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
Yes, it is true. I decided back in the fall that I wanted to plan a big trip for my birthday. What better way to celebrate than to to travel almost 10,000 miles away from home? YIKES! This will be my first time in Asia, so I am adding a brand new continent and two countries (layover in Dubai, UAE) to add to my list of travels. This is a trip that takes me way out of my comfort zone but I am ready for the challenge. Am I nervous? HELL YEAH. Am I excited? Even more so!!!
As with all of my trips, I do a ton of planning before I leave. This trip is no different except that I am finding it somewhat difficult to navigate this Southeast Asian country in terms of gluten-free research and reviews. I’ve read mixed reviews from gluten-free travelers about eating safely in Thailand. Besides eating gluten-free due to Celiac Disease, I also have a shellfish allergy. I think the latter is going to pose more of a problem than the gluten.
In preparation for my food restrictions, I received complimentary food allergy translation cards in Thai from Select Wisely that highlight both my avoidance of gluten as well as shellfish. These cards are “strongly worded” to alert the vendor or restaurant of my food allergies and came highly recommended by Jodi of Legal Nomads via Twitter. (Jodi is an extensive world traveler who also happens to have Celiac Disease.)
Jodi has written a book called The Food Traveler’s Handbook which includes “guidelines tailored to travelers with special dietary needs such as food allergies (celiac disease, nut allergies, etc), vegetarians.” I do not have the book yet, but I was quite inspired when I heard Jodi speak about her foodie travels from across most of the world at the book launch last fall. I love Celiac travelers that do not let their gluten-free diet stop them from traveling the globe!
Jodi gave me some other helpful tips via Twitter and email. She said “rice flour noodles abound, but a shellfish allergy is far more of an issue since [Thai] use shrimp paste/ground shrimp a lot.” Jodi adds “seitan (faux meat) is made from gluten” and often used at vegetarian places in Thailand “even with just the vegetable dishes.” Finally, Jody warns that “khao soi noodles in the north are made with flour and should be avoided” and like in the United States “soy sauce has wheat flour, so you’ll have to ask for dishes to be soy sauce-free.”
Restaurant and shopping suggestionsI don’t want to give too many suggestions here until I have the opportunity to try these places myself. Sometimes online reviews get a little bit shady and I need to go with my gut (ha!). I have read on multiple sites there is a cafe in Chiang Mai that sells gluten-free baked goods but sadly many people have gotten sick from their food. Rather than risk any additional stomach issues (already kind of banking on TD), I plan on steering away from questionable places.In Chiang Mai, The Salsa Kitchen came highly recommended from a number of websites. I contacted the owner who said his mom and sister both have Celiac and eat at the restaurant all the time. While eating Mexican food in Thailand might seem strange to some, I would rather have a safe meal than a non-cuisine. It was great to connect with the owner and discuss my food issues with him before I even left the states. Talk about reassurance! I definitely plan on going to The Salsa Kitchen during my time in Chiang Mai.
I found a link to a store called Maison du Vins 1994 in Bangkok. Although their site is in Thai, I used Google translate to discover they sell imported gluten-free food. Although not really near the places I plan to go in Thailand, I definitely hope to make it there one day. I love checking out markets and shops with gluten-free products when I am both home and abroad.
As you can see, I have already done a lot of research for my two-week holiday to Thailand. While I feel that some of my research will come in handy, I won’t know for sure until I am there and experience the sights, sounds, smells, and food first hand. I will be sure to report back on all of my gluten-free food adventures when I return. Until then…