Vegan adventures around the world

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Mexico city

FYI Unfortunately I accidently deleted some of my Mexico food pics so there are a few missing from this post.

Gatorta

A small all vegan street stall with a minimal but tasty menu of typical Mexican food including tortas (sandwiches), tacos and gringos (like a taco sandwich). There are several choices of filling including soy chorizo and seitan with optional queso as an extra. I tried the tacos with chorizo and the gringos with queso.

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The gringo was really tasty and super filling and the tacos were good too. They also have a small selection of very delicious vegan cakes including tiramisu at very good prices.

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Corner of Puebla and Insurgentes
Colonia Roma

La Nueva Chul

All vegetarian taqueria with many vegan options. One of the few vegetarian taco places that I came across in Mexico City that does not serve fake meat, instead their menu features a variety of fresh, natural ingredients. The menu was only in Spanish so I just pointed to a couple of random things and asked for “sin queso and sin huevos” (no cheese and no egg).

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Both were good choices, one was fried hibiscus flower topped with some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had and the other came with a mole and rice filling wrapped in some kind of leaf.

Nuevo León 133
Col. Condesa

Falafelito

A reasonably priced falafel chain. I got the medium sized falafel with a drink and chips for 60 pesos (about $3). Very fresh and tasty.

Various locations
http://www.falafelito.com/

Mercado Del Chopo

Saturday “punk” market mostly selling band t shirts, cd’s and vinyl. Not surprisingly given how well it’s known (it’s got a write up in Lonely Planet) it’s pretty mainstream and more pseudo punk than anything else with most of the stalls bursting with Greenday and Bullet for my Valentine shirts. It did get a bit more DIY/ anarchist up with back of the market and there was also a stall selling vegan tortas.

Definitely worth checking out if you’re into alternative sub cultures or people watching. It’s also a good place to find out about upcoming shows or just immerse yourself in the sheer irony that is punk consumerism.

1 block to the left of Buena Vista station
Every Saturday 9-5

Por Siempre

The most famous of the countless vegan taco places in DF, this night only place almost always has a long wait. It’s owned by the same guy as Gatortas just with a few more fancy options. I was taken by my couch surfing host who ordered for me, I got 3 tacos each with a different filling and a side of potatoes and beans.

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Need I say there’s a very good reason for the fame and long queue, SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS!and yes guacamole comes free of charge.

They also have a selection of delicious cakes that changes daily and if that’s not enough there’s also a vegan pizza place next door.

From 6pm-midnight
Corner of Manzanillo/ Chiapas
Roma Norte

Pulque

My CSing host decided to take me out to try a traditional alcoholic drink invented by the Aztecs that is found only in central Mexico. He had no idea how to describe it, so I really had no idea what to expect. We went to a very local bar (I have no idea where it was) that serves only Pulque, it was full of mostly intoxicated middle aged men (and a few ladies) having a very good time.

Although it’s apparently the standard to order a 1 litre jug, I opted for a small glass just to be on the safe side in case it was revolting. Pulque is made from the fermented sap of agave and coming in a variety of tasty flavours including strawberry, pineapple and walnut. I tried the strawberry flavour first and was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted a bit like a milkshake or a sweeter Irish cream as it had quite a creamy milky texture.

I also tried the oat flavour as they’d unfortunately just sold out of the walnut. It was good too but the strawberry was definitely my favourite of the two.

A few days later I found a punk rock bar/nightclub in Condesa named Los Insurgentus on the corner of Colima that serves Pulque. While it lacked the authentic Mexican charm of the first place it was more conveniently situated for tourists wanting to try it, although the Pulque here wasn’t as good as the other place. They had a special when I went, it as two drinks for 35 pesos, I got the strawberry/ peach and a tamarind flavour.

The Green Corner

A restaurant attached to an organic health food store, I went here hoping to find a healthier alternative to the usual Mexican fare served up at most restaurants, which while I was enjoying I was starting to miss proper vegetables.

It turned out to have a similar menu to most other places catering to the more posh ex pat crowd. so I settled for the blue corn tofu enchiladas with green sauce and a green juice.

Nothing amazing by any means but tasty enough and it was nice to have a break from beans.

Mazatlan 81
Colonia-Condesa

Capriche Helada

About 1 block away from The Green Corner is this all vegan ice cream parlor, flavours change daily and there are also a few different toppings and other sweets.

I got mango and caramel love flavours at 22 pesos a scoop.

Ferns do Montes de Oca 64
Condesa

Nueveria Roxy

Also in the same street as the two places above this place has quite a few vegan options. All the flavours on the “nieves” list are vegan.

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I tried the Tamarindo and Maney flavours (Maney is a local fruit that tastes a bit like a cross between a mango and sweet potato but looks a bit like a coconut).

AV. Fernandez Montes de Oca 89
Condesa

Forever

An all vegan cafe right in the middle of Roma, the menu is a mix of standard Mexican and Western dishes and has an English menu available.

I was craving some green veggies so ordered a 1/2 serve of kale and quinoa salad which came with tofu and the special Forever burger which came with a very tasty black bean and almond patty, avocado, tempeh bacon and a side of sweet potato fries.

The prices weren’t the cheapest, the burger cost 150 pesos ($8) but it was huge so not bad value still.

Guanajuato 54
Condesa

Pan Gabriel

Given there seems to be a stall selling donuts on just about every street corner, I mentioned to myCSing host that I was surprised that there wasn’t anywhere with vegan ones. His answer was that there was and gave the name and address of a fairly new 100% vegan and gluten free bakery. It’s not listed on happy cow and never would have found it on my own so after spending the morning at Teotihuacan I stopped by to grab some snacks for my evening flight.

They had a pretty wide selection of goodies including donuts, croissants, cream and jam filled pastries and a selection of sweet breads amongst others and all at very reasonable prices, most things were around 22 pesos.

Zamora 175b corner of Francisco Marques
Condesa

Tips for being vegan in Mexico City

I found it very easy to eat vegan here, although the bulk of veg/vegan restaurants are concentrated in the Condesa/Roma areas it was quite easy to find snacks like fruit, nuts and chips everywhere from the street stalls and markets. I bought 1kg of fresh figs for the bargain price of 30 pesos at a market and fresh dates and nuts cost around 60-80 pesos per/kg and there was plenty of other fresh seasonal fruit everywhere too.

Laos

After a 2 week stint as a dog volunteer at Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand which seemed to go by extremely quickly I headed up to Pai for a few days to chill out. Although Pai was quite vegan friendly, particularly the night market, I wasn’t really into the vibe there which seemed overly egotistical and superficial as well as being incredibly westernised (even more so than Chiang Mai) like many other places throughout Thailand. It was also a bit too packed with the kind of people who’s only ambition in life appeared to be getting as wasted as possible for a little money as possible which generally aren’t exactly the kind of people I bother with. so, after 2 days I jumped on a bus back to Chiang Mai for 1 night with the intention on getting the bus to Chiang Rai the following morning.
The next morning while I was waiting for the Chiang Rai bus at the bus station I started chatting with another fellow solo traveller from Israel who also happened to be a vegan and only sought to confirm all the good things that I’d heard about Israel’s extreme vegan friendliness, making me even more eager to go there to check it out myself.
I didn’t yet have any accommodation booked for Chiang Rai but I had a list of a few potential options so just planned to find something when I arrived. It was pouring rain when I got off the bus, there was only one hostel close to the bus terminal which I discovered was already full. Not being particularly keen on wandering aimlessly around in the rain with all my stuff I decided the best thing to do would be to just get the next bus to Chiang Khong the border town and try my luck there. I had an an hour to kill before that bus departed which was just enough time to grab some stir fried tofu and veggies with rice from a nearby cafe. I spent the next few hours trying to dodge the constant drops of water falling from the ceiling of the very local bus. I finally arrived in Chiang Khong, it was still raining quite heavily and was now also rather dark and cold. Fortunately there was a 7/11 right across the street from the bus stop and the staff were able to tell me which guesthouse on my list of possible accommodation options was the closest. It was only about a 10 minute walk to one that sounded ok so I thought I’d try my luck there first. Thankfully they had space in a dorm room left which I ended up having all to myself for just 80 baht. The guesthouse was a bit weird, I actually thought I’d stumbled upon the headquarters of some strange western hippy cult due the all the weird people I found inside along with all the weird interior decorations, but given my limited options I decided to make do since it was only for 1 night. I was wearing shorts and was freezing from the walk in the rain (and the over functional air-con on the bus), my one pair of long pants was well and truly buried in the bottom of my bag somewhere but thankfully the guesthouse was teeming with friendly cats who were quite happy to oblige in warming up my lap. The owner, a very eccentric and friendly middle aged women was also quite helpful with information on the best modes of transport to get across the border. She told me she could arrange a mini van to the immigration check point the next morning as there were a few other guests also going in that direction. However, the next morning she was apparently “too drunk” to call and book the van so one of the other guests ended up organising it and also checked me out of the guesthouse.
Laos immigration isn’t exactly what you’d describe as efficient by any means but it does serve as a pretty good indication of what to expect in the rest of the country. It took about 3 hours all up to to get my visa and and get out of the Laos side of the immigration building. It was still cold and raining and I was starving as I hadn’t had breakfast yet so I made the decision to spend 1 night in Huoay Xai to give me time to research since I didn’t really have much of a plan or idea of where I was actually going to go in Laos. I had to wait in a tuk-tuk for around 50 minutes before there were enough passengers to head into town which seemed like an eternity. Finally, I was dropped off in the centre of town and after asking around at a few guesthouses I found one with space that was within my budget.
Huoay Xai isn’t exactly the most happening place in the world, especially on the weekend as about 90% of businesses including restaurants were closed which made finding something to eat somewhat of a challenge. There were pretty much only 2 viable options. There was one place on the main street that had stir fried tofu and veggies which sounded passable so I ordered that and waited for close to an hour only to be told that their stove was broken so they couldn’t make it. Since there was nothing else vaguely appealing on the menu I left in search of the next best option. Across the road from the boat wharf, about halfway up the steps that lead to the temple on the left hand side there is a restaurant/ NGO called Daauw Home with a number of clearly labelled vegan options. It is more of a dinner place (the have a small vegan buffet in the evenings) so lunch options were limited to stir fried veggies and sticky rice. Afterwards I bought my bus ticket to Luang Namtha for the next morning, bought some snacks from a small corner store including some vegan chocolate coated muesli bars that I discovered and then spent the rest of the day doing laps around town in the hope of finding something to do (I didn’t).

Vegan muesli bars

Vegan muesli bars

The bus ride to Luang Namtha was a pretty uneventful 5 hours journey. For some reason the bus driver decided to drive straight passed every roadside stop and instead stop at random places on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere giving those passangers busting for the toilet no other option but to pee in the bushes which proved to be quite an issue for the mostly elderly French women that I was sharing the mini van with. It was around 3pm by the time we finally rolled into town, it proved fairly easy to find somewhere to stay since it was quite early still. The town of Luang Namtha is quite small with a small but worthwhile night time food market in the town’s centre which was right across the road from my guesthouse. Upon arrival I did a lap of all the restaurants on the main street to suss out my options and was happy to discover there were quite a few. I ended up at a restaurant called Forest Retreat Bamboo Lounge which according to the sign out the front served “authentic western food” and also had quite a lot of clearly labelled vegan options including a number of pizza and pasta dishes as well as a few GF options. I ordered the tofu, hummus and mushroom sandwich and a roast vegetable salad. It was a bit on the pricey side at around 30 000 kip per dish but it was particularly nice food, especially since I hadn’t had a decent meal in a few days.

Tofu, mushroom and hummus sandwich

Tofu, mushroom and hummus sandwich

Warm roast vegetable salad

Warm roast vegetable salad

Bamboo Lounge restaurant in run by an NGO that helps to train women from minority ethnic groups in hospitality and western food hygiene practices so that they can become more self sufficient. They also organise trekking and kayaking trips and after looking around town at the other trekking agents I opted to book a 2 day trek with them as they seemed to be the most ethical and environmentally responsible of them all. There were already a quite a few other people booked for the trek which brought the price down to a very reasonable $45 which included all meals, water and a sleeping bag.
I wasn’t very hungry at dinner time so I just bought some snacks at the night market which was very vegan friendly despite its small size. I found a stall tucked away in the far back corner that was selling bowls of taro, sweet potato and tapioca worms in coconut milk so I had one of those for dinner as well as some grilled bananas stuffed with shredded fresh coconut flesh.
Early the next morning I lugged my bag down the road to the meeting point for the trek which was a vegan friendly restaurant called Minority restaurant that served traditional Laos hill tribe food. I met the rest of the group that I would be trekking with who were all mostly around my age and were a mix of French, German, Swiss, French- Canadian and another token Australian. It was about a 1 hour drive in the back of a tuk-tuk to the beginning of the trail.
I have done a fair amount of trekking in various countries so though I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in Laos, however, it gradually unfolded into a lot more of an adventure than I’d bargained for as a result of the prior 3 days of heavy rain that caused the river that ran through the national park to rise about 1m and the track to turn into nothing more than a slippery slide covered in inches of mud.
The first day wasn’t too bad, the trail took us up countless very steep mountains, weaving our way down the immensely slippery and steep mud paths that made it virtually impossible for anyone in the group to stay on their feet. We stopped for lunch in a small clearing and ate our lunch jungle style, meaning we sat on logs and ate our food off of a banana leaf with our fingers. The vegan option was stir fried green beans with spicy bamboo shoots and sticky rice.

