Is Thailand really safe or am I putting my life on the line?

May Contain is excited to share Thalina Houghton’s experiences of eating out in Thailand. I first came across Thalina through her dedicated allergy page ‘Allergies in Bold’ on Instagram and remember browsing an Instagram story about her experiences in Thailand, which to be honest, is a country that i have always avoided because of my allergy. I was really interested to find out more about Thalina and her experiences living with a allergy in such a contrasting environments.

IMG_8651.JPG

Travelling with multiple severe allergies is daunting. You research everything about the country like you’re part of the CIA, you end up taking a portable Boots pharmacy in your suitcase and know more about Thai sticky rice than the locals. Nobody does better research than allergy sufferers but when you’ve had two severe anaphylactic shocks, the most recent one leading to a more severe medical emergency one month prior to your departure, research isn’t all you do.

If I had written down every question that popped in my head weeks before leaving, I’d have created a novel that would make anyone nervous. I admit some of the questions I was asking myself were absurd but in reality, when your life depends on the answer, how strange could these questions be? What if I told you I switched from being a year 10 student to a hotel maid. Odd right? “What if my hotel room isn’t cleaned thoroughly, what if I react to the dust?” A reoccurring thought. I could sit here all day and type my questions and I wouldn’t have finished chapter one of ‘Thalina Houghton’s traveling queries’ but the biggest question you would have come across if I continued was, ‘Can I even go?  After everything that’s happened recently. Not just the allergic reactions but the other hospital admissions I went through. Is this really safe or am I putting my life on the line?’ You’d be glad to know you’d be nearing the end of my book if you read that question. The answer was already in front of me. I was the answer.

With everything in an allergy sufferer’s life, there’s a risk. In fact, you don’t even need to have allergies to know, at any time, anything could happen. This is when I adopted a new mindset. At 22:56 exactly i wrote down three words. ‘Adapt not to avoid.’ Those three words were the reason I had viewing fatigue after going through 3 movies I would never watch if I wasn’t on a plane. You’re correct. I was now halfway around the world, on my way to Thailand.

Now my questions didn’t suddenly evaporate just because I passed the first hurdle, flying. I still had at least three-quarters of the novel to go but after my first meal in Thailand, it removed a good few pages.  With my mum being Thai that definitely helped my confidence but as I wanted to see how I’d manage if I had traveled independently, I ordered my first meal alone. As soon as I began explaining my allergies, she interrupted. There we go, either my translations are wrong or she can’t cater for me. Another waitress came over and handed me a piece of paper. Ah brilliant, I have “I am terribly sorry, we cannot cater for anyone with severe allergies” in handwritten form!  Glancing down I saw the 20 most common allergies listed. It stated: ‘Circle your allergy and we will give you a personalized menu and cook in a designated zone free from your allergy.’

That restaurant proved something to me. Even though it was in a small town in Thailand, not the most fluent in English, it still gave everyone with dietary needs confidence that they’d be safe. So why can’t more established places like London provide services like this?

IMG_1562.jpg

I also found out that most restaurants cook to your order so if you’re allergic to nuts, they’ll cook it without your allergen. Every day I grew in confidence and it was undoubtedly one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Again I was fortunate to have a mum who was Thai so anything she needed to clarify she did.

My advice for anyone traveling with severe allergies to Thailand is to speak up. I genuinely thought they’d have little to no knowledge of allergies alternatively, they knew more than some chefs in England.

Secondly, carry translations cards as these helped me massively. You don’t need to be a fluent Thai speaker if you have these. Print off some keywords or phrases or even use Google translate and I’d recommend adding some photos just for clarity. Finally, remember there are always alternatives to everything. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a market for food, there are plenty of food centres around, at least one in every town. In Thailand you won’t feel restricted, there are always alternatives. Remember, adapt not avoid.

So, if you didn’t purchase ‘Thalina Houghton’s travelling queries’ you won’t know what my final question of the book was. Don’t worry; you didn’t miss out on much because the answer is obvious. But to calm your perplexed mind, here it is:

“Why can’t I travel to Thailand? What really is stopping me? Ever since I was diagnosed with my first allergy, I made a promise to myself I would never let it stand in my way. What does an allergy mean to you? As for me, it allowed me to open my eyes and view the world with a different perspective and become more understanding. What’s so bad about that?” 

Daniel Kelly