Browsing Tag

Beijing

Travel Tips

Traveling with Food Allergies Internationally

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH FOOD SENSITIVITIES OR ALLERGIES

Some places are easier than others , but nearly everything in Asia for instance is pre prepared with any number of coatings and/or sauces – all of which contain anonymous ingredients. Although this is part of the wondrous experience for most, those of you with any sort of allergy or sensitivity may feel a sense of paralysis.

Not to worry – you can maintain a very selective diet everywhere in the world that works for gluten free, celiac, vegetarians, vegans, and those avoiding candida.

At the start of our trip I experienced an allergic reaction severe enough that I had to cut all of the unknowns out of my diet to reset my system. I am going to give you a step by step on how to maintain the exact diet you need while in any foreign land. It helps if you are traveling with someone that understands and supports your needs, but it’s not overly debilitating either way…

Make yourself some form of an allergy card in the local language.  You can make it on your phone translator (or even on paper – have a local write it for you). This way you can easily communicate the things you are allergic to, and hopefully stay clear of harmful ingredients.  You can also get allergy cards laminated online before your trip if you plan ahead….

If you do not trust restaurants, you can also prepare your own food – this is how I did it:

  1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables from the local farmers – this can be done easily in most locations.  If you don’t pass stands on the street, ask.  Nearly every country in Asia has them lining the streets, where you can buy entire bags of fruits/veggies for a few US dollars.
  2. Shop in the expat style grocery stores.  There are many different names across around the world, but a quick google search will give you a useful list with proximity to your lodging.
  3. Delivery is king in many major cities.  You can have any number of expat grocery stores deliver to you – view a few options here.  In big cities like Shanghai, you can also have any food within the city delivered to you via Food Sherpas.  My personal favorite for eating out in Shanghai quickly became Pure and Whole – you can read their menu here.
  4. When you arrive at your hotel/hostel/guesthouse assess the situation. Do you have a fridge in your room?  Is there a shared kitchen?  I have dealt with the best situation (having a condo with your own kitchen) to the worst situation (washing vegetables with bottled water in the bathroom sink, having a single cutting knife that the front desk gave me, plastic silverware I bought at the store, and two plates that the hotel lent me).
  5. If you want to eat things in Asia that don’t work well with chopsticks, you probably want to buy your own silverware somewhere along the way.  There are some hotels that are not westernized and will not carry anything besides chopsticks – their diets just don’t require it.
  6. Buy things at the store you can snack on, nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes – whatever it may be, have it in your bag at all times in case you cannot get somewhere and are starving.  I can almost guarantee you will not be able to find suitable food on the street in some places throughout Africa or Asia without conducting serious research first.
  7. Carry your staples in your bag, so that you can turn any chopped up vegetables off the street into a meal.  Salt, pepper, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, balsamic, whatever it is that you are used to seasoning your meals with – throw it in a backpack and consider it part of your walking pantry :)

And lastly, when you feel adventurous – find the little street vendors that chop up meat and veggies to throw it on the grill.  These most commonly exist in places with middle eastern influence, but I’ve seen them all over the world.  You can literally watch them cook and will know exactly what is going into your meal.

Hope these short tips help you stay well on your journey!  Eating in certain places of the world can be a little rough on the body and there are many ingredients in the food that you never know about…so if you have any food allergies, these steps should keep you happy and healthy!

Culture

Beijing, China – Another Expat Haven

Shanghai and Beijing, China both attract a great number of expats – either venturing out in the world on their own volition, or sent by an international company of sorts. The cities have different vibes entirely, but Beijing certainly has the modern conveniences to accompany you’re every need much like the city of lights (Shanghai). You can expect very good hospitals, schools, international grocery stores, delivery, underground music scene, communities, etc.  We stumbled upon a very cool series of alley ways near Bei Hei park (slightly northeast maybe 5 minutes walking) that had a mean neighborhood party in a courtyard going down on a Saturday afternoon. We were happy to take part in that!

Most helpful things to use in Beijing:

  1. The Beijinger – awesome publication that keeps you up on all events and news in the city
  2. Time Out – another publication that has great info
  3. Beijing Subway App – made by MX data
  4. Jenny Lou is an extensive international grocery store with an excellent selection
  5. Several restaurants/grocery stores provide delivery and beyond (sherpas, etc. – shown in an image attached above and discussed here)
  6. Ctrip – allows you to book hotels at a great low price and provides Chinese translation for taxi drivers

The two cities also suffer the same key issues that you’ll hear from every foreigner (although not enough to keep us foreigners away :) )-

1. the almighty firewall (even more powerful than the Great Wall – it limits internet speed, at times shuts it down entirely, and always restricts access, with some 2600 sites blocked entirely)

2. Gray skies by way of pollution. The most downloaded app in the region is a pollution detection system that provides a current rating and information about the daily pollutant levels. One woman we spoke with literally did not take her baby outside for 3 months in Beijing, as levels were above 300.

