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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 5: Panda-monium in Chengdu

"Hello there!

After an uncomfortable night on the 15 hour train from Xi'an to Chengdu we were relieved to have arrived at our new hostel which would be home until the 14th November when we fly to Bangkok.

Chengdu is located in the Sichuan province of China and is known throughout China for its hot chilli dishes something which I was really looking forward to trying. After our arrival we visited the near by restaurant and browsed their menu which had both Chinese and English writing. I selected a pork, pepper and chilli dish with a bowl of rice which was incredible. After lots of noodles in Beijing and Xi'an enjoying a dish with rice and chilli's had to be one of the dining highlights of my trip so far. I was able to use my allergy cards before ordering and the lady took the cards to the kitchen and returned with big smiles and confirmed it was suitable...happy days!

The next day we enjoyed a lie in and planned to rest and casually explore Chengdu which we did after hanging up a load of washing to dry! We found a local supermarket where I purchased a large bag of Quaker porridge oats which I would have each morning for breakfast with a piece of fruit. The porridge was cheap and would last me for about two weeks which also being easy to make as there is always free boiling water available. I also spent a few minutes browsing other products in the shop struggling to find anything with English ingredients. I found some chocolate crackers which had a wonky Chinese ingredients label stuck on the packet which was covering the English ingredients and I was unable to remove it. I did however come across some biscuits which had dried grape pieces and for 28p for a packet I would hardly go wrong. We both purchased some crisps before heading back to our hostel after browsing the local stalls and dodging the traffic.

Our third day in Chengdu was one I had been looking forward to even before leaving the UK, because it's home to the national panda breeding centre in Chengdu, which is one of the most important panda research and breading sanctuaries in the world. We arrived at the park early as the pandas are most active in the morning while eating their breakfast of bamboo before sleeping for the rest of the day. We headed to the first enclosure which was surprisingly natural looking with very little concrete or man made objects. Sure enough three giant pandas were enjoying there breakfast posing perfectly for pictures. Thanks pandas!

One of the highlights at the park was the breeding centre where there were baby pandas just outside still learning to walk. They were very entertaining to watch tumble around and playing while attempting to run which usually resulted in more rolling around!

That evening I selected one of the famous Sichuan dishes, one of the hottest they make. This was a chicken dish with peppers, green and red chilli's, chilli oil, ginger, pepper and other spices with a bowl of rice for good measure. This was quite a step up from last nights dinner but I really enjoyed it. After a few glasses of water and a mouth on fire I had defeated the local dish, which although outrageously hot was highly enjoyable.

Our forth day in Chengdu began early again, this day we were visiting the giant Leshan Buddha which was a 2hr drive from Chengdu. On arrival we entered the park before following the trail to the Buddha, which was the parks main attraction. It was immediately clear that this was no ordinary Buddha, as after a decent to the base we looked back up at this gigantic Buddha who made me feel very small. We also visited the monastery within the park and its caves before returning for dinner.

Our final full day we took slowly, taking time to pack our bags and souvenirs securely before heading to the supermarket for crisps and biscuits. For dinner that evening I enjoyed a fried beef and chilli dish served with rice and a local beer before setting an alarm for 8 am - positively a lie in in the grand scheme of the trip so far!

We left Chengdu on the 14th November, catching a flight to Bangkok. After my last meal I put away my Chinese allergy translation cards in exchange for my Thai cards which I will be requiring for the next month while in Thailand. I've been surprised by how simple its been eating in China. After three weeks there, I began to relax a little and understand what kind of dishes and noodles were suitable. I am however aware of Thai cooking involving lots of shellfish, nuts and oils so I will have to be extra careful...

Check back soon!

Stephen :)"

PLEASE NOTE: While the content of guest posts is checked for validity and accuracy at the time of posting, the Anaphylaxis Campaign is not responsible for the contents of, nor endorses the advice or information held within posts written by guest bloggers. Official information and advice can be found at

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 4: Bullet trains, Chinese dumplings & the world's biggest water fountain

"Hi there!

Hmmmm....Where to start since I last wrote?

Well I have to say, pulling into Xi'an on the 300km/h bullet train was a fantastic experience and one which I will never forget. Using a combination of the metro and buses we arrived at our new hostel which would be home for the next 7 nights. Having arrived at 4pm we decided that we would try the restaurant attached to the hostel and we both couldn't resist yet another sneaky little taste of home, so I ordered chilli con carne, which was excellent! We also took the opportunity to browse the Chinese food they serve as we may return another evening. It was really good because they spoke clear English and really understood my allergies.

