We Finally Arrived in Chiang Mai
We made it! After visiting Thailand for over 15 years and never getting any farther north than Bangkok, we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, ready to explore and ready to eat (it’s famed for its great availability of vegan food after all).
The first thing we noticed was that it’s busy, really busy. The traffic circling the old town where our new temporary Vegan Food Quest HQ was, never seemed to stop and the streets were packed with tourists; lots of tourists.
The temples offered a calm space to escape the busy streets of Chiang Mai
The second thing we noticed was that it gets cold at night, a very weird concept for us having only spent time in Southern Thailand where it’s hot around the clock. Having escaped the cold of Britain quite happily for over a year, it was a bit of a shock to the system, even though by Chiang Mai standards it wasn’t even really that cold.
We have clearly gone soft after a year of travel
There also seemed to be an unusual amount of tour agencies (promoting trips to elephant sanctuaries’, the Tiger Temple and Chaing Mai Zoo, so of no interest to us as vegan travellers who like to avoid the exploitation of animals as far as possible) and massage shops, which unbelievably we didn’t manage to find time to visit (yes, we know this is deeply wrong).
We braved the cold and the crowds and tried to soak up everything Thailand’s second largest city has to offer during our time there, which basically involves beautiful temples on every street corner (and more), amazing markets and a lot of vegan food.
“What Wat is this?”
We spent our days wandering around in the sun, marvelling at the sparkling temples, listening to the tinkling temple wind chimes and finding places to eat and we spent our nights meeting some really rather lovely people including our first ever real live person who was taking part in Veganuary (which of course multiplied how cool he was by about a thousand), a really friendly, travel loving couple (one of whom had the best Brummy-German-English accent) and the absolutely awesome, fellow vegan traveller blogger Jessica Meadows of North and South Nomads.
We hated the famed ‘walking street’ night market (too busy, too touristy) but loved the local Thanin Market which we visited for the first time as part of our cooking Thai food in luxury experience which was one of the best things we’ve done in a long time. Thanin Market is a brilliant place to try different local vegan foods like sticky rice and black beans steamed in bamboo.
Sticky rice baked in bamboo
The freshest of fresh vegetables at Thanin Market
Learning to be vegan chefs!?!
Our time in the veggie capital of Thailand included 2 great fine dining experiences, one of which was in a location that can only be described as sublime, Terraces at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and the other was a perfect example of Cantonese vegan cuisine, courtesy of Shang Garden at the Shangri La Chiang Mai.
The beautiful view from Terraces at Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai
We tried new street foods made from bananas (very popular up here in the North) including barbecued bananas on sticks (Thai people love snacks on sticks), banana spring rolls (not a diet food but definitely delicious) and delicious mango sticky rice.
Banana on a stick – a simple and healthy vegan snack
Mango sticky rice – yum!
We discovered vegan cake and croissants (both as amazing as they sound) and drank yummy fresh juices, all of which made up for accidentally eating egg noodles on one night of noodle soup mishaps (total miscommunication and lack of local food research on our behalf).
Ah well, you can’t win them all when travelling the world as a vegan
Before we knew it, we were on a scooter heading to Parsang to go our separate ways for the first time in a year and to spend the longest time apart from each other in 17 years of being together…one half of the Vegan Food Quest would be continuing to ‘Find, Eat and Write about the Best Vegan Food in the World’ (including an solo visit to the wonderful Shangri-La Chiang Mai) and the other half would be holed up near Parsang (50km South of Chiang Mai) on a 10 day silent meditation retreat.
Would life ever be the same again?
For more info on eating plant based food in Chiang Mai, check out our Vegan Guide to Chiang Mai where you can see our favourite spots to find the best vegan food in town.