Don’t get the wrong idea though, we haven’t worn a mask once and have had absolutely no issues.  We still love China for everything else it brings to the table!

Culture, Tech

Zhongguancun – Beijing’s Electronics City

On Thursday afternoon we set out to find DJ equipment. We were eager to see what Beijing had to offer for electronics and we decided to head to what the internet had called “electronics city”.

Taking a cab into the Zhongguancun neighborhood of Beijing was a bad idea. There was tons of traffic leading up to the giant buildings and we decided to get out and walk. As we came up to the area we could see 300 foot LED TV screen billboards that showed ads. We were quite impressed with the technology used, but we had no idea what we were about to walk into.

Entering the first building we were attacked by various vendors trying to pull us into their stores. Quickly we knew we were about to be in another “fake market” like we had found in Shanghai. As we wandered the 10 floor shopping city we were shocked that there were hundreds of thousands of knock off electronics for sale. None of them had the DJ gear I had come in search of. The place was mostly online electronics dealers shipping things from China.

It was overwhelming but a sight worth seeing. There were multiple shopping centers of many floors that were selling electronics and electronic components. I felt like we were walking through a factory. Nobody spoke English. Everybody was focused on their tasks at hand. Kids were playing in the isles while their parents worked.

Electronics cities of Beijing are a real thing. They are bustling malls full of online resellers and electronics forgers who were trying to make a living as electronics distributors.

Thanks for reading :)
David

Adventure, Art, Culture, Food

A Saturday in Beijing

You never really know what you will come across in China. We started our journey last Saturday planning to go see the main park in Beijing, climb up to the tower to see the forbidden city from afar, and then visit Huihai Lake in the evening.  The weather was nice after raining all day the day before.

When we got to the park we were impressed by the number of people enjoying the weekend, and by the park itself. We took some selfies and decided we would see what Beijing had to offer for Mexican. TripAdvisor highly recommended Sand Pebble Beach restaurant near Lama Temple. So we hopped on the metro for 2 stops and ended up getting off at Guludajie and walking from there.

The walk took us about a half hour and we planned to go to Huihai Lake after dinner, but along the walk we fell upon a sign that read “Saturday day party at The Other Place” with an address listed at the bottom. So we agreed we’d look it up during dinner. We were quite excited to get to party on a Saturday, it had been a while since we went out.

During dinner we looked the party up and found the address with very little detail about what the party would be like, since it was mostly on the way we decided we would check it out. While dinner was not impressive in the small run down home that seemed to be converted into a 3 story Mexican Restaurant, the party that followed was.

Waking down the little streets of village shelters lining city blocks with little homes and small shops reminded me of walking past camps at Burning Man on your way to one of the sound camps. People strolled down the street, some playing cards on the side of the road. Small shop owners stood outside with lights welcoming people into the stores. It was very cute and lively. After 10 minutes of walking we found the party, as we walked up we could hear the house music bumping from a distance. We knew we found the right place.

Walking in the place was a small terrace surrounded by 4 walls. There was a DJ booth set up in the back with a DJ plying his selection of nudisco and house tracks. We were glad we came.

As we began to settle in we noticed the setup was actually a terrace dance floor surrounded by tables and a person grilling on the side. Inside one of the walls was a bar and some tables and a couple windows facing the terrace. In the corner of the terrace there was a small bathroom, and then on the opposite wall, by the entrance to the terrace, there was a room where people were lounging and having drinks. The setup was cozy and comfortable. The crowd was 90% expats, most from Europe but also some Aussies and South Americans. It was a very nice vibe, and I mentioned multiple times it reminded me of a Burning Man party.

Soon we learned that the one if the owners of “the other place” was an expat from Germany and this was their first summer party. We also found our that another one of the owners was the biggest distributor of DJ equipment in Beijing, unfortunately he has just sold out of the Traktor Z1 mixer I was looking for.

Unfortunately we had to leave a bit early because we were heading to Datong at 5am, by train, and we’d need to understand how to get to the train station.

The party was a wonderful experience and really helped shape and change our perspective of Beijing. Some of the party goers told us where we can find similar parties and told us about other events that happen in Beijing. They mentioned the Beijinger as a good resource to learn about what’s happening in the city, and told us that the best place for expats to hang out was Sanlitun.

If you’re in Beijing and looking for a fun vibe make sure to check out The Beijinger and Sanlitun to have a good time.

Thanks for reading :)

David