Our second day in Xi'an didn't begin until 11:30am as we both enjoyed a lie in.  This was one of the first days of the trip where we planned to do very little and just have a chance to rest and catch up as constantly moving and doing activities becomes tiring. After enjoying porridge made with boiling water and a banana mixed in I was set for the day with a warm full stomach. The reception said the best place to buy food was a close Walmart which we headed for still not believing it would be the real deal however were very surprised when we realised it was a huge supermarket like those in the UK, which we spent over an hour going up and down each isle before realising it had a second floor which was equally exciting!

I was on the look out for some wholesome biscuits or bars as I had finished my supply of cereal bars. After some persistent hunting I found a four pack of digestive biscuits which had English ingredients so purchased those knowing they would last a while. After spending close to two hours in the Walmart we returned to the hostel where we played pool enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Xi'an with some crisps.

We ate in the hostel's restaurant a number of times as it was convienent and fairly priced. They spoke good English and along with my allergy cards it was simple to order. On a couple of evenings I enjoyed noodles in a chilli beef broth with pieces of beef, fresh vegetables and mushroom. I really enjoyed this dish and knew it was safe to eat so happily ordered it another evening. I also took this opportunity to try my first Chinese dumplings which were a success. I opened one so I could physically check the contents which was pork and onion before enjoying not just one, but multiple dumplings! I had previously researched Chinese dumpling recipes on the internet while here so knew that as long as the contents wasn't shellfish it should be safe to eat yet I still wouldn't trust the street dumpling sellers.

The main attraction to staying in Xi'an is the terracotta warriors which are easily reachable using the regular buses. We woke at 5:40am with the intention of getting there early to beat the crowds of Chinese tourists which would arrive later in the morning. We actually arrived so early in the end that we had to wait 15 minutes until it opened! Once through the gates, we headed straight tothe main attraction and were amazed by the hundreds of standing life like warriors. We took the peaceful opportunity to take pictures before heading to see the other parts, which were equally interesting. We recharged our energy with a coffee break before heading back for a closer inspection of the warriors, this time having to battle hundreds of Chinese tourists who had arrived by now!

We revisited each site satisfied with our pictures from earlier when alone so took our time to view the warriors closely this time round. We headed back to the hostel feeling happy knowing it was worth getting up early for to beat the tourists - Stephen and Ollie 1 - tourists nil!

Xi'an was the perfect place to rest, we were feeling tired having had no real opportunity to rest so having a few restful days enjoying cards and a pool was a pleasant change from the non stop traveller's life we experienced in Moscow, Mongolia and Beijing.

We spent the remaining days in Xi'an visiting local attractions such as the drum and bell towers in the centre. On our last day we visited the big goose pagoda which had the worlds second largest water fountain show in front of it - a truly magnificent sight.

We have enjoyed our stay in Xi'an and having the opportunity to spend some time relaxing and contacting home. I feel as if my allergies have been manageable so far and taking the necessary steps such as not risking the street stalls and relying on my translation cards when ordering food makes my life much easier and safer. Although they will not go away, I've feel that so far I've coped well in China with their challenging cuisine and hidden ingredients!

"High five!"
I am looking forward to arriving in Chengdu where we have planned to visit one of the most important panda research and conservation centres in the world. We will also be visiting the Leshan giant Buddha which from pictures looks incredible. We have 5 days in Chengdu before we catch a flight to Bangkok in Thailand so not long until our time in China is almost over.

Check back very soon to continue following mine and Ollie's adventures!

Stephen :)"

PLEASE NOTE: While the content of guest posts is checked for validity and accuracy at the time of posting, the Anaphylaxis Campaign is not responsible for the contents of, nor endorses the advice or information held within posts written by guest bloggers. Official information and advice can be found at

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 3: A much needed taste of home

"Hello again!

After I last wrote, me and Ollie finished our stay in a hotel in Beijing, with our own room, bathroom and television giving us the chance to unpack and wash clothes before moving to a hostel with shared dorms and bathrooms. This gave us the opportunity to meet and share stories with other backpackers which we both loved!

This city is incredible, it never stops and even when getting up at 5am to catch a train to the great wall of China the metro is full of people!

Ollie with the pomelo, whatever is it!
With fruit stalls being readily available on every street and bananas costing between 5 - 10p, each picking up a couple for breakfast is an easy and cheap option. We were adventurous one morning and purchased what we thought was a giant grapefruit but turned out to be a pomelo...while being entertaining to peal, it lacked juiciness and flavour but I can say its the first time I've ever been 'full' from a fruit!

Lunchtimes we have tended to miss as we often just too busy and so have earlier dinners. With dinner portions so large and low priced its worth waiting for. I've had another rice noodle and duck dish which was delicious and entertaining too as I'm still 'learning' how to use chopsticks....

