Phnom Penh was a tough one. It hurt our hearts. Clawed away at our faith in humanity. This is a place that makes no secret of its brutal past. Instead, it puts it all out on display as a reminder to the rest of the world of just how dangerous it can be when power to falls into the wrong hands and as a way to honour the millions of people who died under the regime of the Khmer Rouge.
Battembang hadn’t been on our radar until pretty much the day before we went there. It’s kind of on the way to Phnom Penh and having heard a few good things about it, we decided to tear ourselves away from Caryl and Paul’s place in Siem Reap and head towards Battembang via a very beautiful 3ish hour bus ride.
While some people choose to spend several days exploring the many beautiful ancient constructions strewn across the archeological site of Angkor, we opted for one day, which in the sweltering heat was plenty for us.
Depending on which website you visit, Angkor Wat is either one of the seven wonders of the world, an honorary eighth wonder of the world or a new seventh wonder of the world. Regardless of its official ranking, it’s pretty easy to see why this place is regarded as one of the most fantastic places on the planet.
We do try our best to take the most environmentally friendly routes while we travel and while it often results in long uncomfortable journeys, we reckon it’s worth it.
Our journey from Koh Phangan all the way to Siem Reap in Cambodia looked something like this
Truck – boat – bus – overnight train – hostel – train – rickshaw – bus – minibus – rickshaw BOOM.
We followed this incredibly helpful guide and although it took us a long time, it was definitely worth doing.
First impressions of Cambodia were good. Really good. We came across quite a few other travellers who had merely dipped into Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, however we had nowhere to be and planned to take it slow. We booked a couple of nights in Siem Reap and decided to see how it went.
Our month in Thailand had been beautiful, but we were well aware that we were following a well trodden path. Although we came to accept the hoards of travellers and the often slightly skewed impression of Buddhism and daily life that are presented to visitors, we hoped that Cambodia would provide a more rugged and authentic experience. As a backpacker, you can hardly complain that other travellers are making a place too touristy when you’re there with your camera snapping away, but what we hoped to get from Cambodia was what we had had a taste of in Thailand, real life just ticking along, with tourists as an afterthought.
There is so much good vegan food on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan. As we expected, a lot of it was geared towards western tourists, i.e, people like us. However, we embraced the fact that in many ways Koh Phangan was a holiday from Thailand and we enjoyed some insanely delicious and healthy food. Here are our 5 favourite places.
As with a number of other places we visited during the rainy season, several restaurants were either closed or had mysterious opening hours that we couldn’t get our heads round. Even so, we had plenty of options!
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.