2018 was another big year for Gluten-Free Globetrotter. I went to six countries, traveled via air and car around 100,000 miles (if not more), and moved back to New York City from California via a cross-country road trip. One of my favorite trips of the year was an unexpected work trip to Singapore. What a beautiful and interesting country. I also loved my cross-country road trip with my mom and South Dakota was a surprise fave from the drive. I also went to Mexico, France, and Germany and yes, I still need to write about all of those trips too!
With all of these adventures, I did a lot of gluten-free eating but also met a lot of wonderful people across the globe. Honestly, meeting fellow celiac travelers is always a highlight of travel for me. These women (always women, go figure!) never let their diagnosis and gluten-free life stop them from seeing the globe. These are my people! I get giddy when I have another gluten-free “blind date” with these celiac friends from near and far… and some of these meet ups were very far from home.
I have a very long list of places I want to travel to, but I also have a wonderful list of places I have been where I’ve eaten some wonderful gluten-free meals. Here is my top 5 list of gluten-free meals across the globe so far.
1. Pasta in Italy. It was less about the food and more about the location and circumstance. I was within walking distance of the Vatican in Italy, sitting at an outdoor table, sipping on wine and eating gluten-free pasta. I was so happy to find a safe, gluten-free friendly restaurant in Italy. This was the first of many gluten-free pasta dishes I ate while in Italy. I highly recommend Italy to any Celiac for a vacation.
2. Cooking class and 5-course meal at Baan Thai Cookery School. When I first made a reservation for this class, I had someone from my hotel explain in Thai that I needed to have a shellfish-free and gluten-free meal. The school said this would not be a problem. This 4-hour-class started with a pick-up at my guest house in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I met fellow classmates from around the globe. We walked to the local market to buy Thai vegetables to prepare with our meal. For each course, we moved from the dining table back into the kitchen. It was so much fun to learn about traditional Thai meals, ingredients, and meal preparation and then enjoy your meal with others. We took home a recipe book and I went back to the market to buy the traditional Thai spices we used in our meals. This was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon learning about Thai cuisine and meeting friends from around the world, while eating a safe gluten-free meal.
3. Patacones in Portland. El Pilon is a food truck in Portland featuring traditional Colombian food. The truck is almost entirely gluten-free and event has GF icons on their menu. My favorites include beef empanadas, pan de yucca, and patacones with aji. Seriously, the patacones are one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life!
4. High Tea in Edinburgh. My mom and I went to Wales and Scotland in October 2013. Before our trip, we decided we wanted to have a traditional British afternoon tea during our trip. My mom found the Scotsman Hotel who could provide a 100% gluten-free high tea. Finger sandwiches, scones, cookies, and cakes, plus unlimited pots of tea made for a perfect gluten-free high tea. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Edinburgh.
5. Schnitzel and Beer in Prague. Schnitzel is a traditional, Czech dish that is deep-fried MEAT. With a little research, I knew that Švejk Restaurant U Karla (read my review) served gluten-free schnitzel and beer. I met up with a student from TravBuddy who was also in Prague at the same time as me and we had a lovely dinner sharing stories from around the globe. I was so excited to eat a traditional Czech gluten-free meal that I went back to this restaurant a second time before I left Prague.
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.
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!
This year was an amazing year for travel. I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone and went to Asia for the first time. I was busy flying back and forth across the country to Portland for work. I took my mom on a fabulous trip to Wales and Scotland. I also took likes of NorthEast road trips in between. I think this is my best year of Gluten-Free Globetrotting to date!
48,234 miles flown 6 countries visited (minus 2 if you don’t count airports, ha!) 8 states visited (although maybe more, I lost count) 2500+ photos taken
I feel so proud of my travel accomplishments this year and cannot wait to start planning my 2014 travels. I already have seven trips to Portland on the calendar and my sister just moved to Wisconsin so I will definitely be adding a new state to my travelogue in 2014.
