Taking Care of One’s Stomach While Wandering

Trip Start Nov 17, 2009
Trip End Sep 05, 2010

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Where I stayed
Mutiara Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Saturday, January 9, 2010

WM delves into this subject with delicate caution.  Rest assured that Conde Nast will never call and ask to buy the rights to publish this story in their magazine.  However, WM is a practical man, and the following is important practical information for any other Wanderers out there.

There is a prototype of a bule traveler who gets what is hemispherically known  as "Delhi Belly".  This fellow eats pizza, KFC, burgers from Ronald the Red Haired Satan.  He is too cautious to eat street food, too wise to be suckered into eating the unfamiliar. And, most unfortunately for his gastronomic health, he does not eat the chile.

WM always eases himself into the fiery elements of local cuisine when arriving.  WM brushes his teeth with bottled water for a couple of weeks (and ALWAYS brushes with bottled water in Bangkok and Jakarta). After a couple of weeks the body has become progressively more accustomed to bacteria different from back in the world and less coution is required.

WM loves street food and follows a couple of common sense rules, as the Health Department man has not made an inspection of these cats for some time.

1.        If local people are eating there it's probably safe. Ask yourself—if it ain’t clean, why would they eat there?

2.       Check for cleanliness—do they cover the food prep area when not in use, are dirty dishes stacked/cleaned away from the food prep area, is chicken handled safely?

Then WM tucks in and enjoys.  And WM eats the garlic and the chile—a lot of it—because his extensive Wandering experience has taught him that these two things are prophylaxis against bugs and germs and bacteria.  By eating like this one can learn about and enjoy local cuisine and, in a counterintuitive way, be less likely to get sick.

Having said this, one can expect, at some point, to get travelers’ stomach. It happens.  WW got it about a month ago and WM had to go to the pharmacy to get some Immodium as we had an unavoidable bus journey that very day. (Immodium is generally a big mistake-- all it does is plug up in your gut the bacteria that your body is trying to expel. But expelling bodily bacteria on a 3 hour bus trip is frowned upon in these parts.)

So WM goes to the pharmacy and asks for Immodium. Unfortunately, this is a brand name unknown to the Indonesians working there.  So WM had to pantomime the symptom for which he was seeking to purchase relief.  Not to be outperformed, the guy behind the counter pantomimed back his “explosive diarrhea dance”, and pretty soon most of the customers in the pharmacy were joining in, trying to help the bule get the correct medicine.  It was quite a sight.

Below is a pic of an Asian squat toilet for those who have never seen one.  Many Asians swear that this is hygienically superior to a Western toilet and they are probably correct, however, a Western toilet does not require an acute sense of balance (or feet small enough to fit on the foot grids).  If you plan to wander on this continent you too will have to learn to use this. It’s easy—don’t overthink yourself.

So, in conclusion;  Eat the chile and garlic, lay off the familiar white boy food, pay attention to the cleanliness of street food stalls, and remember-if all you eat here is McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and McBurgers, you should have saved yourself the plane fare and stayed in Poughkepsie.
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T. Harper on

Too bad there's not a video of the pharmacy episode.

wandering_man on

I leave it to your imagination. FOrtunately it was the day we were leaving town, so WW never got teased by the locals about her idiot husband.

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