Jungle lunch

Jungle lunch

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I didn’t take many photos during the trek as I was far too busy trying to avoid severely injuring myself or losing my footing on all the terrifyingly steep and treacherous descents, there wasn’t much scenery either since we were in deep, thick forest.
Our accommodation for the evening was a small wooden hut next to the river.

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The “beds” in the hut were essentially just 2 parallel bamboo poles with a hessian sack tied over the top of them with string, much like a make shift stretcher. I’m not a particularly large person by any means but the beds were so narrow and short that I knew just from looking at them that I was not going to get a minute of sleep despite being completely exhausted from the 6 hours of hill climbing. The bed turned out to be even more uncomfortable than I anticipated because as I was attempting to climb into bed which was quite a task since it was pitch dark and the stretchers were all crammed right up against each other so as to fit them all into the hut, there was also the issue of the mosquito net that I had to fight my way through in the dark. This meant that the only way to get into bed was to crawl in from the foot end of the stretcher, as I was doing just that I heard a rather loud tearing sound (apparently hessian sacks aren’t actually strong enough to take the weight of a person). I spent the night with my feet and butt falling through the holes in the hessian and at the mercy of the beyond freezing cold draught that was blowing up through the large gaps in the floor boards. Due to my lack of a pillow, and since there was also a large hole in the hessian where my head was supposed to go I tried to use the rock hard bamboo pole on the side as a pillow, but since the stretcher was too narrow and weak for me to turn onto my side without causing it to break further it proved to be completely impossible to get even the slightest bit comfy.

Day 2 of the trek started out much the same as the first, after spending a number of hours yet again sliding down steep mountain trails on our behinds trying desperately to grab onto the branches of trees or other nearby plants in desperate attempts to stay on our feet which resulted in several minor injuries including cuts and twisted ankles. After lunch however, things took quite an unexpected turn. We had 2 possible options for which route to take, there was the “easier and shorter” river trail or the climb up another mountain. Since I was the only one who wanted to go up the mountain I went with the majority rule. The river path turned out not to even vaguely resemble a path at all, it was so overgrown and all the rain of the previous few days had washed away almost all of the remaining trail which made it quite an ordeal to walk along. To make things even more interesting our guide had never been on this route so had no idea that it would also require wading across the rapidly flowing and extremely freezing, waist deep river with horrifyingly slippery and sharp rocks on the bottom of it no less than 10 times.
I was down to one pair of comfortable shoes as my other had broken in Thailand, I wasn’t too keen on having to wear wet shoes for the next few days so I had to cross the river in just my socks. Since we were having to cross the river so frequently to keep on the “path” there wasn’t much point in taking my shoes on and off every 5 minutes so I had to walk in my socks for a good few hours which wasn’t terribly fun.
Miraculously we all managed to survive and finally made our way out of the jungle and onto the road to wait for the tuk-tuk to take us back to town. I didn’t have any other long pants with me, other the the wet ones that I was wearing so I just about froze to death on the ride back and was very happy to have a warm shower and a fresh change of clothes when I got back to the guesthouse. Most of the people in the trekking group then met up to have dinner together and to say our farewells before we all headed off in different directions. We to Bamboo Lounge for dinner as most people were craving fatty western food after the exertion on the trek. I just ordered the same 2 dishes again. The restaurant was very busy and the staff seemed a little overwhelmed making the service really slow. It was over 1 hour before my roast vegetable salad arrived but they had forgotten about my tomato free request so I had to wait longer still for them to make another one. Then after reminding the wait staff twice about my sandwich it finally arrived at my table at 10pm, just over 2 hours after I had first ordered it, by which time I was far too tired to enjoy really it.
The next morning it was another early start for what I had been told would be a 7-8 hour long bus ride to Luang Prabang. Another girl from the trek was going in the same direction so we both booked tickets on the same bus. It was a very winding and bumpy dirt road for the majority of the journey, there were countless delays including getting stuck behind a broken- down bus for almost 1 hour on a particularly narrow strip of road making it impossible for us to pass. 12 hours later we finally reached Luang Prabang at 8pm with no accommodation booked. Almost everywhere was full up already so we ended up having to go 1/2’s on a twin room in a moderately expensive hotel for the night, then moved to a more affordable backpacker hostel the following morning.
I was very happy to be in a larger town after close to a week in more or less the middle of nowhere, especially since Luang Prabang had quite a number of good vegan options. My first day I didn’t do very much since I was still exhausted from the bus ride and from trekking so I just wandered around the town and caught up on some internet research on what to do in the area. I wasn’t sure how many days I was going to stay or where I was going afterwards but I ended up staying in Luang Prabang for 4 days since it was such a pleasant place.
On the main street just at the beginning of the night market there is a little white cafe called Indigo, they have a vegan menu available, although it’s a bit on the expensive side. They also apparently do a vegan brunch on Sundays but unfortunately it wasn’t on while I was there. Indigo cafe was a little out of my budget so unfortunately didn’t eat there, I got a tofu and avocado baguette from a street stall across the road instead.

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The night market as I discovered was particularly vegan friendly , as was the morning market (aside from the repulsive and utterly vomit- inducing sight of rat and squirrel kebabs down one of the small laneways). In the small alleyway next to Indigo cafe there were about 3-4 different stalls from around 5pm onwards that had quite sizeable vegan buffets for just 15 000kip (less than $2).

Vegan buffet in Luang Prabang

Vegan buffet in Luang Prabang

FYI there was also grilled fish and chicken etc on the side of the buffet that could be bought separately but all the dishes in the bowls were vegan except for one that had egg in it.
All of the 3-4 veg buffet stall had quite similar dishes but the one furthest down on the left hand side looked the freshest. I got my dinner from these stalls on 3 of the nights that I was in town and really enjoyed the food on each occasion.
Another great discovery that I made in the night markets were the coconut puddings, they were made from just coconut milk and tapioca which were then grilled. They were so delicious and addictive, with a crunchy outer skin and a mushy, gooey, pudding like consistency in the centre.

Delicious grilled mini coconut puddings

Delicious grilled mini coconut puddings

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There were also a few other stalls selling vegan friendly desserts including sweets made from sticky rice flour, fruit and tapioca jellies in coconut milk.
After my first buffet dinner I was craving something sweet (this was before I discovered all the other sweets down the alleyway). To satisfy my sweet craving I was about to get a bit creative and DIY and buy a pack of Oreos to crush up and add to a fruit shake when I looked up and saw pretty much that exact thing on a market stall menu.I got a banana and oreo shake which was very addictive. By the time I had finished it off I was already down the other end of the market, I saw another stall with them on the menu there too so I ended up pigging out on a banana, oreo and mint shake as well.

Oreo shake

Oreo shake

During my internet research I had found out that Free the Bears had a bear sanctuary about 30kms outside of town right next to a waterfall that was a very popular tourist attraction in Luang Prabang, so I was planning to go and visit it the next day. There were a few other people in my hostel who were also going then so I just went with them plus a few other randoms that they had met at a bowling alley the previous night (apparently it’s the only place in town that sells alcohol after 11.30pm). Although I mainly wanted to see the bears when we got to the waterfall I was quite blown away by its beauty. There were countless cascading pools of crystal clear blue water that gently flowed down a hill.

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It was a steep 10 minute climb to the top of the waterfall which I and 3 others from my hostel did together. When we reached the top, after a bit of wandering around ,we heard music coming from somewhere down the trail in the forest and decided to follow it. Envisioning scenes of Buddhist monks chanting and praying in some kind of ceremony, we were taken by complete surprise when we reached the top of the hill to find a large clearing full of extremely intoxicated people wearing military uniforms and singing very out of tune karaoke. Despite it only being 2pm the ground was already completely covered with empty beer cans. We all hesitated for a few minutes trying to make sense of the spectacle we were witnessing, we were just about to make a retreat back down the hill when one of the more senior officers announced our arrival over the PA system and invited us to join in their new year celebrations. Not wanting to seem rude we hesitantly walked over and sat down at one of the tables to have cups of beer thrust into our hands as they crowded around urging us to scull. Quickly realising that we had become their entertainment for the afternoon as more and more of them crowded around us to stare at the 4 foreign girls. They were also quite keen for us to join in the karaoke (only one of us obliged). After posing for a few obligatory photos we made our excuses and swiftly headed back down the hill to the car park to find the others for the tuk-tuk ride back to town.
For my fourth and final day in Luang Prabang I rented a bike and spent the day cycling around town with one of the other girls from my hostel which was very enjoyable. For lunch we stopped at an Indian restaurant called Nisha which was delicious and had a very vegan friendly menu as everything was cooked with oil and all the dishes that are traditionally made with paneer were instead made with tofu. We ordered the palak paneer (cheese(tofu) and spinach curry), dahl makhani and a mushroom curry as well as bread and rice.

Vegan Indian lunch at Nisha restaurant

Vegan Indian lunch at Nisha restaurant

Cycling around Luang Prabang

Cycling around Luang Prabang

On my final morning before my bus to Vang Vieng I went to the morning market to pick up a few snacks and a tofu and avocado baguette for lunch on the road which surpassed the one I had gotten a few days before.
The bus ride, which I had been dreading after the 12 hour ordeal to Luang Prabang, actually went by fairly quickly. At one of the rest stops I spotted a girl wearing a “proud to be vegan” t shirt so I went over to chat to her, she was from Israel (of course). Although I really wasn’t keen on going to Vang Vieng since I’d heard so many negative things about it being a well worn stop on the bogan pisshead backpacker trail around Asia. However, as it was the most convenient place to stop to break up the journey on the way to Vientiane it seemed like the only logical option since I didn’t have enough time to go anywhere else.

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While Vang Vieng wasn’t quite as bad as I been expecting, it was still definitely not my kind of place, but at least it had a decent amount of vegan options. For dinner I was craving falafel and hummus so I had dinner at an Israeli/middle eastern restaurant called Sababa.

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That night at around 3am some extremely drunk guy at my hostel decided to jump/ was pushed off the 2nd storey balcony and broke his hip and wrist and had to be rushed to hospital 6 hours away in Vientianne. I was chatting to a staff member the next day who told me that this was an almost weekly event which probably gives you a fairly good idea of what kind of place Vang Vieng is, much to the disgust and shame of the locals.
There isn’t much to do in Vang Vieng, especially during the day when it’s almost a ghost town, besides getting extremely wasted and tubing. There are however, a few nice caves and waterfalls that are worth exploring which is what I did to fill in my 1 full day that I had in the town.

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I had an early lunch at Nazim Indian restaurant, the menu was identical to Nisha restaurant in Luang Prabang, however, the food quality and the customer service were both of of a much lower standard. I ordered a mango and banana shake, mulai kofta that was made with tofu instead of paneer and palak gobi (spinach and cauliflower curry).

L: mulai kofta, R: palak gobi at Nazim Indian restaurant

L: mulai kofta, R: palak gobi at Nazim Indian restaurant

The mulai kofta was really tasty but the palak gobi was a bit weird and oily and a very unnatural shade of bright green.
For dinner I went to the only 100% vegetarian restaurant in town, a place called Veggie Tables. I wasn’t that hungry so I just ordered some fresh rice paper rolls which were really delicious and came with a very tasty sweet sesame dipping sauce.

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I was still feeling a little hungry afterwards so I also got a veggie noodle soup which turned out to be rather bland and uninspiring and tasted like 2 minute noodles.
FYI The staff at this restaurant seemed to be a little confused about what is/is not vegan. Despite the word “vegan” being painted in very large writing on the sign outside, the waiter told me that the mango lassi was vegan despite also telling me that it was made with dairy yoghurt so order with caution.
After dinner I was a bit stuck as to how to kill the remainder of the evening so after a bit of walking up and down the main street I found a cafe that was showing back to back episodes of Friends so I parked myself there for a few hours and was also joined by 3 of the girls that I’d been hanging out with in Luang Prabang.
The bus ride to Vientiane was thankfully fairly smooth and uneventful, although there was considerably less legroom than all of the other buses I’d been on which meant my legs were completely numb by the time we arrived in the capital city.
I didn’t have any accommodation booked but there were quite a few budget guesthouses and hostels in the centre of town which was just a couple of blocks away from where the bus dropped us off and it was easy to find a place to stay.
My first stop after setting my bags down was to Reunion cafe for a late lunch of braised sesame tofu and veggie stir fried noodles.

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I then spent a few hours exploring the city, which was really more of a big town, and briefly visited a few of the more touristy attractions including the non vegan friendly night market before getting some dinner at an Indian/ Bangladeshi restaurant called Dhaka which was just around the corner from my hostel. I had some samosas which were particularly tasty and very filling, as well as a masala dosa.

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Since I only had 1 full day in Vientiane I was keen to make the most of the large number of all you can eat vegan lunch buffet restaurants in town. They all sounded pretty good but the (nameless) one near the Khou Din market seemed to stand out against the rest. On the way there for lunch I grabbed some very delicious grilled bananas stuffed with coconut for a quick snack and then found a watch repair stall on the street and dediced to get my watch fixed that had broken a few weeks prior.

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The buffet did not disappoint, everything was very fresh and tasty and 100% vegan. There was quite a large selection of dishes including a make your own laksa thing and also a dessert station with coconut milk and tapioca jellies.

