Saturday, July 31, 2010

Don't drink the water.

Living out in the sticks we have more than our fair share of over sized rats. The crops of rice keep them well fed and my mother-in-law makes sure that they don't go without by throwing left over and unwanted food straight out of the kitchen window.  My young nephew, Jem, sets traps for them a couple of times a week. The traps consist of a metal gauze box with a spring loaded trap door at one end. A small piece of food is suspended inside and when Roland patters inside for a free meal the door springs shut behind him and his fate is sealed.
                            As with most things, with any calorific value, in rural Thailand the unfortunate rodents are destined for the wok. But before they can be prepared they have to be sent to meet their maker. Young Jem does this by hooking the traps onto a piece of cord and dropping them into the river that runs by outside our house. The river is dry at the moment so Jem has been "dispatching" the rats by dropping the traps into a large plastic dustbin of water that is located directly by the entrance to the shop that takes up the downstairs part of our house. The bin is kept topped up from a nearby hosepipe.    Customers visiting the shop will often use the half submerged plastic ladle to wash their hands and face and generally freshen up. On occasion, i've even seen them drink the contents without a second thought.
                          You're probably ahead of me by now but i will continue.
The other day Jem retrieved his latest victims from the bin and took the proverbial drowned rats out to the kitchen for preparation. Just then, a customer alighted from his motorcycle and ordered some ice. While he was waiting for his order to be bagged up he lifted the ladle from the dustbin and ,leaning forward, poured some of the water over the back of his neck and head. He lifted a second ladle and, to my horror, took half a dozen long pulls to slake his thirst.   I watched wide eyed and open mouthed as he collected his purchase, pocketed his change and kick started his steed.
                          I would have thought that drinking untreated water is probably taking a chance at the best of times. I'm almost certain that drinking untreated water that has just been used to drown rats in a rusty cage is really asking for trouble.    I went into the shop and told Laong what her last customer had unwittingly done. She just shrugged and said "up to him".


  1. If it's not in a bottle (barrels not included) I wouldn't be drinking it. Wonder how he's feeling now?

  2. Tom a fantastic story, I knew what the end was going to be but I had to keep reading hoping I was wrong.

    I have always had a theory that if you are brought up doing these kind of things (drinking rainwater, swimming in muddy rivers etc) you build up a kind of immunity to many bugs and viruses which thrive in such waters. What would knock me and you for six wouldn't shake a leg of most Thais, and because you have lived in Thailand for so long your immune system might not be as good as a Thais but would be better than the average tourist. I've spent a lot of time in Thai villages and it's rare I ever pick up a stomach upset back here in the UK. Please don't test my theory out on the blue plastic bin.

    Surely rats mean there's snakes about.

  3. hi snap, the guy in question hasn't been seen for a couple of days!!

  4. Hi Martyn, We have a filter system for water in the kitchen but i still drink bottled water or tiger beer just to be on the safe side.

  5. Interesting post. Thanks for this.

    In town we always drink bottled water or something with alcohol in it - for its antibacterial properties of course....
    In Isaan we drink water from a covered rainwater butt. The tube from the gutter to fill the butts is only inserted after 10 or 20 mins of rain (so that it's coming from a recently washed roof).

    By the way, my sister-in-law has a problem with cobras congregating where she washes the dishes (outside, in the garden). The cobras are there for the rats. The rats are there for the scraps.

    All the best, Boonsong

  6. nice one tom made me smile enjoying your littel blogs its as if your still at home

  7. Yes,the food chain of scraps--> rats--> snakes means we have a few unwelcome reptilian visitors from time to time. But, of course, it's only me who thinks that this is a problem. To everyone else it's just part of daily life in the boondocks.