I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I went to Thailand. I spent about four months furiously planning my trip, spent two weeks in Thailand, and then POOF, a year goes by just like that. Although I posted on Facebook and Twitter about my trip, I never officially wrote up my trip on this blog. Thanks to a follower on Twitter who is heading on her own trip to Thailand, I am finally putting my post together. Thanks Jenna (@gfreechicago) for pushing me to put this post together and safe travels to Southeast Asia!
My trip to Thailand was really unlike any travel I had ever done in the past. It was my first time in Asia and no amount of reading, Tweeting, and blogging, could prepare me for such a different experience. From the moment I stepped into the extreme heat of Bangkok, I knew I was VERY far from home.
I flew to Bangkok, Thailand via Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Emirates Airline. This was by far the nicest airline I ever flew with anywhere in the world. This was the biggest airplane with the most staff and the greatest number of passengers than I had ever seen in all my years of travel. When I first booked my trip via the Emirates website, I had the ability to choose a gluten-free meal directly online. This was reassuring and I made sure to check and recheck my meal before I boarded. Of course this didn’t stop me from bringing lots of food in my carry-on. I had close to 20 hours of flying, so I wanted to make sure I was prepared. Emirates provided me with safe meals that were clearly labeled gluten-free. This was reassuring on such a long flight!
Bangkok was hot, chaotic, different, confusing, smelly, sultry, and so much more. Everyone told me that I would hate it, but I loved it! I felt like it was a Thai New York City on speed. Bangkok was my introduction to Asia and although I was only there for 2 ½ days, I felt it was a really interesting and exotic welcome to Thailand.
I arrived in Bangkok very late at night so I ate some of the food I brought with me on the lane. I was eager for a shower and a bed but the time change screwed me up. The first meal I ate in Bangkok was breakfast at my hotel. Shortly after breakfast, I got sick, like run for the toilet sick. Not a great first day in Thailand but I think it was my body in shock from a long flight, a very hot climate, and the fruit at the hotel breakfast. I was alone, upset, and in need for a bathroom. Once the initial sickness passed, I was fine for the rest of the trip. I do NOT think this reaction was due to gluten, but it definitely felt like my insides were dying.
Anyway, after the first morning of being sick I was fine and excited to explore. I was thrown off with eating times due to the 12 hour time difference so I ate at random times and locations throughout the first few days. I was also disoriented by all of the smells, sights, and different foods sold everywhere in Bangkok. It was definitely culture shock.
I was only in Bangkok for 2.5 days so I hired a guide for a full day tour and it was so worth it. Her name is Nok and she is super friendly and speaks English really well. Here is Nok’s Facebook page. Her boyfriend is British, takes care of her bookings via email, and will answer all of your questions in English before your tour. I highly recommend a tour with Nok. You can book for Bangkok or other parts of Thailand. If you book a tour, tell Nok I sent you! Click here to book a tour with Nok.
Gluten-free in Bangkok
Before I left for Thailand, I had printed out translation cards from CeliacTravel.com. I was also sent some strongly-worded, allergy cards from SelectWisely.com. These were laminated cards that highlighted exactly what I needed to avoid in both English and Thai.
I put together this map of Bangkok before I left. It is random with possibly GF friendly restaurants, landmarks, and supermarkets. http://goo.gl/maps/ITKpH
I actually didn’t wind up eating at any of those places on the map. I had a really weird food schedule the first few days (I think due to acclimating to the climate/jet lag) and didn’t eat regular meals. I did update the map recently and tried to confirm that all of the places on the map are still open. Before you head to Thailand, you might want to check too.
When I travel, I try to “check-in” via Foursquare when wi-fi is available or to write places down. Here is where I ate in Bangkok:
Baan Saladaeng: Hotel breakfast each day with fruit, made-to-order eggs, juice, and bread from home. This hotel was in a great location, was clean and inexpensive, and had a friendly staff. I definitely recommend this as a budget hotel in Bangkok.
Rice Bar: Korean food near my hotel. They were not too sure about what gluten was, even when I used my translation cards. I had plain rice and tofu. Not my favorite, but I was hungry and it was sufficient
Oldies Cafe: I used my translation cards here and they gave me grilled chicken, veggies, and rice.
Vertigo, Banyan Tree Hotel: I went to this bar for rooftop drinks and to see the hazy sunset over Bangkok.
7-11: You will be amazed at the huge number of 7-11s that dot the streets of Thailand. I went here twice daily to pick up really cheap bottled water and snacks such as potato chips. Please note, snacks in Thailand don’t always have labeling in English. Even though I stuck to brands I knew (such as Lay’s) there was no guarantee the snacks were always totally safe. Perhaps this is a gamble I shouldn’t have taken so far from home, but I didn’t have a problem when the labels where in English and it was a familiar brand.
Fruit: I same some very interesting fruit in Bangkok. I heard about the notorious and stinky durian fruit but didn’t dare to try it. I saw dragonfruit for the first time. I saw rose apples for the first time. The fruit markets are abundant in Bangkok and a gluten-free option for those daring enough to try these exotic fruits.
While these might not be the most exciting suggestions for where to eat gluten-free in Bangkok, I want to reassure you that it can be done. Do your research and bring translation cards!
Highlights of Bangkok
I really cannot pick a favorite thing about Bangkok. It was a chaotic and quick 2.5 days and I took hundreds of pictures. I was literally in awe at every turn I took. Here are just a sample of photos from this amazing city.
Stay tuned for my gluten-free post about Chiang Mai, Thaland!