Laksa station

Laksa station

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My 2 favourite dishes were a warm minced tofu and herb salad and the pumpkin curry. I was feeling pretty stuffed afterwards so I ambled around the nearby market for a while then explored around the outskirts of the city. After a few hours I had more or less run out of things to do so I started walking back to my hostel to pack my bag. Along the way I heard someone yelling out my name and when I turned around it was the 3 ladies from the hostel in Luang Prabang so I ended up spending the rest of the evening hanging out with them.
My flight to Bangkok was only t 2pm so I had just enough time on my last morning to hit up another of the vegan buffet restaurants. This time I went to a place called Vegetarian in the Golden Age, I wasn’t too sure about the name but the food was pretty good, although not as good or as big as the Khou Din market one.

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Bali- Ubud

Ubud is the centre of many things, not only is it just about smack bang in the middle of the island of Bali, it’s also the heart of Balinese art and culture, and if that’s not enough it’s also a major centre for yoga and all things health related which of course means it is a total vegan heaven, especially for raw foodies.

Here’s a run down of a few of my favourite places in Ubud.

Alchemy

100% vegan and raw, this restaurant’s strength is definitely its raw salad bar in which you get a mixed lettuce leaf base, your choice of 5 toppings from their vast and seriously tasty selection and a dressing. They also do some very impressive and delicious smoothies and juices, my favourites were definitely the carob caramel and the peppermint kiss, the raw dessert bar is worth a visit too.

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Yoga Barn Garden Kafe

Yoga Barn is one of the largest yoga places in Ubud offering almost 100 classes each week in a diverse range of styles with teachers from seemingly every corner of the globe. The vegetarian kafe here is set in a peaceful garden making it a pleasant place to chill out after a yoga class, service can sometimes leave a lot to be desired though, especially when it’s busy. On Sundays there is an all vegan buffet for 65 000.

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Juice Ja Kafe

Serves meat but has quite a few veg/vegan options that are clearly labelled. The scrambled tofu is nice although definitely needs a side of hummus etc as it’s a little dry. The sesame tofu salad is also very tasty.

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Sari Organic

Set in a very picturesque terrace overlooking rice paddies, there is also a small organic shop downstairs. I got one of their specialities which is the tofulafel platter (falafel balls made from tofu) which was great, the raw Thai coconut soup was also a stand out.

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Kafe Soma

All vegetarian and organic, serves the fairly standard menu for Ubud with a mixture of Balinese/Indonesian and western dishes. There is also a large raw dessert case at the front of the cafe, however almost all of the desserts are sweetened with honey which is rather annoying for vegans.

Kafe Sopa

Just down the road from one of my favourite warungs (Dayu’s warung), this cafe has a much more laid back, local vibe than many of the other places often frequented by westerners. The speciality here is nasi campus (mixed rice), which is rice with your choice of 4 or so options from the display cabinet. The tofu balls were my top pick, they were huge and quite filling with quite a bite to them.

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Chocolate mango and coconut cake

Chocolate mango and coconut cake

Dayu’s Warung

Although this place isn’t even 100% vegetarian it’s one of my favourites in Ubud for a number of reasons, firstly Dayu’s offers one of the most creative and unique menus in town with a huge range of delicious vegan, vegetarian and GF options, and a few token meat dishes. Their breadless burgers are beautifully presented and very substantial and are brilliant value. Dayu’s also have a range of exceptionally good desserts (raw, GF and baked options) that are definitely the best value in Ubud, my favourite is probably the GF pumpkin and chocolate cake that is made with sticky rice flour giving it a dense and moist texture. I have eaten at Dayu’s quite a number of times and haven’t had a bad meal yet. They also have a huge range of drinks including chai teas and smoothies. Recommended

Raw chocolate, beet and avocado cake

Raw chocolate, beet and avocado cake

Fresh rice paper rolls with tamarind sauce

Fresh rice paper rolls with tamarind sauce

Mango tempeh curry

Mango tempeh curry

Mung dahl burger

Mung dahl burger

Sweet potato and tempeh burger

Sweet potato and tempeh burger

Purple yam and chocolate cake GF

Purple yam and chocolate cake GF

Mango chai

Mango chai

Bali Buda

I mainly like this cafe as a breakfast place. I had a delicious bagel with salad and hummus, on another occasion I got the gourmet burger which unfortunately didn’t quite hit the spot for me nor did the raw tropical fruit pie.

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Seeds of Life

Another raw vegan cafe, my pick here is definitely the raw pancakes, although they are are little on the sweet side they are pretty impressive none the less. Like just about every other restaurant in Ubud they also have a sizeable range of raw vegan desserts.

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Nine Heaven

Despite this warung being all vegan I found it to be very disappointing on my visit there. Inside has a dusty, run down and unloved atmosphere and unfortunately the food didn’t fare much better. I ordered the bipimbap and a fresh coconut juice. The bipimbap was horribly bland and tasteless and came served with tomato sauce which seemed completely out of place in a Korean dish. My coconut juice, which was served still in the coconut had obviously been sitting in the hot sun all day and was barely drinkable despite my being rather thirsty. Many other people rave about this place so perhaps it depends upon when you go there.

Veggie Table

Located in the middle of the main street Veggie Table serves some tasty and authentic Indonesian dishes. I got a yellow tempeh curry which was very nice.

Living Food Lab

A short walk away from the monkey forest this restaurant is tucked away behind another building in a very pretty garden over looking rice paddies. It’s 100% raw and mostly vegan except for almost all of the desserts which contained honey. I got the custom salad which was a very poor imitation of Alchemy’s, the raw fajita had an unpleasantly burny after taste and was definitely over priced.

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Kafe Atman

Another good place for breakfast, serves meat but veg/vegan options are all clearly labelled. The grain free porridge which is made out of nut and seeds is very tasty and filling. I also really like the tropical fruit and quinoa salad.

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Warung Kopi

I discovered this place by chance on my way to a class at the Yoga Barn. It’s your run of the mill little local Balinese warung. Serves meat but has several clearly labelled vegan options, I tried the tempeh burger which was surprisingly tasty. I did get a little freaked out as it came served with mayo and cheese but it turned out to just be home made soy mayo and a slice of Tofutti mozzarella making it one of the few places in Ubud where vegan can actually find something relatively unhealthy to eat.

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Yellow Flower Cafe

Yellow Flower cafe is about a 15 minute walk from from the centre of town down a series of winding pathways that take you along a very pretty little stream and across some fields. I ordered the betulflower curry and the rainbow salad which were both nice choices.

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Wulan Warung

I was very happy to discover this tiny local little vegetarian warung run by a lovely family. The menu consists of about 3-4 different dishes written on a chalk board. I opted for the spinach curry which was delicious and super cheap at less than 30 000.

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Kafe

This is definitely one of the most popular cafes in Ubud, whenever I have walked passed it has always been packed and its not surprising given at the overwhelmingly huge menu on offer. I really enjoyed the kitcheri and the macro bowl was also delicious.The tofu scramble was ok but probably not the best in town.

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Kokolato Ice Cream

Vegan ice cream and if that’s not enough to convince you to go there it’s also healthy sugar free ice cream with no additives, the cones are also GF as they are made from coconut. The black sticky rice flavour had a mild chocolate flavour and a very creamy sweet texture, I can’t remember what the other flavour was that I got but it was a winner too.

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Myanmar

Day 1: 6am starts are never much fun, especially when you only get home at 1am the night before, but that’s what I found myself doing as I heaved my backpack on for the first time of my 2 month adventure around  SE Asia starting with an 11 day visit to Myanmar. I’d been hearing many good things about this country for quite sometime so was really looking forward to seeing it for myself.

A few hours later I stepped out of Yangon International airport and was greeted by what seemed more like a music festival mosh pit than the entrance to an airport. With a heaving mass of people almost clambering over each other as they eagerly searched for the friends and family that were coming off flights. I had planned on getting the shuttle bus into the city centre as this was by far the cheapest option but after discovering that the bus stop was a 20 minute walk away so given that it was 34 degrees outside I went with the next best option, a shared taxi. I ended up sharing the taxi ride with a very nice Burmese dentist who spent much of the year at conferences in Europe and thus spoke excellent English, so the 1 our trip into the city (it was 10km away) went quite quickly.

I had originally hoped to do some couchsurfing but with so few hosts in Myanmar, most of whom could only host on weekends. The only actual backpacker hostel in town was already fully booked (backpacking/ tourism is still quite a new thing in Myanmar and thus infrastructure catering to budget foreign travellers is very limited) so I ended up booking  in a small guesthouse in a quite street in the Chinatown district.

After a bit of running around trying to find a money changer for the taxi driver which involved a 10 minute walk to find a money changer, I was finally able to check in. After a brief rest I decided to venture out and check out my surrounding before it got dark and I was also getting a bit hungry. I headed for the Chinatown street market which began right around the corner from my guesthouse and stretched along the street for at least 20 blocks. I hadn’t yet had time to perfect my Burmese pronounciation of “thathaloo” (literally translates to lifeless). so I wasn’t too sure how easy it would be to find food, but it turned out to be pretty easy. There were a vast array of fruit and veggie stalls lining both sides of the street so after walking the entire length of the market I did a U-turn and picked up 1/4 of a watermelon and some sticky rice sprinkled with fresh shredded coconut for the grand total of 70 cents.

Sticky rice from street markets

Sticky rice from street markets

There weren’t many places to sit downtown to eat without ordering from one of the many street side restaurant stalls so I just found the cleanest patch of gutter I could find and tucked into my dinner much to the amusement of many of the local passersby and stall holders.

On the way back, just 100m or so from my guesthouse I spotted a glitzy sign  golden sign with the words “vegetarian centre”. I had no idea how I had managed to walk past it twice already without even noticing it, but at least that was lunch sorted for the next day.

DAY 2: I started out my day with a banana breakfast. I bought half a bunch from a street stall for 300 kyat (30 cents), which I ate whilst wandering around the back streets of the Chinatown district towards Sule pagoda where was the former colonial administration district that still contains many now crumbling and dilapidated but still beautiful colonial buildings.After coming to the realisation that I really needed to put some sunscreen on as the day rapidly began to heat up I headed back before deciding that it was also time for lunch.

SO PYI SWAR VEGETARIAN CENTRE

The 1st thing you see when you step inside is a large photo display of the menu with a sign that reads “be kind to animals by not eating them”. They had an English menu available and the staff also spoke some English. The menu consisted mainly of Chinese style dishes with a big emphasis on mock meats. I wasn’t particularly in the mood to sample any crispy deep fried pigs bladder even if it was vegan so just kept things simple and ordered the sitr-fried mixed vegetables and the Japanese beancurd with rice. There were no prices listed, at least not in English but I assumed it was fairly reasonably priced.

Some of the menu at So Pyi Swar

Some of the menu at So Pyi Swar

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While the food wasn’t exactly exciting by any means, but there was a hell of a lot of it. FYI dishes here are supposed to be shared so serving sizes are quite large. For some reason I also got a bowl of soup as a “present” as well. After my meal they also gave me a huge plate of watermelon for dessert. Felling rather full I continued on with the walk that I had started earlier in the day. I made my way up to People’s park, past quite a few completely out of place looking glitzy shopping malls, a sign of the increasing westernisation that is unfortunately sweeping across the country.

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People’s park was quite a pleasant place to wander around with its somewhat tired and dusty art deco landscaping and gardens. In the middle of the park there are 3 large trees with corrugated iron towers built around them with a spiral staircase leading up to a very rusty suspension bridge linking to the other trees.

People's park

People’s park

The park was quite a relaxing escape from the constant symphony of cars horns and traffic pollution so I ended up staying there for almost 2 hours, having settled down under a tree for an afternoon siesta. I then continued on the Shredagon pagoda intending on catching the sunset, however along the way I decided that I was hungry again and craving a bit of air-con so instead left the pagoda to the following evening in favour of food from near my to guesthouse again.

I knew there was a vegetarian Nepalese restaurant in the area somewhere but the address given on happycow was completely out of date so after briefly trying to find it I settled for some Indonesian sweets, fruit and some sticky rice cakes from the night market.

DAY 3: I started the day quite late so decided to skip breakfast in favour of an early lunch since I wanted to go on the 3 hour long circle line train and get back in time for the sunset at Shredagon pagoda. After a fair amount of internet research I finally managed to get an up to date address for the only other 100% vegetarian restaurant in town, Nepali Food House (or so I thought). So after a quick stroll around the old colonial district I headed over to 29th st. There was absolutely no sign of a Nepalese restaurant at the address I had but after asking around a few of the local business owners, one of them was able to give me the new address which was just a few streets over.

NEPALI FOOD HOUSE

This incredibly unremarkable hole in the wall restaurant serves a mixture of basic Nepalese and Indian cuisine (mostly Indian despite the name). I would advise not looking too closely towards the kitchen area as it would most likely send the majority of foreigners running straight for the vomit bucket, but in Myanmar food hygiene standards do have to be lowered somewhat if you don’t want to starve.

