May 1, 2011

Thailand, a paradise for Celiacs

Well I just got back from the vacation of a lifetime. Yup, that's right, Thailand! One of those places you dream about but think you will never really have the opportunity to go to. Well thanks to living in Europe and for cheap flights, it is possible!!! So after the long and wonderful hockey season, we decided to celebrate not only my husband's team winning the cup, but also the fact that he got a 3 year contract deal. So that means we get to stay here for another three years, which I could not be more thrilled about! I have a job and most importantly I have made a life here.

Ok now back to Thailand. This place is paradise and an EATING paradise for Celiacs. Thanks to the Thai diet which mostly consists of rice based things, you can eat without any major worries. I will say though that before I embarked on this journey I did quite a bit of research. My biggest question was does Thai soy sauce really contain gluten?? Well I couldn't answer that before I left and I still can't answer it after coming back! I would also like to thank my fellow Celiacs who have posted about visiting Thailand, especially the blogger from Fort Worth who blogged about her experience. All of it was very helpful.

Now down to the details.....We got a package deal, so that meant the flight, transfers, hotel, and breakfast were included. The airline was low cost, so unfortunately no GF meals were available. But I survived by bringing lots of snacks, a sandwich for dinner, and a PB and J sandwich for breakfast. For the way back I was able to bring some thai food with me, that was still just as delicious cold. The hotel was right across from Nai Harn beach. I spent the days sitting in my beach chair eating gf pad thai and drinking numerous banana smoothies. With that being said, here are my tips, thoughts, and experiences on visiting Thailand and most importantly on EATING GF in Thailand.

1. Bring your own bread! I didn't even attempt to look for anything GF there. I brought some bread for breakfast, some crackers (which I never needed), and some of these breakfast biscuit things that British people seem to love. Breakfast at the hotel was completely managable as they provided lot's of fresh fruit, eggs cooked to order, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, a delicious thai porridge made of rice and chicken, and even gf fried rice (although make sure you always ask!!).

2. Don't take your thai restaurant card. I believe that this will only confuse them more. Some thai people don't speak much English, so it is just easier I found to have someone at the hotel write in Thai: No soy sauce, No oyster sauce. I flashed this at the restaurant and food stands and it worked everytime. I was able to order pad thai, fried rice, stir fry, etc. I never got sick and it was much easier than trying to explain what I could and couldn't eat.

3. Most curries are naturally GF. I ate green curries, red curries, and even masaman curry. I even ate some fried spring rolls, which I was not completely sure about, but I didn't get sick afterwards! I believe that most of the wrappers are made from only rice, but you should make sure to ask.

4. Eat from food stands. I had wonderful BBQ chicken that was some of the best I have ever had. The more authentic the Thai food is, the less likely it is going to have gluten in it.

5. If you decide to take a boat trip, you can check ahead of time for what they will be serving for lunch. We did a tour to the Phi Phi Islands that included a buffet lunch. Upon arriving there I flashed my card to the thai waiters, who spoke no English, but they were able to point to things and say no. They had a green curry there, so I knew I wouldn't starve! I also took some snacks just in case. However, the tour itself was somewhat disappointing as our guide was terrible. However, the scenary was beautiful, but if you are looking for some killer snorkeling spots, I recommend somewhere else. The coral was mostly dead here. But if you want to see some white sand beaches and where "The Beach" was filmed, then the Phi Phi Islands are your destination!

6. Drink as many smoothies as you can, I recommend the banana one!

7. Treat yourself, get a massage! The oil massage I got cost something like 6 dollars for an hour. And if you are really feeling up to it you can go for the thai one. Although it is pretty intense!

8. You might feel sick, but remember you are in Thailand and stomach bugs are normal! Just because you are having some issues does not necessarily mean you have been glutenated!

9. Eat outside the hotel!! The hotel restaurants are expensive, westernized, and your chances are a lot higher of getting glutnated at your hotel vs at the Thai restaurant 200m away.

And finally my biggest tip of all is don't let being Celiac prevent you from visiting the world! So get going and pack your bag, book you flights, and enjoy a vacation of a lifetime!


price per head service said...

Very informative and helpful. This is a nice information shared here. Keep Posting :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Katherine, very helpful, but can you point where other people can find the detailed bloger from Forth Worth that helped you so much?


Katherine said...

Here is the link for the GF DFW blogger!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this! im going to live in thailand for six months and i have celiace dissease. you have given me hope!

Katherine said...

Your welcome!

Jason (Gluten Free / Dairy Free NJ) said...

I'm heading to Thailand in December and this makes me feel much safer, thank you! Still a little worried about dairy but I don't think traditional Thai food uses any of that!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experience!! I don't want to think about what life as a celiac would be like without bloggers lol.

Jenny said...

Thanks for your impressions! I will visit Thailand in September :-)

Paul said...

Thanks Katherine. Just starting to plan for a trip in Feb 2014. Very helpful and reassuring comments! Regards, Paul

glutenfreethailand said...

Those are all really helpful comments, which I found your blog before I moved to Thailand!

I would recommend that people avoid anything that is stir fried as they tend to use soy sauce. Also, people on the street don't regularly wash their woks. So be careful!

I have started a blog about my experiences living here. Please check it out! Thanks!

Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.

Anonymous said...

Hi I have just come back from Thailand Phuket Patong Beach in the last two days Wow what a beautiful destination. But unfortunately after living with coeliac disease for my whole life it wasn't the best place to go for Gluten Free unless you eat steamed all the way, eggs and omelettes your generally okay but be mindful of cross contamination.
I managed to avoid Thai belly but became very sick with my coeliac and now suffering the affects of it now lm home but all in all a great trip but very difficult when it came to eating and the Thai people not being able to understand English.

Anonymous said...

These days Thais do put soy sauce even in the traditional dishes that do not call for it and there is hidden gluten in Knorr cubes which so many people use and even fish sauce. So, life here is a bit difficult. Even if they read your card, they might not really know how the food was made.

Simon West said...

Yeah Thailand is rapidly changing, including their "traditional" dishes which become more and more westernized.
A few years ago it as kinda safe to eat here but not anymore. Cross contamination is common now. Even when telling the chefs what to use and not to use, they will still use their contaminated cooking material.

Carla Modugno said...

I have been living in Malaysia Borneo since 2007 and I got diagnosed in Italy with celiac disease on 2008. Although this I have decided to stay in borneo and learn how to organise my self into a gluten free diet in Asia. i have been travelling in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand but really struggling to have gf meals. Cross-contamunation are very common, lit of stock powder or cube aren't gluten free but asian people have not idea about it. Chef ir restaurant still thinking that it is not so important to clean properly all cooking material and also they have noodles or rice paper to make spring roll wich are not made with rice flours only. Be careful of all fried food as they won't cook in clean oil for you only.
Asia people have changed their diets and they use a lots of wheat so gluten is in most of their dishes :(
As I knew how hard is our lives with celiac while travelling or living in a countries where people tottally ignore thus issue, I have decided to build a websiteband more. Hope it helps and I will need your help as well by sharing your experience that may helps others celiac to have an happy abd healthy lifestyle.

Carla Modugno said...

Sorry for some typing mistake but Im writung with a small phone :(
Let's work together and make our lives healthy and happy. Thanks