Travelling as a vegan can be tough.
Not because the food is any less delicious, but because there aren’t that many places around the world that cater to this niche diet that allows for no animal products to be consumed. Which makes it a luxury to come across a destination such as Thailand, where vegan-friendly dishes can be found without too much effort.
Here’s everything you need to know about navigating your taste buds around this ultimate vegan and vegetarian destination.
How To Say You Are Vegan In Thai
To avoid fish sauce and other animal products in your food, you will need to remember a simple Thai phrase – Gin Jay. It translates as a strict vegetarian who does not eat meat, dairy or egg. The word looks a little like the number 17 and is found on signage above vegan products and outside some restaurants.
Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is an iconic Thai town surrounded by the walls of the Old City, with ornate temples and lush forests just a short drive away. Instead of urban sprawl, travellers find a charming center easily navigated on foot, where the air is clean and the climate somewhat cooler. A short bike or scooter ride out of the town leads to rain forested countryside. The old town inside its moat, is an extraordinary vision with 30-odd temple spires, barefoot monks in flame-coloured robes and street vendors selling their wares.
Beyond this it has fast become the vegan destination for ethical travellers in Thailand and Chiang Mai boasts more than 80 vegetarian restaurants and has countless others that offer meat free dishes of famed Thai tradition such as Tom Yum soup and Pad Thai. It truly is the mecca of things vegan in Thailand.
Where to eat – Free Bird Café
Free Bird Cafe not only serves delicious vegan and vegetarian food, but it is also part of a local Chiang Mai charity called Thai Freedom House. The restaurant helps to raise funds for families living in poverty and refugees from neighbouring Burma. If you are feeling in need of some comfort food, try the Pumpkin and Ginger curry with a cup of Dirty Chai.
In comparison to Chiang Mai and even Bangkok, Phuket is an expensive city to eat, stay and play in. It’s also not as vegan-friendly, except during the annual Vegetarian Festival, the largest annual vegetarian festival in the world that is celebrated for nine days around the country. The biggest celebrations take place on Phuket Island where 35% of the population is Chinese, and attracts huge crowds every year because of the unusual religious rituals that take place.
During these nine days, shops like the 7 Eleven, restaurants and street food vendors serve up delicious vegan food. Vendors and restaurants indicate their food does not contain any meat, poultry, seafood or dairy products with a yellow flag and the Jay symbol.
It’s one of the best times to visit Thailand as a vegan because you don’t have to worry about what is in your food. You can simply stroll down the street and try anything that draws your eye and is marked Jay.
Where to eat – Atsumi Raw Café
If you follow the raw vegan diet, you will love Atsumi Raw Café that serves raw vegan and vegetarian mains, desserts and a range of juices and smoothies. Try the raw version of the Thai classic Phad Thai with seasonal vegetables and kelp noodles.
Towering skyscrapers, huge malls and a nightlife that never sleeps are just some of the ways to describe Thailand’s capital city. However, this bustling, vibrant city has a lot to offer the hungry vegan traveller as well.
The city boasts many options for vegans, from local Thai dishes to Indian and your classic American hamburgers made vegetarian. There are upper scale restaurants like Broccoli Revolution, where a meal for one costs just over 200 baht, all the way to the tiny cheaper places like the vegetarian food court run by Santi Asoke Buddhists, where a plate of food costs 50 baht.
No matter what your budget, there is something for every kind of vegan and vegetarian traveller in Bangkok.
Where to eat – May’s Veggie Home
This little vegan restaurant, located just off the Asok BTS is famous for its Thai, Japanese and Western vegan food options using tofu or mock meats. Try the May’s Veggie Burger as your main, followed by a slice of vegan chocolate cake.
Thailand’s traditional aromatic curries, fragrant sauces and creative meat substitutes make it a food haven for vegans. Combine that with its pristine beaches, great nightlife, ancient Buddhist culture and low cost of living and it’s not difficult to see why Thailand is one of the top vegan and vegetarian destinations in the world.
Is your mouth watering yet? Book that plane ticket to Thailand and get ready to taste your way around one of the most vegan and vegetarian friendly destinations in the world.
Read more about the annual Vegetarian Festival here – http://www.tourismthailand.org/Vegetarian-Festival
Photo of vegetables with ‘17’ sign credit – http://www.eatigo.com/home/th/en/blog/act/detail/id/91/