Nepali food house menu

Nepali food house menu

I was a little disappointed to to discover that they didn’t have any of the Nepali dishes staples of dahl baht or momos that I was familiar with from my time in Nepal so I opted for the dahl puri and the unusual sounding carrot paratha. I really wasn’t expecting much from the food at this place except for it to fill me up for a few hours and not give me food poisoning which I became considerably less optimistic about as I watched an extremely large cockroach scurry across the floor towards the kitchen straight after someone had taken my order.
Thankfully though the food didn’t make me sick and also filled me up (or should I say clogged me up) for the majority of the rest of the day which was actually quite convenient because the circle line train didn’t have toilets, at least not usable ones.

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The dahl puri was was fried bread stuffed with a surprisingly tasty potato and lentil curry and was served with a small bowl of lentil soup. The carrot paratha had grated carrot and raisin filling which was also fairly good. The whole meal cost 4000 kyat

63 Bo Sun Pet st (lower block)

After lunch I walked sluggishly over to the train station for a ride on the circle line train. Unfortunately I just missed one so had an hour long wait till the next one. I killed the time buy wandering aimlessly around a nearby supermarket which had an amazing clean toilet that even had such luxeries as 2 whole squares of toilet paper in it, which in Myanmar is almost unheard of except for the most touristy areas. (FYI a good supply of tissues and hand sanitiser are essentials, don’t go anywhere without them unless you don’t mind using a hose).

The circle line train is an ancient rail network that (very) slowly loops around the rural outer edges of Yangon and is a fascinating immersion into local culture and everyday life. The 45km journey takes 3 hours, with hard wooden seats on a train that would most likely be in a museum 9or scrap yard) in most other countries, in Myanmar however, these historical relics are still in faithful service. I would advise sitting as far away from the doors as possible for maximun comfort as at each of the 2 dozen stops a huge mass of people as well as their vast array of fresh produce including everything from cauliflower to cotton, will be hauled onto the train all scrambling to get aboard before the train shunts off again which will likely result in you being buried alive in a coffin of fruit and vegetable baskets, probably with a few people ending up in your lap too from being thrown over as the train rocks violently back and forth in a manner which wouldpossibly induce bouts of sea sickness in those people with weaker stomachs.

The circle line train

The circle line train

One of the many stops

One of the many stops

Don't expect any leg room

Don’t expect any leg room

The 3 hours went by surprisingly quickly as I was mostly engrossed in trying to avoid being turned into the base of a vegetable stack and taking in the scenes, as numerous characters jumped on and off the train at every station. The train didn’t actually stop at any of the stations except Yangon central, but rather slowed down a bit which not only caused it to away viciously from side to side, it also caused quite a few dramas as people attempted to get themselves and all of the produce on or off and through the train carriages to the door before the train sped up again to the full speed of 15km an hour.
NB The circle line train cost 1000 kyat and was well worth it, there is also the option of an “air-con” train for 2000 kyat but please note that just because it has the theoretical capability of air-con it does not mean that it is actually functional.

I finally arrived back in Yangon central feeling rather jelly legged and dizzy. The walk to the pagoda took 30-40 minutes as I walked quite slowly. I climbed to the top of the pagoda stairs and paid the rather exorbitant (for Myanmar) entry fee of 8000 kyat. While the pagoda was nice I wasn’t overly blown away by the mind boggling display of gold materialism, especially once the lights came on and lit the pagoda up to resemble a Las Vegas Christmas tree.

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The pagoda did have pretty good free wifi though which is still quite a rare thing in Myanmar.

The random dentist n\man that I had shared a taxi with from the airport had invited me out to dinner as he was interested in learning more about Australia. We went to a very strange restaurant that was part late 1970’s Asian karaoke bar, part Chinese restaurant called Oriental House that was located quite near to Shredagon pagoda. (sorry no pics). I ordered stir-fried mix vegetable with cashew nuts and some rice. It was fairly tasty but but like all of my meals in Yangon it was far closer to survival food then enjoyable.

DAY 4: With a 3.30pm flight to Mandalay which meant that I need to leave at around 12.30pm to get to the airport on time, thus I didn’t have much time to do anything. So after my bags were packed I ducked out in search of some food. I was getting a little bored forking out 1000’s pf kyat for mediocre meals in restaurants so decided to take a more DIY approach for my breakfast/brunch. The previous day I had come across a tiny little Hari Krishna sweet/snack shop on lower 29th st while I was looking for the Nepali restaurant so I grabbed a couple of samosas and some poppadoms from there and a roast sweet potato and an avocado from a street stall. I had to bypass a few sweet potato vendors before I found a more sanitary one since someone picking their nose (and other body parts) and then using that same hand (unwashed and ungloved) to man handle and prepare my food didn’t do a whole lot for my appetite.

I then found a nice bit of gutter to sit in whilst enjoying my delicious meal which caused quite a stir among all the locals , who despite also sitting in the gutter eating obviously weren’t accustomed to seeing a foreigner doing the same. They were very nice though, someone gave me a mat to sit on, the guy from the avocado stall kindly offered to cut open my avocado since my attempts at doing so with the tooth pick I had acquired from the roast sweet potato proved to be rather unsuccessful and a nearby policeman even gave me his spoon to borrow.

I’d originally planned to visit only Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan since I had such little time in Myanmar, it was only after I’d already booked my flight to Mandalay that I decided to also include a trip to Inle lake in my itinerary which meant quite a few very long bus rides to squeeze everything in.

My flight from Yangon to Mandalay was delayed by an hour so by the time I finally arrived at my guesthouse in Mandalay it was about 6pm and I was starving. At the advise of the guesthouse staff I walked a few minutes up the road to a traditional Burmese salad bar for dinner.

DAUNG LANN GYI TRADITIONAL SALAD

Obviously being a salad bar there were tonnes of vegan options (NB make sure to check about fish sauce as many vegan sounding salads had it). I had no idea what to order since I had never heard of the majority of things on the menu so I took the advise of the waitstaff who were only too eager to help and ordered the Indian trumpet blossom salad and the tofu salad along with a young coconut juice with pulp. My meal also came with not 1 but 2 bowls of vegetable soup as a “present”. I couldn’t help but notice that none of the other diners were getting their soup present but I got the impression the teenage male waitstaff weren’t very used to seeing blonde girls in their restaurant.

Both of my salads were delicious and packed full of different flavours and textures. The tofu salad was mildly spicy and the Indian trumpet flower had a very strong, slightly bitter taste. I was totally stuffed by the time I slurped up the last of my coconut juice.

Traditional Burmese salads

Traditional Burmese salads

68th st (corner of 33rd)

As tourism is quite a new thing in Myanmar much of the infrastructure is still in the early stages of development. A such backpacker hostels (and CS) are almost non existent. It took me many hours of internet research before setting out on my travels to find budget friendly places to stay as Myanmar is generally much more expensive that other destinations in SE Asia. During my research I came across a newly opened guesthouse in Mandalay called Dreamland that was actually a non profit community based art and music centre which offered subsidized or free music tuition and art lessons to local children and young people. All proceeds of the guesthouse go towards the running costs of these programs which sounded like a great cause and a far more interesting place to stay than your average guesthouse, so I booked to stay there. It turned out to be an excellent choice and was easily the nicest place I stayed at in Myanmar. The place had a great vibe, was super clean and was filled with the sounds of kids honing their violin and, guitar and piano skills. The staff were also super helpful and friendly. I had only booked one night there as I was still undecided on my next move but Sophia one of the lovely daughters of the family who run the place was really helpful with ideas of where to go next and I ended up booking a bus to Bagan for the following morning.

DAY 5: The next morning just 10 minutes after leaving Dreamland I realised that I was missing something fairly important, my phone. I quickly went to tell the bus driver who promptly pulled over on the side of the road and called the guesthouse who confirmed that my phone was indeed still sitting on a chair in the reception area. The bus was already running late so they didn’t want to wait for someone from the guesthouse to bring it to me, so they organised for my phone to be picked up from Dreamland and brought on the next bus and dropped off to the place I was staying at in Bagan. I wasn’t too worried as I was fairly confident that I would be reunited with my phone again as promised by the end of the day which was indeed the case. I just had to pay 2000 kyat to the courier driver who brought it from the bus station 6kms away to my guesthouse which was very reasonable.

The bus ride from Mandalay to Bagan took just under 5 hours. The roads in Myanmar leave a lot to be desired, the majority of the trip felt more like I was going through the spin cycle of a washing machine than sitting on a bus. Despite the road being mostly unsealed and full of potholes, this did not seem to deter the bus driver from having a lead foot and then slamming the breaks on whenever a motorbike or cow suddenly appeared in the bus’s path. While this is great fun for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers my internal organs really did not appreciate being thrown around for such a long period and my arm also kept going numb from the intense vibration of the arm rest. The trip was quite interesting however, as it was my first proper glimpse of rural Myanmar, as the scenery switched between between dusty brown plains to lush green farmland, interspersed by numerous small villages that looked like they had been torn straight out of the pages of a book of medieval paintings.

It had been more or less impossible and rather unpleasant to attempt trying to eat during the bus trip. The one attempt I did make resulted in me hitting myself in the head with my freshly peeled banana before it landed landed on the floor as the bus went over a particularly large pothole at precisely the wrong moment.

In Bagan I stayed in the budget backpacker area of Nyaung-u located ar\bout 5kms north of Old Bagan where the majority of temple ruins are. I quickly dumped my bags in my room and rented a bicycle and cycled into Old Bagan for dinner the first of the 2 vegetarian restaurants in the area.

THE MOON (BE KIND TO ANIMALS RESTAURANT)

Tucked away in a little enclave behind one of the main temples are both of the vego restaurant which are located right next door to one another. The Moon is the best known of the 2 due to its much publicized write up in Lonely Planet. It is clearly catering to the slightly more upmarket western crowd and thus was about 2-3 times pricier than what I had been paying elsewhere, which was unsurprising given that it was located right in the middle of Myanmar’s main tourist attraction. I ordered the guacamole with poppadoms and a the tofu coconut curry with black sticky rice.

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The food was very tasty, particularly the curry, but the portion sizes were tiny and despite it being my most expensive meal in Myanmar to date (6000 kyats, still really cheap by western standards) I left still feeling quite hungry.

After dinner I had just enough time before sunset to check out a few of the nearby temples which I ended up exploring with a random Canadian girl who was also travelling alone. In my state of hunger I’d forgotten to bring a light with me so I had to cycle back in the dark (there are very few street lights in Bagan) which was a little scary. I stopped to ask a policeman for directions to make sure I was going the right way who insisted that I take a family photo of himself with his wife and child who were hanging out with him, so after obliging I continued on my way for a few hundred metres only to 2 other policeman jump out onto the road in front of me waving their arms motioning for me to stop. I wasn’t too sure what the problem was aside from me riding in the pitch dark with no lights on and also having not got around to purchasing my tourist permit for the Bagan archaeological area yet. It turned out they just wanted to make sure that I had enough air in my tyres and tell me that I had beautiful tattoos. Being a cop in Bagan is obviously a pretty boring job.

DAY 6: Having opted to spend the morning sleeping in instead of getting up early to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately this didn’t quite go to plan as someone fresh off a night bus checked into my dorm room at around 4am waking everybody up in the process. So although I wasn’t up early enough for sunrise, I still started the day fairly early. The bland western breakfast on offer at my guesthouse left a lot to be desired, especially for a vegan so my first priority for the day was to find a fruit stall. I spent pretty much the entire day just cycling around checking out the numerous ruins scattered throughout the area.

Temples in Bagan

Temples in Bagan

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By late morning I found myself in the slightly less touristy area of New Bagan where I decided to stop for lunch. Whilst vegans are pretty much spoilt for choice with just about every single restaurant in Bagan having vegan or veganisable veg options on the menu which is generally the case in the ehole of the country. There is however, in Bagan at least little to no variation of menus from one restaurant to the next wuth all but a dew catering predominantly to the bland western palate.

SMT FAMILY RESTAURANT

I chose a more local restaurant for lunch. There were quite a lot of vegan options on the menu but I ordered the fried rice noodles with veggies and tofu and a pennywort salad.

Lunch at SMT family restaurant

Lunch at SMT family restaurant

Both dishes were perfectly tasty and I was finally starting to get a taste for Burmese tofu which is made out of chickpeas and/or chana dahl instead of the usual soy beans which gives it a yellow colour and a fairly strong flavour.

Main rd of New Bagan

After lunch I cycled back to Nyaung-u to go changed my pants which had ripped quite badly whilst climbing a pagoda (FYI thsi pants are not well suited for such activities) and also to go the money changer in the hope of being able to change over my USA $$ that had been rejected elsewhere due to it having a miniscule pen mark in one corner.

FYI I had changed all of my money into USA currency before I arrive as I had read on various websites and in travel guides that USA currency was the standard norm and was accepted everwhere. However, as of April 2014 Myanmar has officially reverted back to its own currency as the national economy becomes more stable. Whilst USA $$ are still accepted at most of Myanmar’s major tourist attractions you will be charged a higher price than if using kyats. Most money changers are also very fussy about the condition of USA bank notes and even a minor crease may render them unchangeable. SGD or Euros are also able to be changed at all money changers so it may be a better option to bring those currencies instead as plastic is much more durable and less likely to get damaged than paper notes. Thankfully the money changers in Bagan were much less fussy than elsewhere in the country and also gave much better exchange rates on damaged notes.