I am a bit behind in some of my posts so I will share my 2013 Gluten-Free Globetrotter travels with some of my favorite pictures.
Explore, it is what I do best!
One of my many flights in 2014
Mt Hood from the cable car in Portland, Oregon
McDonald’s in Arabic! Dubai, UAE
Dubai Airport, proof I was in the United Arab Emirates
Blessed by monk in Bangkok, Thailand
TIgers!! Chiang Mai, Thailand
Driving a tuk tuk in Chiang Mai, Thailand
View from Dew Shores Bungalows in Koh Phangan, Thailand
Big Buddy Pier, Koh Samui, Thailand
Seaport in Boston, MA
Times Square, New York City
My beloved New York City from Long Island City, NY
Flatiron Building, New York City
Marching band in Cardiff, Wales
Cardiff Bay in Wales
Atop of a tour bus in Glasgow, Scotland
Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland
Across from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland
Stirling Castle, Scotland
The Lake of Menteith at Inchmahome Priory in Scotland
My mom and I in front of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
I received an interesting email earlier this year from a travel agency based in India. Gluten Free Travel India, managed by Contre Glutino, is a travel agency that recently started catering to gluten-free travelers in India. Gluten Free Travel India helps travelers from around the world put together an amazing tour of India. They also provide many resources for gluten-free travelers on their website including gluten-free restaurants by states in India, a letter to the chef explaining the gluten-free diet, and translation cards in Hindi.
I recently interviewed Vikas Gupta of Gluten Free Travel India via email about gluten-free travel in India.
Gluten Free Travel India
Our operation model is quite straight forward. We cater gluten free needs of the customer right from the time customers arrives at the airport till the departure, so that person can enjoy vacation free from worry to find gluten free food.
What inspired you to start this company?
It was mainly because of availability of gluten free products in India. About six months ago we attended a program sponsored by Celiac Society of India. That programme was also attended by Chief Minister of Delhi. We attended that program just by chance (to cover interview of our Chief Minister) and that was the first time when we came to know about this allergy. But that was really an eye opener for us, because in Northern India we are primarily dependent on Wheat and wheat related products as compared to South India. We met few people there and then we realised that this is acute problem and awareness of this allergy is really missing, even amongst the doctors [in India].
How did it begin?
We initially started this by providing gluten free goods to people who are in need in Delhi area. We started providing goods at their home, so that we can meet those people personally to understand the challenges that they are facing in their day-to-day life. But this was just a beginning, we later started interacting with hospitals, schools and Embassy so that we can support wider population.
Is it common for people in India to have Celiac?
Three months ago, we realised this allergy is quite common amongst foreigners as compared to Indians. So we started interacting with hotels. At that time, we formally named ourselves as Contre Glutino (Anti-Gluten).
Can you tell me more about your travel agency?
We really don’t want to restrict our services to Indian citizens. We have now decided to extend our services to foreigners by providing them end-to-end services, thereby providing option to visit and explore my country.
We are in best place to provide this service, since we are supplying goods to hotels, airlines, restaurants etc. How we operate is unique as compared to any other travel agent in India, especially because we take care of diet requirements of the travellers. Along with our travel agency business, we supply gluten free goods to organisations such as hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, embassies, and airlines.
We have a big list of gluten free items to cater needs of different consumers. We provide bread mix, cake mix, pastas, salad dressing, etc to the commercial organisation and provide ready to eat products like cookies, breakfast cereals, and chocolates to individual consumers.
I was very impressed by the services that Vikas’s company can provide for a Gluten-Free Globetrotter and his understanding of gluten-free dietary needs. Gluten Free Travel India goes above and beyond being a travel agency striving to make your gluten-free travel in India as comfortable and safe as possible.
If you would like more information about gluten-free travel in India, please contact Vikas Gupta at vikas.contreglutino@ gmail.com or by phone at +91 9811821261. Please tell him you learned about his agency through Erin at Gluten-Free Globetrotter.