One evening I ordered rice and pork ribs which turned out to be very filling but enjoyable. However, I used my allergy cards as usual here and received a few 'confused' looks from the waitress. She went away and came back with another staff member who seemed like to understand what I was asking. The initial reaction when presenting the cards here was interesting, I get the impression allergies are rare here but they got the message in the end. 

Me on the Great Wall
When we visited the Great Wall, I couldn't resit trying steamed sweet corn. It's everywhere in Beijing and looks great. I could clearly see that the sweet corn was on racks with boiling water below so knew it would be safe to eat. I'm still not convinced it was sweet corn but it was definitely worth walking 10km on the wall to try it!

I spent Monday afternoon walking around the Hutong's which are small back streets with stalls and super markets. I browsed 3 or 4 supermarkets all of which small in size just looking for products with English ingredients. It was a challenge but I found marshmallows with English ingredients and some crackers but was also surprised when a packet of clear sweets had English ingredients and said peanut in the ingredients. Drinks brands are safe, 500ml bottle of sprite just 30p - a great taste of home and a much needed sugar kick at times. 

In our remaining days in Beijing we visited loads of local attractions, with the Forbidden city and Tiananmen square being my personal highlights. We have both begun to miss home so last night couldn't resist a trip to 'Shakers' - a western pizza and chips restaurant! Using my allergy cards I checked the ingredients with the waiter before we enjoyed a very fulfilling dinner of pizza and chips. We both left with smiles on our faces as I realised how much good 'home food' really does mean to me.

I have failed in my attempt to find chocolate, something I find hard to believe! The odd supermarket here sells snickers which contains nuts so I can't have those. Although there is a supermarket on every street, they are all small and the products are not your usual food produce. My mission to find some milk chocolate continues..I'll keep you posted!

We packed our big rucksacks on the last night here before setting our alarms for a 5:30am start to catch the bullet train. In less that five hours we will arrive in Xi'an as the train travels over 180mph.

We plan to visit the Terracotta Warriors, the Three Gorges Dam and more while we spend a week in Xi'an...Let the adventure continue!

Stephen :)"

PLEASE NOTE: While the content of guest posts is checked for validity and accuracy at the time of posting, the Anaphylaxis Campaign is not responsible for the contents of, nor endorses the advice or information held within posts written by guest bloggers. Official information and advice can be found at

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 2: From Russia with love

Check out the second instalment of Stephen's travel diary as he and Ollie board the Trans Siberian Express travelling through Russia, stopping in Mongolia and ending in Beijing. Jealous yet? You will be!

"Hi again!

Ollie enjoying some home comfort!
I've now been away from home for over two weeks and you’ll all be glad to hear I’m having SO much fun thanks to all the new countries and the great new foods I've been discovering! Having said that, after spending two days in Moscow in a hostel, Ollie and I were already missing home food so found a local supermarket where be bought pasta and tomato sauce for dinner…sometimes you can’t beat an old classic!

After a pre-departure meeting for our 10 day train journey through Russia, Mongolia arriving in China, I realised that food options were going to be pretty limited while aboard. We visited the local supermarket where I chose foods I knew would be safe like tins of beans, sweet corn, baked beans and tomatoes. As the only cooking facilities on the train was boiling water we decided that noodles was the easiest and best options. I used my allergy cards to look for egg in the noodle ingredients before double checking back at the hostel where the receptionist spoke English and Russian. Having packed enough food to last for 10 days, off we went!

Us aboard the Trans Siberian Express
We arrived in Ikurisk after 4 solid days on the train, then met a guide to show us the local area and lake Baikal. The guide spoke good English so I took advantage of this getting him to help me in supermarkets and restaurants. One of the evenings we all had kebabs and I could see from the stall the kebab was just pork cooked on the open to eat! The final meal in Russia I had Borscht, which I had researched before so knew it was a standard Russian dish of cabbage and potato so was likely to be OK, but I still used the allergy cards to double check. Better safe than sorry!

After a couple of nights back on the train we arrived in Mongolia, where we met a new guide. I knew that eating there should be pretty simple as Mongolia is the home of meaty filling potatoes dishes! Probably the biggest issue I had there is that it tends to be around -15! Still, a real highlight would have to be staying in a get camp and having a local mutton, rice, potatoes and cabbage dish. Mmmm!

I think I’ve been really lucky so far as I've had a guide at each stop along the way as our train package included this, so I’ve taken full advantage of their English and local knowledge.

I’ve been in Beijing a couple of days now and finally have had a chance to use the internet and kick start my entries! We don’t have a guide here, but I have my translation cards and from previous experience the reception is often a great resource for checking labels and advice. Our first meal out in Beijing consisted of rice flour noodles and a range of vegetables and duck all mixed together. The portion was huge as you can see from the picture but it cost just 18 yen (around £1.80!) Bargain! Translation cards in combo with some pointing was necessary for ordering here, as the waiter spoke zero English!