After a dew more hours of aimlessly cycling around, stopping every so often to offer some of the countless stray and very emaciated dogs some banana chips that I’d bought to snack on for the following days 7-8 hour long bus ride. I then headed back towards one of the few pagodas that tourists are allowed to climb to get a prime position for sunset. Not long after the tourist police arrived to check that everyone had a permit which all foreigners must purchase to be alliwed into the archealogical zone. I hadn’t got mine yet so I just payed the US$15 (or 16000 kyat) then.

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With sunset ticked off the to do list it was time for dinner. After a but of deliberation I cycled towards Bagan’s 2nd all veg eatery Yar Pyi

YAR PYI

Run by a very sweet family who sit outside their restaurant eagerly trying to poach customers from their more famous neighbour, The Moon. This restaurant, despite having an almost identical menu the The Moon (at slightly lower prices) has a much more local and less commercialised, touristy vibe. I ordered the lentil soup and a mixed veg curry with coconut rice.

Everything was pretty tasty and I felt utterly stuffed as I finished my last mouthful only to be presented with a free “present” of a sugar coated fried banana for dessert.

Dinner at Yar Pyi vegetarian restaurant

Dinner at Yar Pyi vegetarian restaurant

Although I enjoyed my meals at both The Moon and Yar Pyi, I think I slightly preferred the latter as it was a bit more authentic and much better value for money.

DAY 7: The most uneventful day so far which entailed a 7 hour bus ride from Bagan to a small hill station town called Kalaw in the north eastern Shan state. The day began with getting a pick up truck from where I was staying just before 7am. The truck circled around town picking up other passengers until it was so full thsy several passengers had to hang off the side as it sped along to the bus station located a few kms out of town in time for our 7.30am departure.

The road the entire way was in much better confition than the one to Bagan. The first few hours took us through rural countryside much the same as the previous bus trip. The terrain was mostly brown, flat and dusty interspersed with the occassional village and farmland with numerous horse and bullock carts hauling large loads of hay. By midday the bus finally started winding its way up the steep, narrow mountain road, as the scenery gradually transformed to green forrests.

We arrived in Kalaw just before 3pm, by which time I was starving, having only eaten a few bananas and half a pack of banana and sweet potato chips. I was keen to try some of the local Shan food which was quite distinctive to much of the other Burmese food. It was also well known to be particularly vegan friendly.

I found a great little Shan noodle restaurant just a 2 minute walk around the corner on the main road into town. As I walked in I was met with looks of utter surprise and confusion by staff and customers alike. Even when I sat down at a table and asked for a menu they still seemed quite confused about why I was there.

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The lady on reception at my guesthouse had kindly qritten in Burmese “I’m vegetarian and allergic to tomato” as I had mentioned to her that I’d been having a hard time getting my tomato free requests met.

The restaurant had an English menu but yhe staff didn’t really speak any so I just pointed to tofu paste noodles and then showed them the vegetarian, no tomato sign.

Delicious tofu paste noodles in Kalaw

Delicious tofu paste noodles in Kalaw

The noodles were absolutely delicious and it was hard to resist ordering another bowl. The tofu paste had a slightly cheesy flavour which gave the whole dish a very mac n cheese taste and texture. They were also ridiculously cheap at just 500 kyats.

With my hunger satisfied I walked around exploring the town which was merely more than blocks in each direction with a lively little market in the centre. Despite the town being a very popular place for foreigners to stopp for a few days before trekking to Inle lake. Kalaw has managed to hold onto much of its original character and charm. Most locals simply just get on with their everyday lives with little interest in tourists, although people are still quite friendly.

Markets in Kalaw

Markets in Kalaw

I had only booked accommodation for 1 night in Kalaw as I was still deciding on my next move. After circum-navigating the town a few times I popped into a few different places to get more info on trekking options. I was a little short on time as I had to get the night bus back to Mandalay in 2 days time so I was thinking of just doing a 1 day trek after spending another day hanging out in Kalaw. I ended up in a place called Sam’s family restaurant which also right across the street from the vegan friendly Everest 2 Nepalese restaurant. I ordered some stir fried veg with cashews and rice for dinner.

Dinner @ Sam's Family restaurant

Dinner @ Sam’s Family restaurant

This restaurant is also a bysy hub for organising treks. While I was eating dinner there was a constant flow of travellers coming in to book treks. After enquiring I discovered there was 1 place left on a 2 day trek that was leaving the next morning. So on the spur of the moment I digned up for that and paid the 35 000 kyat fee.

DAY 8/9: My alarm was set for 6am but unfortunately I was woken up at 4am by the sound of crashing pots and pans coming from the kitchen below my room which made it impossible to get back to sleep. So I caved in and got up happily discovering in the process that the incredibly rusty pre WW1 era original bathroom actually had hot water and a relatively funtional shower despite it looking as though it would crumble in a million peices as soon as I tried to turn the tap on.

A quick stroll around town in the chill mountain air was just the thing to wake me up a bit and kill some time before the Shan noodle place opened. I arrived back there just before 7am, they weren’t quite open yet so I just waited outside along with a rapidly increasing line of other people eagerly awaiting a hot noodle breakfast.

I ordered the tofu paste noodles again and also the vegetarian Shan noodles. Both were delicious but yhe tofu paste noodles were still the standout.

L tofu paste noodles, R vegetarian Shan noodles

L tofu paste noodles, R vegetarian Shan noodles

I went back to the guesthouse and finished organising my bags, ready for the 7:50am pickup which, due to a slight mix up never arrived. So after waiting for an hour I strapped on my bags and walked down to Sam’s restaurant to see what the delay was only to find the truck waiting for me there. So withour a moment to loose as we were now running late I greeted the other 5people in the group, a nice Chinese couple and 3 somewhat rude and snobby French people as I jumped in the back of the truck.

We drove for about 1 hour out of town to where there walking trail began. For the next 6 hours we walked through some stunning rural countryside full of an array of colourful patchwork fields of red chillies, mustard, corn, wheat and sunflowers. We stopped in a small village at some random old lady’s house for a vegan lunch of stir fried noodles with veggies before continuing along the path, up and down and around countless hills and through countless tiny villages.

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Field of sun dried red chillies

Field of sun dried red chillies

At 4pm we finally arrived at our accommodation for the night which was a homestay in a small village made up of 8 families with no electricity or running water. Each house had 1 solar powered light in the main living area. We slept on the floor of a very sweet old ladies house.

Accidently vegan breakfast

Accidently vegan breakfast

Our dinner was also very vegan friendly. On offer were about 8 different dishes, only 1 of which was not vegan and rice. Breakfast the next morning also turned out to be all vegan as we were served lots of fruit and some accidently vegan pancakes, vegan only because they had run out of milk and so had to use water instead.

So after stuffing myself we set out for another full day of walking, but not before the owner of the house’s son smeared some traditional Burmese sunscreen on all of our faces.

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The 2nd day was much the same as the first only even hotter as we wove our way mostly downhill to the flat flood plains surrounding Inle lake. We arrived in Inle lake in time for a late lunch of veggie noodle soup, after paying the US$10 fee to enter the Inle lake conservation area.

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Inle lake

Inle lake

After lunch it was an hour long boat ride to the other end of the lake to the horrendously westernised and touristy main town where I had 3 hours to kill until my 8 hour long night bus journey back to Mandalay which I was really dreading.

The town itself really had absolutely nothing worthwhile writing about. I did eat at a restaurant or 2 while I was there but the food was unexceptional to say the least and overly priced. The main attractions here are the ones outside of yhe town on and around the lake itself which is a popular place for bird watching.

The night bus finally rolled in 45 minutes behind schedule at 7.30pm. I took my assigned seat only to discover that the air con vent above it was broken and could not be closed. So I had no choice but to put on every layer of clothing in my possession and pray that I wouldn’t come down with hyperthermia.

Thankfully the bus was fairly empty which meant that I had 2 seats to myself so could kind of almost lie down which made it much more barely. Everytime I almost fell asleep the bus’s interior lights came on as we pulled into yet another roadside stop. Finally at 3am we arrived in Mandalay. I didn’t any accommodation booked but I just got a taxi into town and rang the doorbell at Dreamland in the hope that someone would still be up. They were as they were still waiting for some guests off another night bus. They showed me yo my room and I instantly fell asleep.

DAY 10: My last full day in Myanmar had arrived already, it was also my only full day in Mandalay. Despite being quite keen to explore the city, my over tiredness and sunburn got the better of me and I woke up deeling rather unwell. I decided to spend the morning in the hostel re-organing my bags for the next days flight yo Chiang Mai (via Bangkok annoyingly because there weren’t any direct flights on that day).

By the afternoon I was feeling slightly better so I went for a walk up yo Mandalay hill. After climbing a never ending staircase for what must have been the best part of an hour I finally reached the top only to discover that the views over the city were almost non existant thanks to the large amounts if dust in the air and a forrest of trees that surroundrd the yop pagoda. So I made my way back down and towards the Burmese salad bar again for lunch.

Unfortunately my 2nd visit there didn’t quite live up to the 1st. I ordered 2 dishes neither of which was nice. After a bit more aimless walking I found myself in the market area just as it started to get dark. It was mostly a local fruit and veg market but there were slso many stalls selling mostly vegan snacks made from sticky rice. I bought a purple sticky rice savoury pancake to munch on as I wandered around and then walked back to Dreamland for some much needed sleep.

Mediocre traditional Burmese salad

Mediocre traditional Burmese salad

DAY 11: Bofore my 10.30am airport taxi pickup I went to a local Shan noodle place on 71st st near the corner of 33rd for breakfast. It was reccommended by Dreamland staff who said that they had the best tofu paste noodles in town. I also got some fried tofu which came with a few different dipping sauces which I ordered by accident.

Delicious Burmese breakfast in Mandalay

Delicious Burmese breakfast in Mandalay

FYI Some places sprinkle fish flakes om many dishes for decoration so always be sure to specify “thathaloo” when ordering. Best to ask a local for correct pronounciation.

Everywhere in Myanmar, particularly outside many shops and restaurants you will find containers of water. This water is free and is safe for drinking which save buying plastic bottles or fiddling around with water purification tablets.

Free drinking water is just about everywhere

Free drinking water is just about everywhere

Taiwan

TAIPEI

DAY 1: I arrived in Taipei just after lunch time, and was starving by the time I got into the city, although I did grab some steamed buns from a small supermarket in the airport to keep me going on the 1 hour long bus ride. After asking several people I eventually found someone who spoke enough English to tell me which of the buns were meat free. I got a taro one and the other was black sesame, both were some of the nicest steamed buns I have ever had.

It took me quite a long time to find the place where I was staying as most of the street signs were only written in Chinese, but after asking several more people until I found another English speaker I was finally pointed in the right direction. I dropped my bags off and then decided to get the MRT into the city centre with the idea of going to a vegetarian buffet restaurant called Evergreen that I had heard a lot about. However, when I got there I discovered that their dinner price was TWD600 (approx.$20) which was a bit expensive so I left in search of a better deal. Several hours later I was still walking around Zhongshan area trying to find another of the veg restaurants from my happycow list but as I was discovering cities in Taiwan (particularly Taipei) has a very complicated street numbering system which in addition to very few signs in English can make things quite challenging for a non-Mandarin speaker, especially if you’re trying to find a particular place.

LOVING HUT

Finally I stumbled upon a Loving Hut tucked down a very colourful and busy alley near Taipei main station. They had an English menu with pictures which was handy. I ordered the spicy dumpling noodle soup, soy nuggets and a very strange tasting mulberry milkshake.

Loving Hut dinner

Loving Hut dinner

The dumpling noodles were the standout, the other things were alright but nothing special. I wondered around for another hour or so and then headed back to the hostel.

DAY 2: I woke up very early despite still being really tired from the flight so I decided to get the MRT a few stops north to Beitou which, although is still very much in Taipei city is considered to be a village. It is famous for its hot springs. There is also a large park (sorry the name escapes me) with good hiking trails so I spent a few hours exploring around there until it was lunchtime.

44 Huaining rd, near Taipei main station

YUMMY VEGAN HOUSE

I managed to mind this cute and quirky little Japanese vegan café tucked under the MRT line opposite a big Buddhist temple. Strangely the kitchen was outside on the porch whilst the 4 small tables took up the entire inside space. I got there at 11.30am right on opening time, I was the first one there but it quickly filled up. They have a menu in English available and the staff also spoke some English. I ordered the braised rice with vegetables, the cold tofu and a blueberry milkshake.

Yummy vegan lunch @ Yummy Vegan House

It was all quite reasonably priced for the portion size, my meal cost around NT250.

218 section 1 Zhonggard rd south, Beitou

IVEGAN

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After lunch I got back on the MRT still trying to decide where to go next. I ended up at ivegan supermarket, Taiwan’s 1st all vegan supermarket that had only opened a few months ago. I got off at Wanlong MRT and straight away saw the ivegan sign so followed it down a series of laneways.
The supermarket was huge and divided up into 2 sections. The 1st was the fresh produce sections with a large range of reasonably priced organic fruit and vegies.

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ivegan

ivegan

The 2nd was pre -packaged items including a small section of mock meats, various dried and canned goods and lots of vegan cheeses (including Daiya) which was sold either in the regular sized packs and also in 2.5kg packs for NT2000. Surprisingly they had almost no junk food except for small tubs of Loving Hut chocolate ice cream. They also have a small coffee shop just inside the entrance.

I left ivegan with my sweet craving intact so though a visit to Taipei’s only 100% vegan bakery was in order.

