in my mouth and on my lips. All night my stomach would be shrieking what have you done to me?
Then after about three weeks or so we were both done. The craving for familiar food took over, and it was not hard to find. But . . . . yes another but – unless you’re really sure about preparation it’s not smart to eat raw food. It’s the water it’s been washed in, or not washed in, or the unwashed hands that prepared it. In Tiruvannamalai we ate salad at a “western” restaurant, owned by a German woman and her Indian husband, that was highly recommended. It had great food and friends had been eating there regularly for weeks. We had one salad and both got sick. Someone that day didn’t wash the lettuce properly. So mostly we do without fresh fruit and raw vegetables, not just in India, but in South East Asia too. It’s not that we never eat fruit, just not as often as we normally would. When we do we call it living dangerously.
Just this past week I’ve been sick enough that I knew I had to take a course of the broad-spectrum antibiotics we carry with us. Who knows what it was. We’ve been eating the local pineapple. Once I forgot and rinsed my mouth with tap water after cleaning my teeth. We’ve been eating baguettes with lettuce and tomato in them. It can be any little thing.
Since leaving India and coming to SE Asia we often have soup for breakfast – broth with vegetables, chicken and noodles. Or fried rice with vegetables. We think differently now about what kinds of foods should be eaten at particular meals. We eat what’s available to a large extent, still avoiding anything too highly spiced, and sometimes taking the risk with raw food. Yesterday we had rice and fish and vegetables for lunch, and chicken baguettes at home for dinner.
We take our daily vitamins.
We never never drink tap water.
A deeper side of this is my life-long issue with weight, at times verging on anorexia, and how being nomadic had forced some painful self-awareness and letting go. I’ll write about that in the next post in This Nomadic Life
Photo of the day: The meat market, Thongkhan Kham Market, Vientiane, Laos
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.
Once in India I had to stop eating anything but ‘curds’ after eating local ‘normal’ hot food – it wrenched my stomach for about 10 days. Then I drank fresh tender coconut water – very clean and healing.
We avoided the curd too (though I love it), having read that that too can be dicey. When we actually lived in Tiru we knew which curd was safe, but on the road it was still a bit of a risk. Don loves coconut water, me not so much.
We’re both fine now.
I think some stomachs are just not built for spicy food. I’m fine if it’s mild. If it’s normal Indian spicy (ie really really hot) my stomach screams for about 24 hours.
Anyes - Far Away in the Sunshine said:
Good luck with all the eating challenges you are facing Alison 🙂
Thanks Anyes. It’s not all bad, that’s for sure. We’ve had many fabulous meals. Lobster to die for in Saigon and exquisite crepes in Vientiane are two that come to mind right now. And no doubt many more to come 🙂
Anyes - Far Away in the Sunshine said:
Looking forward to read about it Alison 🙂
I love ‘ht stuff’ and I’m an adventurous eater, but your blog is a good example of how you shoud really take care,… great post, thanks! I feel hungry now!
Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the like. Had a look around your blog which looks very interesting – some great stories, and photos!
Did you go get something to eat?
My husband made some orange marmalade last week… I sneaked a little piece of bread and had some lovely marmalade!
What a great husband!
He is! Great marmalade too!
Cora Unk Photo said:
Hi Alison, I love to read your stories. Vientiane also a city which I have been visiting. I’m in India again. I had to laugh about your above mentioned story about food in India. Offcourse always be carefull what to eat and drink, for me I was very ill once in Sri Lanka, my own fault, I wanted to eat jackfruit before leaving for home. Which I found out, I was infected by amoebe dysenterie, I don’t know how to translate this, I never felt so sick in my life. In India I’m always more carefull what to eat and drink. Funny is the Indians always see me as a very strange foreigner who eats and likes spicy food. Foreigners don’t eat spicy food they say. Anyway I will follow you and I’m also into some nice events coming up, The Blue Lotus Festival in Pushkar, a wedding party in Jaipur…….Have fun and be carefull!
Oy amoebic dysentery! Too awful. I hope you’re fully recovered.
I’m looking forward to reading about, and seeing your photos of the Blue Lotus festival, and the wedding. I bet both will be fabulous experiences.
Have a great time.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap said:
I really feel for you with this very real dilemma. The paradox of life is always upon us-here you are living the free beautiful life with the reality of infectious disruptions. You’re living it smartly and doing what you can. I wish I could send you some freeze dried packs of this and that to take along with you (like the astronauts)-that’s just moi, wanting to help. What I can do is keep you in my good thoughts that you continue to enjoy and stay healthy. Paulette
I just discovered this in my spam box! Apparently you are an evil spammer trying to sell us freeze-dried food! 🙂
Thank you for your kind thoughts, and for holding us in goodness. We are well, and hopefully will continue to be so.
