Because I'm traveling on Tuesday this week, I'm posting Tuesday Travel Memories on Sunday. Today's continuation of the series showcases my pick for the Worst Case of Food Poisoning Ever.
I struggled to choose between two very memorable occasions in making this selection. In the end, though, the illness procured from excessive olive intake in a Nile-side restaurant in Aswan, Egypt, and experienced on an overnight train to Cairo via Luxor, beat out that disgusting Chinese Restaurant in Bangkok which made my brief trip to Hong Kong a very unpleasant blur. And I have to say that, as a result, the best part of the King Tut exhibit at the museum in Cairo was that I got a seat on a bench. It was that bad.
So my advice to anyone traveling to areas of the world that may not have our North American or European standards of cleanliness is as follows:
1. Avoid all ice. Everyone knows to avoid water, so I won't bother too much with that one -- but don't forget: no ice in your drink, no popsicles or Italian ice, etc. Carbonated water is safer than flat water, germ-wise -- because you know it really came from a bottle and wasn't a used bottle refilled in the restaurant's kitchen sink.
2. If offered tea or coffee in a "furrin" country, make sure it has been boiled for long enough to kill the bugs. (According to the CDC, this would be a rolling boil for 1 minute.)
3. My fatal mistake in Aswan was that the olives in the middle east/mediterranean are preserved in oil and not brine. Not sure that carries with it the same anti-bug feature. This was an outdoor restaurant and they had likely been standing in the sun for who-knows-how-long.
4. Do not eat fruit or veggies that cannot be peeled or are hard to wash -- like salad. Make sure you peel stuff yourself, too.
5. Take over the counter medicine with you -- you're probably going to get sick no matter what you do. Interestingly, we all got QUITE the opposite problem when travelingback to relatively clean countries like Israel and the US. After a year in Jordan, our bodies were just stumped by the lack of bugs with laxative qualities in the West Bank. One of my friends actually contracted Typhoid while on a dig in Syria and was just ever so whiney on our Israeli tour. We didn't miss a chance to tell him so, either. We all felt really, really badly when we learned he was really sick instead of just being a baby.
This all sounds scary, I know, but the experience of taking the road less traveled by is totally worth it.