We needed to head back towards Bangkok from Pai so that we could make our way over to Koh Phangan, so we headed back to Chiang Mai for a few more days for some comfiness at Kittawan Home and Gallery and cuddles with Bobby the dog, who looks like this, in case anyone had forgotten <3
We decided to make a stop off at Ayuthaya, instead of heading straight to Bangkok as we had read lovely things about the historic city. Although it was hard to understand the bus timetables and to find a bus that actually seemed to be going to Ayuthaya, we were told that certain buses headed for Bangkok would stop along the way and let us jump out. Everything sort of went to plan, although we were literally dropped in the middle of a busy dual carriageway and everything seemed a bit ominous at first.
We left Chiang Mai slightly larger than when we arrived. Combining our newfound love of moped travel with the multitude of restaurant options did not necessarily result in an overly healthy stay, but it made us bloody happy. There are several vegan guides to Chiang Mai available online, which we were able to use to help us sniff out the good stuff. We’re particularly grateful to our wonderful friends Caryl and Paul at Vegan Food Quest for theirs and to Mostly Amelie for hers.
Here are the places we particularly loved.
Blue Diamond Breakfast Club
Why not start here. At cinnamon roll heaven. Whaddya want? Juice? Cake? Traditional Thai food? A nice salad? You can pretty much get whatever you want here. Everything is deliciously freshly prepared and the servings are generous. The self-serve bakery area is bursting with buns, slices and pastries. The fridge a cold cabinet of every type of dessert you never knew you wanted to try. You can also buy a pretty impressive range of health foods and other non-edible bits and bobs too. This place does, unfortunately also sell meat so don’t accidentally go ordering a ham omelette or whatever.
Chiang Mai was a very new kind of experience for us. Coming from India, where real life is always happening around you and everything will keep ticking over with or without you, we had anticipated that things would feel different in a place where the tourist trail is neatly pruned and waiting for you. Bangkok had been everything we had expected. Loud, mostly good fun and pretty exhausting. With Chiang Mai, we didn’t know what to expect. We headed there because everyone said it was nice and the food was great (ok, ok, what we actually heard was that there were vegan cinnamon rolls there). But to be honest, at this point in our trip we still weren’t entirely sure what our idea of a “nice” place to visit was.
Chiang Mai is a walking city and there are loads of things to see, in particular, a lot of beautiful temples. The streets are lined with artwork and the choice of food is overwhelming!
We stayed in an absolute dream of a place called Kittawan Home & Gallery, which we found on air b’n’b. Our host Non was one of the most accommodating we’d met in Thailand. He and his girlfriend, an architect who designed the whole place were just wonderful people. They went out of their way to prepare us a special breakfast, which we enjoyed in their beautiful garden. Our room was luxuriously minimal and clean, with a shower we would have killed for at various times during our travels around India.
Bangkok is a vegan haven. If you visit and don’t pile on a few pounds, you’re doing something wrong. Home to arguably one of the best vegan bakeries in the world as well as a whole host of restaurants and cafes offering both local and international dishes, the only food struggle in Bangkok will be deciding which one to choose. We fell in love with some places so much that we went there multiple times and so shock horror, didn’t try every vegan eatery on offer. Here are some of the places we topped up on calories.
So, where were we. Ah yes, Bangkok.
During our short say, we had a taste of the many faces of the city and its endless juxtapositions. We experienced its elegant side, as well as its seedy side, it’s extreme wealth and its poverty. We observed minimal living in contrast with excessive consumerism and we saw age old tradition against a backdrop of high-rise buildings and glowing advertisement screens.
We ended up staying in Bangkok for 5 days. We had planned to stay for less time, but had trouble getting a train out. During our extended stay, we travelled around all over the place. The city is so well connected that it’s a breeze to get anywhere. The metro and the amazing skytrain were both convenient and fun. Getting into those air conditioned carriages and being genuinely freezing was a joy every single time.
Even the bees looked too hot.
Almost 4 months into our trip and we had made it to Southeast Asia. We had never intended to visit Thailand, but the flights were cheap and the weather was meant to be good, so we took a punt on the most touristic country in Asia.
The first meal we ate in Thailand was Indian. Yep, after spending almost three months in India, our first night out in Bangkok was spent at an Indian restaurant.
We arrived in Bangkok pretty late. We were a bit knackered and a bit all over the place and we needed to find food. We hadn’t eaten on the plane and we were starving.
But we could not find food.
It was around 10pm and everywhere that could have potentially served us an animal-less meal was closed. We had asked our Uber driver to take us to a Loving Hut (vegan restaurant chain) which was shut and also happened to be a bit out of the way. Unfortunately he spoke absolutely no English and despite our best efforts to communicate that the place was closed by using google translate, he kept driving around in circles looking for it. We passed the restaurant again and again. Through a series of meaningless hand gestures and over-articulated English words, we tried to ask if he could just take us somewhere else that might have veggie food. This attempt also failed. We ended up at a beef stew joint.
We were starting to get hangry.
Eventually though, we communicated through the magic words “seven eleven”.
There are 8,334 Seven Elevens across Thailand, so finding one nearby was a breeze. All of them have a wide selection of healthy (and horrendously unhealthy) snacks, so we filled a basket with all the nice things we could find.
After guzzling down various seeds and dried fruits, we turned to google with a clear head. It was then that we found Araaya’s restaurant. After calling them and making them promise not to close before we got there we set off.
The food was delicious and being that it was now about 11pm, we ate it in record time.
We’ve enjoyed a range of yummy food in Delhi. While there aren’t really many specifically vegan places, there are plenty of options. As most of our time in Delhi was spent resting, we didn’t venture out a whole lot and tended to stick to one main area most of the time. Nevertheless, we did plenty of eating, so here are our finds.
Delhi offers an extraordinary range of street food. Much of this is unfortunately cooked in ghee. Depending on your ability to communicate, you should be able to find certain things that aren’t.
One blisteringly hot day during our extended stay in Delhi, we decided to head out to see some street art. It’s often one of the first things we google when we arrive in a new place and we knew this was going to be a good’un.
Thanks to St+art festival which took place at the beginning of 2016, Lodhi Colony is now awash with colour. Here’s what their site has to say about it:
“St+art Festival is a collaborative platform for street artists from India and around the world. It works on the idea of ‘Art for Everyone’ with the primary objective of making art accessible for wider audiences while having a positive impact on society. The two month long urban arts festival will change the visual landscape of the city with art interventions in public spaces through murals, installations, performances, workshops, talks and screenings.”
As you travel from one Indian state to another, you often feel like you have arrived in another country. Stepping off the plane in Kashmir was no exception. We said goodbye to Steve and Sarah in Guwahati and made our way to Delhi so that we could catch a flight to Srinagar.
Arriving in Srinagar was particularly dream-like, as we had to catch our flight from Delhi at 5am, meaning we needed to be up and out of the door by 3.30am.
The first thing to hit us was how clean it was everywhere. The second was the extent of military presence. This of course was to be expected in an area which has essentially been a conflict zone for six decades.
Right. Let’s pick up where we left of. Another day, another Satra. This time we visited the much larger Kamalabari Satra which has been a centre of art, cultural, literature and classical studies for centuries. This was more of a complex and there were several different areas for us to explore, including a small museum. We arrived to the most beautiful singing reverberating around the sparse hallway where monks were sitting on the floor, pigeons flapping about among them.