We had a couple of spare weeks between when we were due to leave Cambodia and when we were due to arrive back in India to meet Tom’s parents. We decided to spend them in Malaysia since it was the cheapest place to get to and because why not.
The city of Kuala Lumpur conjured up images of high rises, shopping malls and bustling city life. These things all turned out to exist in abundance, but what was so fascinating was that in and amongst them was an array of culture, colour and soul. Beautiful old Buddhist temples sat opposite luxury shopping villages and businessmen enjoyed lunch at tiny local eateries. We didn’t have nearly long enough to explore all that Kuala Lumpur had to offer but in the four days we did spend there, we saw, ate and experienced so much more than we had anticipated.
We stayed in a great little air b’n’b with a charming guy called Zobran, who had moved to Malaysia from Bangladesh to study and work. He gave us an interesting and heartbreaking insight into village life in Bangladesh. Having grown up in a village which had only had electricity for the past 10 years and he described as being incredibly unsafe, he was happy to be living in Kuala Lumpur.
Kampot was beautiful. Kampot IS beautiful. You know when you go somewhere and you just get that feeling of contentment? That feeling that this is exactly where you’re meant to be and that you have everything to be thankful for? Well, Kampot was that place for us.
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.
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 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.
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.