Near Wanlong MRT, exit 1 turn left and follow ivegan signs

FRESH BAKERY

Fresh bakery

Fresh bakery

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Black forest cake

Black forest cake

Run by an overly friendly Indian guy (sometimes a lady just wants to eat her cake in peace and quiet). I had a slice of black forest cake which was fairly nice but I thought the icing was a tad on the sweet side and there was also a bit too much of it. Fresh bakery also makes lots of different flavoured breads so I got a few to try, including one stuffed with potato and Daiya and my favourite a spiced pumpkin and nut. They are also happy to cater to anyone with allergies with several days notice so if you want GF etc just phone ahead. I had planned to have them as snacks for my day trip to Fulong the following day but after meeting a very sweet and skinny stray dog in a park I ended up donating most of the bread to them.

466 section 6 Zhongxiao east rd

It had started to cloud over by the time I left Fresh bakery and had thankfully cooled down a bit too (it was still about 38 degrees with humidity in the high 90s). I had planned on hiking up Elephant mountain and by the time I got to the nearest MRT it had started to rain but I decided to just keep going as it was only supposed to be a short hike (or so I thought).

After 100’s of steep and slippery stairs I finally made it to the top and was definitely ready to sit down and enjoy the view for a little while. The view was very beautiful and you could see right across Taipei and of course Taipei 101 which was the world’s tallest building until a year or 2 ago.

View of Taipei 101

View of Taipei 101

I was about to head back down the path that I had come up on but then noticed another path that continued going up the next mountain. I was quite enjoying the cool breeze and the rain which was a welcome change from the stifling heat of the city below so I decided to follow the path up for a little while longer. Three hours and 1000’s of stairs later I was still walking; it was now starting to get dark so I was a bit concerned about trying to find my way down. I figured it was probably too late to turn back so just kept going asking the various middle aged men who passed me by on their daily run (FYI Taiwanese men apparently turn into hardcore exercise junkies once they hit 50) until I found one who could speak English and told me that it was only another 40 minutes walking.

I the path was really slippery from the rain so I went fairly slowly, I was overtaken several times by a guy of about 60+ yo literally running backwards down the stairs (he kept stopping to stretch before overtaking me again). Eventually I made it back to a road but had absolutely no clue where the hell I was. There weren’t many people around to ask except for two women but I managed to gesture to my MRT map however due to the language barrier they weren’t able to tell me directions so one of them very kindly offered to walk me to the closest station which turned out to be a 20 minute walk away which was very kind of her, especially since it was raining.
On the way back to the hostel I stopped briefly to look around Shilin night market which turned out to be way too touristy, they did have lots of cheap and tasty fruit though.

DAY 3: HO HAI YAN rock festival

I was quite excited to be getting out of the city and also at having the chance to check out some Taiwanese indie rock and punk bands at this music festival which I had heard a lot about. The whole festival which is totally free (apparently it’s sponsored by the government who is trying to encourage young people to become more involved the creative and performing arts) it goes for 5 days and takes place literally right sand on Fulong beach.

Main stage at Ho Hai Yan

Main stage at Ho Hai Yan

There was some mix up with my train ticket and the train I had a ticket for either got cancelled or rescheduled so after a few minutes of confusion I was shoved onto one of the local all stations trains to Fulong which unfortunately meant standing up for the entire 2 hour journey, but at least it was air conditioned.

I got to Fulong ready for lunch but had no clue where or how to find anything vegan as my internet research for this town hadn’t got me anywhere. I sussed a few places out but the language barrier was becoming an issue and I was getting very over heated walking around in the hot sun so settled on a mango shaved ice (with no milk) instead. Most places it is common to pour condensed milk over the fruit on any shaved ice dessert so always be sure to ask for no milk.

Mango shaved ice

Mango shaved ice

Still hungry but feeling much better I headed down to the beach to see what was going on down there. The music hadn’t started yet and the food options were even less vegan friendly than in town (not to self, beach side towns in Taiwan are really into deep fried sea food). After around an hour of walking around on the sand with the burning hot wind I was ready for another dose of air conditioning so went back towards the main street and into the 7/11. The 7/11’s in Taiwan are much more hospitable to the povo vegan backpacker than the ones in other countries and before long I was stocked up with a carton of soy milk, some cold ramen noodle salad and some stuffed tofu skin rolls. I wasn’t sure if the sauce with the noodles was soy or fish sauce (it definitely didn’t smell like soy) so I just ate the noodles plain. Most 7/11’s and Family Marts also sell whole roasted sweet potatoes and yams and will have a selection of steamed buns, with some vegetarian options too which is quite useful if you can’t find anything else to eat.

7/11 lunch

7/11 lunch

Most of the bands playing were pretty decent although the majority of them just sounded like Greenday or Offspring tribute bands. The highlight for me was a girl pop/metal band (yeah you read that one right) called P!sco. The day was also quite a good learning experience in Taiwanese culture. Firstly, I learned that Taiwan is an extremely safe country. The amount of people who I saw just dumping their bags with all their valuables in them on the sand and then just wondering off to go for a swim or to get food completely out of site from their bags took me a while to get used to, but no one seemed the slightest bit concerned about their stuff being stolen. Taiwanese also prefer to swim fully clothed and apparently don’t like to go further than knee deep. Several times I went in as far as waist deep only to have some guy (I think he was a lifeguard) frantically coming up to me in a speed boat motioning at me to move back to the “safe area”. It was a really fun festival and although I ended up with some very bad sunburn as a momento it was a great day out and met some awesome people too.

DAY 4: Feeling a bit worse for wear with my sunburn/heat stroke I decided to have a lazy inside day. After catching up on some research in internet land I ventured out into the heat in search of some food. I had planned to visit Loving Vegan, one of the only entirely vegan buffets in Taipei. It was a bit of a trek as it was right on the southern edge of the city, but when I eventually got to the address I found it was closed and semi abandoned looking (still not sure if it was closed down or just closed that day). I went to back to the MRT and headed for my next restaurant of choice.

VEGETARIAN PARADISE

This very aptly named pay by weight vego buffet is situated right across the road from Shida university about a 10 minute walk from Taipower building MRT, making it a popular hangout place for students. There was no sign in English so just look for the street number. I was really hungry by the time I arrived so I grabbed a cardboard tray (they don’t use plates for some reason) and a pair of tongs and piled up my plate as high as I could with lots of tofu and vegies. FYI many of the mock meats in Taiwan are made using egg and dairy ingredients so if in doubt it’s best to avoid them.My tray was about 3x bigger than everyone else’s and cost NT270. Everything was very fresh and delicious, especially the pumpkin.

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Buffet @Vegetarian Paradise

Buffet @Vegetarian Paradise

182 Heping E rd, MRT Taipower building

HUA KWANG VEGETARIAN

On the way back I stopped in at one of the vegetarian restaurants near to where I was staying to get some takeout for my hiking trip the following day. I just kept it simple and ordered some fried tofu, rice and stir fried greens. Some of the staff spoke good English and English menu was also available. Whilst ordering I spotted a fried tofu skin dish stuffed with taro which sounded interesting so I got that for dinner.

Taro stuffed tofu skins

Taro stuffed tofu skins

It was very yummy, the outside of it was several layers of crispy fried tofu skin with a thin layer of finely grated spicy veggies with steamed chunks of taro in the middle, it went perfectly with the salty crunchy pickled veggies that it came with.

357 Zhongzheng rd, MRT Shilin

DAY 5: It was an early start for the hike in Yangmingshan national park. I’d come across some hiking group on Facebook that had organised it so just joined up with them. There were about 8 of us in total, a mix of Aussies, Taiwanese, a Russian and a Singaporean. We met up at the MRT station and then got a bus to the trail head about an hour away.

The first hour of the hike was through some very scenic open grassland with lots of cows. We then walked down into a valley where it slowly turned into rainforest. The path we planned to take was “official closed due to landslides” but it was still easily accessible aside from one small section where the track was missing so we had to climb down the cliff using ropes to the next part. The forest was teaming with a huge array of insects, particularly butterflies; a couple of the others were stung by wasps along the way.

Bayan hot springs

Bayan hot springs

3 hours later we finally reached our destination: Bayan hot springs, a beautiful natural hot spring that flows into a river at the base of a waterfall with a succession of pools, each a different temperature cascading down the river. It reminded me quite a lot of the amazing hot springs I visited in northern Sumatra last year. After a quick cool off in the waterfall I jumped into the hot spring with the others, it was very relaxing and peaceful. There were only 3 or 4 other people aside from our group (this hot spring is “officially closed too”). We stayed for around 2 hours going back and forth between the hot spring and waterfall and then walked the half hour back to the main road to catch the bus, stopping at a few places along the river to take photos. I just got some snacks at a supermarket for dinner and for my train ride to Hualien the next day.

HUALIEN

DAY 6: I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped off the train in Hualien to discover it was a bit cooler than Taipei (still horrendously hot though). I quickly dropped off my bags and then consulted a map to check where the closest vegan food options were located then headed out to find somewhere for lunch. My first pick was an all vegan buffet restaurant called Guo Xiang Yuan that was recommended by some random local guy I was chatting to at the train station. However after doing several laps of the street it was on with no sign of it, I gave up and headed for the next best option.

GREENLAND (also called Green Earth by locals)

It was around 3pm when I finally arrived at Greenland to discover that they had just closed and wouldn’t reopen until 4.30pm (FYI it is very common for many restaurants to close in the mid- afternoon period from around 2.30pmish- 4.30pmish). So I thought I’d just wander around the town for a couple of hours until they reopened. I only got a few hundred metres up the road when I found an ice shop which looked too irresistible given the heat so I got a matcha red bean shaved ice. Most shaved ice desserts will usually be served with condensed milk and sometimes ice cream or sorbet (some sorbets are vegan depending on which shop you go to. To ask for no milk you can either say “wo buxiang chi nai”, (“I don’t drink milk”) or if they don’t understand your pathetic attempts at Chinese pronunciation as happened to me on multiple occasions you can just point to it in a picture and say “bu” (“no”).

Matcha red bean shaved ice

Matcha red bean shaved ice

Right on 4.30pm I went back to Greenland more than ready for lunch/dinner. Only very minimal English was spoken by staff but they had an English menu so ordering was easy enough. I got the sesame noodle rainbow salad, crispy fried tofu and a mystery vegetable juice (I tried to ask what was in the juice to no avail so just took a gamble that there would be no tomato in it.

Greenland dinner

Greenland dinner

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Everything was awesome and even nicer than I had expected, the noodle salad was deliciously fresh and the spicy tahini sauce was really yummy. The fried tofu was also really nice and cam served with lots of veggies too.
Greenland was a little pricier than the standard veg buffets but still reasonable prices; I think mine came to around NT220.

143 Jianguo rd

DAY 7: Began with an early start to stock up on snacks and get some breakfast from 7/11 before an hour long bus ride to Taroko gorge. I just got some bananas, soy milk, a taro flavoured steamed bun and a roast purple yam.

Roast purple yam from Family Mart

Roast purple yam from Family Mart

Taroko gorge is an overwhelmingly huge place, with steep marble cliffs rises up right out of the ocean to over 2000m in height, the entire park covers an area of around 1000km sq. I bought the day bus pass so I could just hop on and off the shuttle bus anywhere which made it easier to hike from one part to another. I just did a few of the trails as it was a very hot and sunny day and the crowds of people in some places made it far less enjoyable. The swallow grotto trails which went along the edge of the gorge for several km’s going through a few tunnels along the way was nice as it allowed you to see all the patterns in the marble. It was however one of the most popular and easily accessible trails so if you don’t want to have all your nice gorge photos being photo-bombed by elderly Chinese tourists trying to elbow you out of the way either go here early or go somewhere else. The Bunyan waterfall trail was probably my favourite because it was mostly in the shade and a lot less touristy. It was a very pleasant 6km walk each way following the river upstream.

Taroko gorge

Taroko gorge

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By around 4pm I was a bit over walking around in the heat constantly and was also getting hungry but didn’t want any of the mediocre and outrageously priced food that was available in the park so got the bus back to Hualien.

On the bus ride back into town I discovered a date bar and some nuts at the bottom of my bag which was quite exciting so I decided to skip dinner and just go straight for dessert. It was back to the previously mentioned ice shop for a mango and red bean shaved ice.

CHANG CHUN TENG

DAY 8: After one last ditch attempt to locate Guo Xiang Yuan, I finally gave up and went to another veg buffet place near to the train station for lunch before I caught my train to Ruisui. For NT200 (approx $6) this buffet restaurant is all you can eat rather than the usual pay by weight, what’s better is that it also included drinks and dessert. You pay at the counter first and are then given a spoon and chopsticks. There didn’t appear to be any order in which way you should go around in the buffet section so be sure not to pile up your ridiculously small plate too high because all the elderly Chinese people that pack out this restaurant at lunchtime seem pretty hell bent on getting to every single dish before you at any cost.

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There were all the usual type dishes you’d expect at a veg restaurant, there was also a big salad bar and lots of different types of dumplings and sauces to choose from. The dessert consisted of the regular tofu puddings with tapioca balls, herb jelly and a few different kinds of mocha and flavoured sticky rice. The food wasn’t amazing by any standards and was fairly bland but it was fresh relatively healthy and cheap so it’s still worth a visit if you’re in Hualien.

22 Fu an rd

Before my train I also bought some mocha from one of the many fresh mocha stalls located next to the station.