I can’t wait to explore Beijing more. We plan to visit the great wall, forbidden city, temple of heaven and lots more in our remaining 6 days here…Better get our skates on!

Check back soon for more of my travel updates, pictures and to see how I'm (hopefully!) coping with my anaphylaxis abroad.

Stephen :)"

PLEASE NOTE: While the content of guest posts is checked for validity and accuracy at the time of posting, the Anaphylaxis Campaign is not responsible for the contents of, nor endorses the advice or information held within posts written by guest bloggers. Official information and advice can be found at

Friday, 1 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 1: Say hi to Stephen!


Here's the first in a series of posts written by AC member, student and soon to be travel extraordinaire, Stephen as he begins his travels around the world for 8 long months. We'll be posting updates on his adventures, trials and tribulations every Wednesday afternoon, so stay tuned and watch this space...

"Hi everyone!

My name's Stephen and I’m an 18 year old student who is about to embark on an 8 month trip of a lifetime around the world before I take up my place at university in September 2014. 

My allergies

I'm not just a student going travelling - I also have anaphylaxis. I'm severely allergic to eggs, all nuts and shellfish. These all pose a constant risk while travelling, especially in foreign countries. I've been lucky enough to have visited many foreign countries while growing up including Cuba, South Africa, Egypt, Italy and other exciting places - of course taking my allergies with me! 

My travel buddy is one of my best mates, Ollie (that's us together in the picture, he's on the left!), but I'll also be visiting friends and relatives on route.

I intend to send regular updates for the Anaphylaxis Campaign's blog to keep you all posted on my progress and let you know how I'm getting on, especially with my allergies. I'm well aware that travelling with food allergies for some people is considered risky, however I see it as a challenge and with some necessary precautions in place, I believe anyone can travel!

Planning: Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail!

Before leaving the UK I made sure to get some translation cards for all the countries I'll be visiting. These clearly state my food allergies, their severity and the foods which I can't eat. The cards also have emergency information on to help me seek medical advice if I have a reaction. I have used translation cards in the past and have never had a reaction abroad through using a combo of the cards, common sense and a lot of patience! I would strongly recommend taking travel cards - I got mine from YellowCross and some from SelectWisely. I also have some picture cards which show nuts and other things I can't eat for use in areas where even the language cards may not do the job. 

As part of my planning I have been reading about the main staple diets and dishes in the countries I am visiting. This has opened my eyes to some countries such as China and Thailand, where I will have to be particularly careful. As ever, I'm still going to have to judge how well the cards and pictures have been understood before eating anything. If in doubt I'll hold back and just eat simple foods I know I can trust, For emergencies I have also brought a couple of camping bag meals which are available at camping shops. I hope I don’t have to eat them, but they're always there for if I get completely stuck!

My route 

We begin our trip with a flight to Moscow where we board the famous Trans-Siberian Express (Vodka Train!). Aboard this train we travel east through Russia arriving in Irkustk for a trip to Lake Baikal. Then onwards again into Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar, a few nights in a Yurt to allow us a rest from the train, before back onto the train for the journey to Beijing. The train journey lasts 12 days before arriving in Beijing!

From there, we're spending 7 days in Beijing, 7 Days in Xi'an and 7 days in Chengdu with yet more train travel to connect our stops. At this point in the trip we would be edging on having travelled 11,000km from London to Chengdu!

From Chengdu we fly into Bangkok in Thailand where we spend 5 days 'relaxing' before travelling up to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. After a week in Chiang Mai we travel back down to Bangkok for 2 more nights before starting our travels through the Thai Islands of Ko Tao, Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Samui. From these islands we travel through Surat Thani to Phuket and from Phuket we fly to Singapore.

Me (right) & Ollie at the airport before departure!
We then fly from Singapore to Australia where we will be travelling down the east coast hopefully finding work within the 3 months. We finish our trip with 2 months in New Zealand visiting a number of relatives and friends before returning in mid June 2014.

I hope this travel log will give you a better insight to my allergies and how it is possible to cope with severe allergies while abroad. I will post new parts when suitable on my travel to keep you informed of my progress and how I’m coping including any tips and techniques I may develop to aid the language barrier. 

There will of course be regular pictures showing just how much fun (I hope) that I am having! 

That's all for now as I'm off pretty soon, but I'll write again! 

Stephen :)"

PLEASE NOTE: While the content of guest posts is checked for validity and accuracy at the time of posting, the Anaphylaxis Campaign is not responsible for the contents of, nor endorses the advice or information held within posts written by guest bloggers. Official information and advice can be found at