I do the same for you.
Peripatetic Eric said:
That’s the way it is isn’t it? One can’t ever let their guard down in this regard. Enjoyed the haikus!
Thanks Eric. Been reading a lot of haikus following other blogs – it got stuck in my head!
Yeah, you can’t let your guard down, or if you do it’s always a risk.
Alison, if it’s any consolation, your story of food on the road is also our story. I suspect that most long term travelers go through a similar saga. We try to eat healthy food when we can, but in many places this just isn’t possible. We just talk about when we get sick, and not if we get sick. Hopefully, we’re in place when it hits.
Yes I think our food story on the road is just about the same for all travellers. Long-term it can be a bit of a challenge. We wouldn’t go anywhere without the broad-spectrum antibiotics. You never know when it’s going to get you 🙂
Our latest adventure is I got stung by a wasp on a trek in Laos. The irony was when we did our research before this trip the message was don’t get sick in Laos, don’t get sick in Laos.
After 2 days and the sting area becoming more swollen and worse, we got royally ripped off by a tuk tuk driver to get to the hospital here in Luang Prabang. I got to see a Thai doctor who prescribed an antibiotic ointment, and an anti-allergy medication – exactly what I needed. The visit with the doctor and the medications combined cost less than the tuk tuk!
Thanks Alison and Don for sharing your haikus and experiences. There’s no need for antibiotics unless it’s a dire emergency. I’ve traveled to SE Asia, India, Laos, Cambodia and drank tap, ate raw fruits and veggies and never once got sick. The secret:
I use Traveler’s friend, it’s all natural grapefruit seed extract that’s sold in a bottle. Just squeeze a few drops in water and drink it during any “questionable” meal. It’s awesome, never once had an upset tummy. However, it’s extremely bitter and needs to be diluted in a glass of water. I use it as a mixer and squeeze in a lime or lemon to make it palatable. We all swear by it, it may be a solution for you. I know they sell it here in the states, check the web.
Happy traveling folks, and thanks for the tip – no tuk-tuks! 😉
I never knew about drinking it! We carry it with us always for washing fruits and vegetables before eating/preparing (a few drops in a basin of water), but never thought to dilute and drink it. We actually have way more bottles of it with us than we need this trip because we’ve mostly been eating out, but know we’ll use it all up eventually. Thanks for the tip.
Yeah tuk tuks! It was our own fault – lack of communication. Whatev. It happens now and then 🙂
This story is both exhilarating and excruciating — I love eating, but I don’t think I can ever be half as adventurous as you when it comes to food. I hate to be a partypooper, but I hope you take extra care about your food, if only to preserve yourself for far greater adventures in farther places. I think I can handle a bout with stomach illnesses every now and then, but some bacteria or parasites stay with you forever. Plus there’s poison. I don’t know if you’ve seen “Into the Wild,” a film helmed by Sean Penn adapted from the true-to-life tale of a young middle class man who gave up material comforts in pursuit of a free, “natural” life in the Alaskan wilderness. In the end, he ate some poisonous plant or berries, which killed him.
Ah what a wonderful story! I am at a loss for words, but if this guy had not lived his life the way he did and died in the process, if he lived to tell, it would have been a different story altogether — could be worse could be better who knows?
But do take care. Okay maybe we all ought to throw caution to the wind if our lives were to become epic. I don’t know. This story of yours is getting my mind all worked up, my thoughts going every which way. I’m sorry if I sound like a grownup telling kids to stay away from the edge. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m egging you to get closer and closer to the edge. I have a feeling I’m doing both.
We take quite a bit of care with what we eat, but occasionally not enough care, and oregano oil is amazingly efficient at getting rid of parasites 🙂
Not about to eat anything from the wild either.
I’m glad you’re having so much fun with our adventures 🙂
We’re always telling ourselves and each other – “lets get closer to the edge”, then “stay away from the edge”, then “we’ve got to get closer to the edge”, then “no, pull back a little, we’re too close to the edge”. And so the story goes.
We’re off to Myanmar soon – think that’s going to be pretty close to the edge.
Also met some people at dinner the other night, and one (man) said Guatemala (and Central America) is really dangerous, and the other (a woman) said she loved Guatemala and had a wonderful time there. We’re going anyway. I have friends living there.