Travel log: Chiang Mai, Thailand and Pai
I'm sure you have noticed that most of my travel logs revolved around all the food I've eaten. As a vegan, foodie, and chef my trip has been all about food and plans are made based on where I will eat my next meal. Happy Cow has been a godsend. The day before I go to a new city I check out the veg restaurants available and right them down in my travel journal.
Chiang Mai has by far been the most vegan-friendly place I have visited in all of Southeast Asia. It's a gastranomic, orgasmic foodie heaven. That is why it gets it's very own blog post with lots of food porn. Also, because of the delicious food I stayed here nearly 9 days so I could gorge myself. Here are some of my favs in no particular order, but the first two are definitely my top choices!
Pun Pun is "a small organic farm, seed-saving center, and sustainable living and learning center." But, not only that but they have an organic restaurant set on the temple grounds of Wat Suan Dok and have cooking courses at their farm. I'm pretty bummed because I was going to take the 3 day course, but couldn't afford it 🙁 Thank goodness I got to go to the restaurant a few times. It was some of the tastiest food I've ever had! It's also the most affordable vegetarian dining in town, with dishes priced 30-60 baht ($1-2). They have homemade black sesame tofu that is beautiful to look at but didn't really have much flavor. Slather it with some avocado dressing and you are all good!
Fresh Salad w/ Fried Flowers & Avocado Dressing
Kuhn Churn is a vegetarian restaurant that is famous for it's all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for 98 baht. I went to it twice during my stay in Chiang Mai and was not disappointed! It's HUGE and has more choices than I've ever seen at a veg buffet. Beautiful salads, fried rice, curry, pad thai, kao-soi, veggie dishes, 3 soups, papaya salad, crispy wontons or sweet potato fries, noodle station, dessert, and 5 different teas. Not all of it is vegan, so ask if you are not sure (most is obvious if it has eggs inside). The Guava and Strawberry Lemonades were the tastiest drinks I've had in my life!
It's a short distance away from the city center and is a must. You can take a songtaew (red trucks all over town) for 20 baht. They will try to charge you more so don't let them. Just tell them the location (Nimmanhemin Rd. Soi 17) and get in the back.
Mai Kaidee is famous for her innovative cuisine, restaurants in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and her delicious cooking classes. When Eric of Happy Cow told me this was a must-visit eatery, I ran over there right before I caught the night bus to Bangkok. I was not disappointed! We had the Pumpkin Hummus, Papaya Salad (the best I've had in Thailand so far), and a curry noodle dish who's name I can't remember. It was all perfectly seasoned, not too salty or spicy, and reasonably priced.
Blue Diamond is an adorable cafe with tons of vegan and vegetarian options. I only had breakfast here, but they had vegan pancakes on their menu and that is all I really needed. They also had some vegan pastries. I was told that their other food is really good too, but I only had time to grab a banana pancake and fruit smoothie there.
Taste From Heaven is to the east of the main center square a short walk from Tapae Gate. They not only have some of the most delicious food they also teach cooking classes. I ate here 3 times during my stay enjoying everything I tried. Prices are reasonable, 40-60 baht a dish, portions can be small though. What makes TFH really special is that they have vegan chocolate cake, which I didn't find anywhere else!!
Free Bird Cafe is a lovely happy place with outdoor seating and an amazing menu. Prices are a bit more than other places, but profits go to an NGO (Non-government organization) educating and assisting Burmese families in language and the arts. They have soymilk shakes with spirulina and other health foods. Only open for lunch during the week, till 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Pai is a small hippy town about 3 hours north of Chiang Mai. I spent 3 days there in my own private bungalow, which was awesome! There isn't much to do there, but I did meet some amazing people. A few things are the hot springs, waterfalls, night market, and a number of good food choices. The Good Life has vegan options and the best kombucha I've ever tried! Witching Well has some creative vegan choices but the prices are high compared to other places. Charlie and Lek has good thai vegan choices. For the best chai in the world, visit Art in Chai, which hand crushes the spices together for chai and they have soy milk. I went here everyday for chai 🙂