We never really expected we’d end up going to Koh Phangan. Before coming to Thailand, all we really knew of the island was that it hosted full moon parties and was hugely popular with foreign tourists who wanted to get absolutely smashed. Those who know us will know that we’re not really about the giggle water. However, the more we looked into it, the more we read about Koh Phangan essentially having two sides. A kick-you-in-the-face-pee-in-your-bacardi-bucket-and-dance-like-a-flourscent-starfish side and a hey-man-can-i-get-a-gluten-free-vegan-avocado-and-sandalwood-infused-carrot-with-my-down-dog side. The latter was definitely more our style. We had also read that the north-west of the island was particularly beautiful and that we’d be able to get some pretty nice accommodation for a good price, since we’d be there during the rainy season. Turns out everything we read was true.
After a long journey through the night from Ayuthaya, via Bangkok, our boat finally docked at the tropical paradise that is Koh Phangan, where we were picked up by a lady who worked at Ling Sabai Bungalows, where we had booked in for 5 nights. We jumped in the back of her truck and off we went.
A room with a view is what we wanted and that was exactly what we got. Ling Sabai Bungalows are up a dirt track and nestled between the trees and many of them, like ours, have an amazing view of the sea.
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.
Pai is a haven for vegan food, however a lot of places shut up shop when the rains come.
Since we were in Pai during the so-called rainy season (we only got wet once), we visited a lot of places only to find them abandoned for the season. The good news however is that some of the places that were still open were serving incredible food. Staying for only four days at the time of year that we did means we couldn’t put together a particularly extensive list of places to eat , but these are our three favs.
We LOVED Pai. We loved it for its breath-taking scenery, it’s incredible food, the fantastic place we stayed at, but most of all for the huge white Buddha at the top of a huge hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen), who looks out onto the whole of Pai. Very few monuments have evoked such a feeling of serenity as this one did.
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.