RUISUI

DAY 9: I’d wanted to stop in one of the small towns between Hualien and Taitung to explore the area and little more, however the accommodation in most places was way beyond my budget. Ruisui, a small hot spring town about 1 ½ hours south of Hualien was the only viable option so I booked a room at the oldest and cheapest place in town which was actually about 5km’s out of town in a tiny little backwater village called Hongye. The hotel was a Japanese tatami style that has apparently been in the same family since it opened 90 years ago and very little has changed since. I had planned on doing some cycling around the area but after discovering that the hotel didn’t have rental bikes (despite their website clearly stating they did) I learned that it would be a 5km walk in the hot sun to get into town to rent a bike so I decided to just have a lazy day and make the most out of the hot springs instead.

My bamboo mat room

My bamboo mat room

The hot spring water was into pumped into some very tacky looking concrete pools with a fake natural rock finish out of a natural spring which flowed down the mountain just behind the hotel. There were 3 pools with varying temperatures, the hottest being about 48C. The water in this spring is apparently very high in iron oxide and sodium which gives the water a particularly unappealing rusty brown colour but at least it didn’t have that hideous sulphur smell like many other hot springs and it was very pleasant and relaxing once I was in the pool anyway.

I had a midday train to catch t Taitung and after a bit of internet research I discovered that there was a vegetarian restaurant in Ruisui close to the train station so set off into town with plenty of time to spare to find it and have lunch. It was pretty simple to find the address but when I got there I wasn’t too sure how accurate my info was as it just looked like someone’s lounge room with a freezer full of mock meats in it. The lady inside spotted me lingering on the door step and motioned for me to come in, after a few moments of confusion and failed attempts to speak Chinese, I managed to get the point across that I was hungry and didn’t eat egg. The lady then disappeared up stairs; there was no menu so I had absolutely no idea what to expect when she re-appeared 10 or so minutes later with a lunchbox and a bowl of soup. It turned out ok, it was just very simple, plain food with rice, some green veggies and a few different kinds of mock meat. The meal cost TWD65.

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2 Guoguang N rd (2 blocks from station then turn left), sign only in Chinese so look for the street number.

TAITUNG

On the train ride to Taitung I was invited out to dinner with some randoms that I’d started chatting to (they were Taiwanese but now lived in Melbourne). So I went out with them to a non-vegetarian restaurant (I have no idea what it was called but it was near the beach somewhere). I left ordering up to them since I couldn’t read the menu. The food was nice enough but nothing exciting.

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I was staying right next to the night market which is also nicknamed “Fruit street” due to the huge array of fruit stalls that lined the street on both sides for several blocks. There were also about 3 or 4 vegetarian restaurants within 100m which I was completely unaware of (all the signs were only in Chinese) until the very sweet girl at my hostel kindly offered to take me on a veg tour of the neighbourhood and pointed them out. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to any of them but they were all in the laneways off Fruit st near the Carrefour supermarket.

DAY 10: While there were quite a few vegan eating options in Taitung they all seemed to be fairly spread out and a bit challenging to find, mainly due to there being considerably less street signs in English than other cities in Taiwan. I’d managed to find Loving Hut pretty easily but for lunch I decided to go to another less generic more interesting sounding vegetarian restaurant called Denim Elephant.

On the walk there I passed a mocha shop that I’d been told was very famous amongst locals in Taitung so I dropped in and bought a few different ones for snacks on the train (I ended up eating them all on the way to Denim Elephant).

DENIM ELEPHANT

This very funky little vegetarian restaurant is attached to an art gallery in a quiet back alley, it is packed full of elephant statues, pictures and knickknacks, the seats were upholstered with used denim jeans. It had a pretty chilled vibe and an English menu, the friendly wait staff spoke a little English but when I asked what was egg free there was some confusion, but she miraculously was able to decipher my Chinese attempt at “I don’t eat egg” (“wo bu chi jidan”) and marked the things on the menu that were vegan. I ordered the fried noodles and an iced green tea.

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Unfortunately the food didn’t match the vibe, or even come remotely close; it was probably the most disgusting meal of my Taiwan trip thus far. It was literally a bland plate of stodgy partially uncooked noodles with a few token bits of veg swimming in an oily pool of flavourless liquid.  It cost NT170 which I thought was too expensive for such crap and simple food. It was back to 7/11 and then the fruit market to buy food to keep me going for the 2 ½ hour journey to Koahsiung.

181 Guangdong rd

KAOHSIUNG

By the time I arrived it was pouring with rain, thundering and starting to get dark, luckily I was staying right near an MRT station. I grabbed a map of the city to find where the closest restaurants were and found one about 3 blocks away. While I was in Hualien several day before I’d also asked someone to write out in Chinese “where is the closest vegetarian restaurant” so I also showed that to a few random people on the street who pointed on a map where there were others nearby so I knew I had about 4 to choose from with a 5 minute walk of where I was staying which was quite handy.

QIAN YE VEGETARIAN

This buffet was so awesome that I ended up eating here every day during my 3 days in Kaohsiung, they had a huge range of fresh, tasty and mostly vegan dishes to choose from and it was half the price of all the other places. I piled up my plate on all 3 visits to this restaurant and prices ranged from NT95-115 which I thought was a total bargain considering the amount of food that I got and the quality.

Plate 1

Plate 3

plate 2

plate 2

plate 3

plate no. 1

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131 Dayi st on the corner of Sinle st

DAY 11: I rented a bike for the day and cycled around the city, up to the Lotus pond and then down along the river. Despite continuously putting on huge amounts of sunscreen throughout the day I still managed to get horribly sunburnt (and I’d only just recovered from my Hohaiyan sunburn, sigh).

LIN SHI JIE

During my bike ride I stumbled upon this street side eatery, there was a large picture menu so it was easy to order just by pointing. I’m not sure if it’s entirely vegan but when I queried (in Chinese) I was told that everything was egg free and meat free. My Chinese pronunciation of the word milk (“nai”) still need some work it seems so I couldn’t find out if anything contained dairy. I got a veggie curry for NT70, it was pretty tasty.

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337-1 Huarong rd

For dinner it was back to Qian Ye (see above for picture).

DAY 12: I had planned a day trip to Meinong to cycle out to Yellow butterfly valley and take in some of the local Hakka culture of the area, I trip which I’d been looking forward to for a while, but I woke up feeling a little worse for wear from my sunburn. I had also realised that it was Monday (it took me a while to figure that one out) and the Hakka museum I wanted to go to in Meinong was closed on Mondays, so I ended up having an inside day and caught up on some washing and travel planning. I couldn’t really be bothered to venture too far in search of food so I ended up back at Qian Ye for round 3.

TAINAN

DAY 13: I was quite happy to be getting out of Kaohsiung, it was an alright city but didn’t really like the vibe that much and was starting to get a bit bored. It was just a half hour train trip to get to the much nicer and friendlier Tainan. After a few hours of wondering around the city centre I went to Guli’s natural vegetarian restaurant but it was closed. I then went to see the Confusionist temple where I found another veggie place across the road but decided to go to a vegetarian buffet restaurant near to where the Monday/Tuesday night market is held.

LONG SPRING

Long Spring vegetarian buffet

Long Spring vegetarian buffet

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It turned out to be a pretty choice to come here instead and totally worth the 20 minute walk. This place was massive and had a huge range of dishes, with quite a lot of Japanese style stir fried vegetables and a good selection of vegan sushi rolls. My plate cost NT180 and was delicious.

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Long Spring plat #2

Long Spring plat #2

201 section 1 Datong rd

DAY 14: The plan for the day was to rent a bike and explore the outer edges of Tainan and the historic old city of Anping. However, thanks to typhoon Matmo that plans got canned pretty quickly when I woke up to the sound of torrential wind and rain lashing the rooftop. Thankfully Tainan escaped the brunt of the storm which mostly hit around the Hualien area and by late morning it seemed to have cleared enough to venture outside. I decided to walk into town instead of going by bike, figuring that I could just get a bus if it started to rain again. It was very pleasant walking (for a little while at least), the rain had cooled things down considerably to a refreshing 29C. About 20 minutes into my walk it suddenly started to pour again and a rather strong wind came up. Just as I was attempting to get my raincoat, which turned out to not be anywhere near as waterproof as I’d hoped, out of my bag some random guy on a motorbike pulled up beside me and gave me his spare raincoat (Taiwanese are seriously the nicest people ever). The raincoat proved to be an invaluable item of clothing for the day as the wind and rain kept pelting down in sudden bursts throughout the day. I had hoped to go to Guli’s natural veg for lunch but when I got there I found that it was closed still (there is a slight possibility that I had the wrong address) along with just about all the other shops due to the typhoon. Wandering where to go for lunch I tossed up the idea of going to one of the places in Anping but figured that I probably wouldn’t make it there in time for lunch. By this point I was fairly close to Long Spring vegetarian buffet so ended up eating there again.

After lunch I walked all the way to Anping, it took around 2 and a bit hours because I kept having to stop and take shelter every time there was a torrential downpour or the wind came up. Eventually I made it to discover that just about everything aside from 7/11 and a few dessert places were closed and the streets were largely disserted so I just wandered around looking at all the old buildings etc for a while until I came to Yunhe st which I knew had a small street side vegan eatery on it.

PU YUAN SU SHI GUO WO

I found it pretty easily as there is a large green vegan sign out the front as well as lots of vegan stickers. It was however, all closed up but stopped briefly to look at the menu display board (it was all in Chinese), just then someone opened the roller door and came out. After asking the very lovely women (named Jessica) if they were going to be open for dinner she told me that they were closed for the day because of the typhoon but if I told her what time I wanted to eat she’d happily cook me something. I arranged to come back in a few hours and then set off on a bit more exploring. Everything I wanted to do/see in the area was closed including the Anping tree house and the Aboriginal cultural park but I did find a nice park with some quality play equipment during one of the brief dry periods of the day so that was good.

I went back to the vegan street stall at the specified time to find that Jessica had a 5 course meal ready and waiting for me (I really would have been happy with just one dish since I was still pretty full from lunch). I had some delicious dumplings, easily the nicest I’ve had in Taiwan thus far, she had also made some very tasty mushroom rice with veggies, soup, a fruit bowl with some chips and a cup of freshly made soymilk. If that wasn’t enough already she then brought out a bowl a freshly made herb jelly in a sauce made of sweetened black soy milk.

Everything tasted amazing and was so lovingly made. Jessica was really sweet and spoke excellent English so we chatted a bit. She told me a story about how she went backpacking in Europe about 20 years ago (long before it became the vegan wonderland it is now), and she nearly starved to because it was so hard to find food so now every time a vegan traveller shows up at her stall she always wants to make sure they’re well fed.

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Dumplings and mushroom rice

Dumplings and mushroom rice

After enjoying my awesome vegan dinner and refusing Jessica’s repeated attempts to laden me with yet more food I got up to pay and was shocked when she said it only came to NT50 (less to AU$2) for everything. I tried to convince her to charge me a more reasonable amount but she wouldn’t have a bar of it and said she just wanted to spread some good vegan traveller karma. If you’re visiting Tainan this place is definitely worth a visit, the food was so delicious and fresh and made with such love, not to mention the nice atmosphere and the pleasant view overlooking the water, and please say hello to Jessica for me.

24 Yunhe st, Anping

CHIAYI/ FENQIHU

DAY 15: My original plan was to travel from Tainan to Chiayi and then onto to Alishan by bus for 1 day before going on to the small mountain village of Fenqihu where there were some hiking trails that sounded interesting before returning to Chiayi via the Alsihan forest train for a music festival. However, typhoon Matmo put these plans into jeopardy as much of the transport in the area had been suspended until further notice due to the weather and the national park around Alishan had also been closed off to visitors. In the morning I was due to leave Tainan, however I heard that the park was likely to reopen the next day so I decided to get a train to Chiayi anyway and figure out where to go from there. When I arrived I found out that the trains were still not operating but there were buses, the only hostel (and only affordable place to stay in Alishan) would not reopen until the following day. Since I was running out of time in Taiwan I couldn’t really spare a day waiting it out in Chiayi so I decided to head to Fenqihu first and then onto to Alishan from there, even though that meant having to get the much more nauseating and far less scenic bus in both directions and missing out on the famous Alishan forest mountain train (the train line currently only goes as far Fenqihu due to typhoon damage from several years ago, repairs on the Alsihan leg are still underway).

The visitor information desk at the train station were able to call ahead and book the hostel in Fenqihu for me so with 3 ½ hours to kill before my bus I wandered off in the directions of the closest vegetarian buffet restaurant which was only a few hundred metres from the train station.

GONGDING SU SHI

Tucked away under a large sign, I walked right passed it the first time. Probably one of the less impressive veg buffets of my Taiwan trip, it was more of a local budget joint. Despite it being bang on 12 midday they didn’t seem to have much food left, it also didn’t look particularly appetising but figuring it was possibly my last chance for a few days to have a decent meal I thought I should get something so I picked out some of the scraps that looked the least likely to give me food poisoning.

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There were quite a few tofu dishes and hardly any mock meat which made a nice change, the dumplings were actually quite good, everything else was edible but that’s about it. It cost NT83

257 Ren’ai st (directly opposite train station)

After my meal I walked along the street for a little while and then headed back to the train station. I stopped and got a very delicious mango smoothie bubble tea (with no milk or sugar) from a small shop across the road from the restaurant. It was bloody huge and super tasty with lots of chunks of fresh mango and coconut, and it only cost NT65.

The bus ride to Fenqihu was certainly not boring, although the steep, narrow and nauseatingly winding road did make me regret eating beforehand, not to mention the erratic driving of the bus driver who didn’t quite seem to understand the concept of braking/slowing down before going around a sharp bend. He instead seemed to take great delight n going as fast as possible around every corner and seeing how many passengers would get thrown from one side of the bus to another. Within 30 minutes of driving we were already almost 1000m higher in altitude.

2 hours later I arrived in Fenqihu in one piece, and followed some random strangers from the bus who were also staying at the same place down the hill to the Catholic church which had the only affordable accommodation in town. I’m not usually one to go within sight of any kind of religious establishment but given the distinct lack of any other affordable options in town there wasn’t really much choice. The hostel is run by a very sweet, albeit rather nosy little old nun from Switzerland, they offer very basic and somewhat musty and weird loft dorm rooms to povo travellers like myself, and at NT300 a night it’s about a tenth of the price of any of the nice little b & b’s in the village.

After checking in to my 15 bed dorm room that I had entirely to myself (thankyou typhoon Matmo), I ventured out for a short stroll before it got dark. I found myself on the giant cypress boardwalk trail just a few minutes later. The path was extremely slippery due the large amount of moss covering the wooden planks and it was littered with lots of branches and fallen trees that came down during the typhoon the day before so it was quite slow going but very beautiful and peaceful. About an hour later I exited the trail and walked back up the steep hill to the Old st where there were a few shops. Market stalls and a 7/11. Most places were closed already so my only dinner option was 7/11. I bought a few packets of nuts to have as snacks for my hike the next morning and some cookies. I walked up the hill to a bench to eat some of them and was followed by a very sweet, sad and hungry stray dog so I ended up sharing a pack of Oreo cookies with him before returning to 7/11 to buy him some noodles for dinner because I felt so sorry for him.

DAY 16: The next morning I was up at 4:45am to hike the Fenqihu- Ruili historic trail which I had seen pictures of on the internet and thought looked rather spectacular. The trail is 7km’s each way and goes through some stunning giant bamboo forests to the peak of a mountain before going back down into a valley to the small town of Ruili. The track is only one way and there is no public transport between Ruili and Fenqihu so if you go there you then have to turn around and hike the 3 ½ hours back along the same path.

The plan was to hopefully make the return journey and then be back in Fenqihu by 12 midday to catch the last bus to Alishan, otherwise I would have to spend another night in Fenqihu. It was a beautiful clear morning, with lovely fresh cool mountain air and almost no humidity thanks to Fenqihu’s 1500m elevation so walking up the hill to the start of the trailhead was very pleasant. I found the track easily which was clearly marked (in English), the first hour was up some very steep and slippery moss covered stone steps. I had to go very slowly as the track had not yet been cleared after the typhoon and there were a lot of fallen trees that I had to duck under/climb over. After a while it finally levelled out a little to a dirt track as the scenery gradually changed from rainforest to bamboo forest. At one point there was an eerie mist flowing up the side of the mountain that got caught in the sunlight making the forest look like it was straight out of a fairy tale.

Fenqihu-Ruli historic trail

Fenqihu-Ruli historic trail

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The trail was easy to follow as it was well signed the entire way telling you how far you’d gone and how much further there was to go. Eventually I made it to Ruili and sat down in a clearing on the side of the road to have a rest and some snacks. About 30 minutes later I was contemplating heading back when it started to rain fairly heavily. I wasn’t that keen on hiking all the way back to Fenqihu in the rain given how slippery the path was and it was also getting quite late and knew that if I hiked back I definitely wouldn’t make it back in time for the bus so I decided to hitchhike back instead. Although the trail is only 7km’s from Fenqihu to Ruili the road is 22km’s and there was very little traffic so I was really hoping I didn’t have to walk all the way back along the road in the increasingly heavy rain. Thankfully though after just a few hundred metres of walking a nice old man in a fruit and vegetable truck stopped to offer me a ride. I had no idea where he was going and vice a versa due to the language barrier but I eventually managed to find a map of the area written in Chinese in my bag and pointed to where I was going. He wasn’t going anywhere near there but kindly gave me a ride all the way back anyway, he even stopped a few times to let me take photos which was super nice of him. I made it back to Fenqihu by 11.30am so I had plenty of time to pick up my bags and also grab some take-away food for the bus ride to Alishan.

FENQIHU HOTEL

I didn’t know of any vegetarian places in Fenqihu since it was so small but I thought I would go and see if Fenqihu hotel had anything vegan as they are famous for their lunchbox meals which come served in a cute little take-away box made out of bamboo. No English was spoken so I attempted to tell them in my horrendous Chinese that I was vegetarian and didn’t eat egg, which the women thankfully understood and disappeared off into the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later with some food for me so I paid the NT100 and headed up the hill to the train station to wait for the bus.

Vegan lunchbox from Fenqihu hotel

Vegan lunchbox from Fenqihu hotel

My lunch was surprisingly delicious, it had a base of rice with various stir fried vegetables (I have no idea what the bright red stuff was but it was really tasty) and some kind of fake dead thing.

Fancy lake hotel is on the Old st directly below 7/11

ALISHAN

I didn’t have any accommodation booked yet in Alishan as the Catholic hostel there was closed the previous day so hadn’t been able to call ahead (the only cheap accommodation in Alishan is also the same deal as in Fenqihu). When I eventually arrived I went to the visitor centre to get directions and was told that the hostel ws already fully booked but they knew of another place nearby that had cheap dorm rooms so they took me over there.

It was a crappy, musty and very run down looking hotel just off the main parking lots where all the shops are. It was a bit more expensive than the Catholic hostel (NT700) a night for the dorm room and was definitely way more disgusting but there wasn’t any other choice and by this time it was pouring with rain so I settled for a bed in a damp and musty dorm room which I ended up having all to myself. As soon as the rain let up a little I went out for a walk, the park is horrendously touristy during the day with busload after busload of elderly Chinese tourists but from 4pm onwards it is almost completely disserted and had a much nicer vibe. I finally found my way to the giant tree trail which was one of the main reasons I’d wanted to go to Alishan to see. It was still raining fairly steadily so the rain coat that the kind random guy on a motorbike in Tainan had given me came in handy once again. I walked past the 3rd generation tree which was pretty amazing and also the huge “sacred tree” to the board walked giant tree trail 1 that goes through a beautiful forest of giant red Cyrpress trees, many of which are around 2000 years old.

I finally arrived at the end of the track which opened up into a viewing area on the edge of the mountain and was greeted with an absolutely stunning sunset, so I hang around to watch that and then made my way back to the village to find somewhere to have dinner.

ALISHAN RESTAURANT OF FINE FOOD

Located around the corner from the main tourist drag near the train station, they had an English menu available and the staff happily pointed out which things were vegan once I explained what I wanted (or didn’t want).

I ordered the sizzling tofu with some rice, nothing fancy or amazing but it was fairly tasty and filling.

Around the corner from 7/11 going towards the train station

DAY 17: I woke up at 3.30am and stumbled out of the hotel and towards the already packed train station to purchase my ticket for the sunrise train which, as I kept getting told was a “must do” in Taiwan. The train took 20 minutes to reach the top of the mountain at an altitude of around 2600m. While 99% of people went straight for the horribly over crowded viewing platform directly in front of the station I decided to walk a few hundred metres further up the path to an area that had far superior views and very few other people.

Sizzling tofu

Sizzling tofu

The sunrise was quite stunning; as the light increased a sea of cloud completely enveloped the mountains below making it appear as if the top of the mountain where I was standing was floating above to clouds.
To get back down the mountain there are 2 options, the train which involved a long wait in line and then a chaotic fight with a whole bunch of elderly Chinese tourists who seemingly want nothing more than to elbow everyone out of their way and even knock others to the ground just so they can get a seat on a mere 20 minute train ride, or a nice leisurely 1 ½ hour stroll downhill on an almost disserted trail through some beautiful forests with stunning views across the countryside. I personally would recommend the latter.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Alishan sunset

Alishan sunset

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3rd generation tree @ Alishan

3rd generation tree @ Alishan

I got back to my hotel at about 7.30am and noticed a lot of people going in and out of the basement carrying plates which I had assumed was just storage or something else equally as boring. I’d already had my usual banana and soy milk breakfast from 7/11 so wasn’t really hungry but curiosity got the better of me so I went downstairs to see if there was any worthwhile. As it turned out the was a considerable upside to staying in a hotel as opposed to a hostel, FREE BREAKFAST. There weren’t any labels on the food so I just asked someone if anything was vegetarian, to my surprise I discovered that everything was actually vegan by default. The breakfast buffet consisted of rice porridge, steamed bread, freshly made hot soy milk and a selection of stir-fried tofu and vegetable dishes. I grabbed a few different things for my 2 ½ hour bus ride back to Chiayi and then went back to my room to pack my bag.

While waiting for the bus I did a quick lap past all the tourist shops to have a look and couldn’t go past the mocha stall without getting some. I got a few different flavours of mini mocha on a stick; each mochi cost NT8 each and were all delicious.

Mochi on a stick

Mochi on a stick

CHIAYI- WAKE UP FESTIVAL

I’d heard about a 3 day metal/punk music festival happening in Chiayi and luckily it happened to coincide with when I was passing through Chiayi. I’d originally planned to go to Taichung as well but I was running out of time so decided to give it a miss in favour of going to one day of Wake up fest. The hostels were all booked out and I couldn’t find anyone to couchsurf with at such short notice but at the last minute I found a place on airbnb. The owner only sent me the address and directions in Chinese and when I cut and paste them into google translate they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. So I arrived in Chiayi with only a faint idea of where I was actually going. I managed to find the right area easily enough but there were no street signs so I had trouble finding the correct street but some random guy on a motorbike stopped and asked if I needed help and then gave me a ride to the street I was looking for. Unfortunately though, I had the wrong street number for the place (FYI Google translate is shite), so I ended up walking all the way back to the station in the hope of finding internet so I could ask a person to translate my Chinese directions. I was almost all the way back at the station when some random guy wanting to practice his English asked if I needed help. He kindly let me check my emails on his phone so I could get the address and then he called up the place where I was staying to get directions (apparently they didn’t make any sense in Chinese either). The guy who owned the place where I was staying offered to come to the station to pick me up since it was so hot, which was awesome so I sat down and chatted to the random guy for a while until my lift arrived.

It was getting late and the festival had already started so I dumped my bags in my room and quickly headed back out again. The festival took place in the creative industries and cultural park just next to the train station so it was just a short walk. Wake up fest is quite a small more DIY type festival but it had a really cool chilled out vibe, quite unusual for a metal festival. There were 3 outdoor stages and one inside an air conditioned warehouse, there was also an alternative clothing market with lots of handmade fashion by local designers and the usual type of festival food stalls. Most of the bands were local Taiwan bands but there were also a few from other countries including South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia and UK.

I was really surprised at the diversity of the crowd, although it was mostly 15-25yos, there were also quite a lot of families with young children and even a few 70+ yos who were rocking out including a sweet little old lady who was pushing her husband around in a wheelchair. I discovered a tonne of new favourite bands throughout the day, but my top picks were Solemn, an epic 7 piece metal band with one of the best female metal drummers that I have ever seen and 88balaz, a fun punky 3 piece. There was also a Korean black metal band called SEED who were pretty rad too. The festival was quite an interesting insight into Taiwanese culture, despite the majority of bands being on the heavier side which is usually a very male dominated scene in most countries, over half of the bands at Wake up fest however had at least one female band member and quite a few were all girl bands. The crowd also had a much higher percentage of women than you’d expect to find at most metal festivals in other places, and were almost even numbers. I was also quite surprised to see so many girls diving into the circle pits which was pretty awesome to see, girls in Taiwan are obviously way more into their metal and music in general than in other places.

Solemn- one of my new favourite bands @Wakeup fest

Solemn- one of my new favourite bands @Wakeup fest

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I was really impressed with all of the bands although Solemn were still my definite favourites, once again there were a high percentage of women there rocking out. The crowds in Taiwan are also considerably better than in Australia (no drunk bogan dickheads) which meant that I could quite easily get up the front and enjoy myself without having to worry about get pushed and shoved about by some egotistical wanker.

None of the food stalls at the festival were vegan friendly from what I could tell so I went back to that cheap veg buffet place (Gongbing) near the station to grab some food to go, as well as another mango bubble tea from the shop across the road before heading back to the fest to eat it.

Wake up fest was probably my favourite music festival of the 2 that I went to as it had a much cooler vibe and was more alternative and DIY than Ho Hai Yan, I was way more into the line-up too. Of all the bands I saw only one was kind of crap (the UK one) all the local bands were awesome and I was really impressed with the quality and ingenuity of the alternative music scene in Taiwan which seems to be very much alive and well.

TAIPEI (again)

TONG DE SU SHI

DAY 18: I had a ticket already for the 12:20pm train back to Taipei which took 3 ½ hours. After checking out I walked about 15 minutes up the road to a small, more local budget vegetarian buffet to get some food for the train ride. This buffet was pretty much indistinguishable from most other buffets in that price range, with all the usual types of dishes on offer. I piled up my cardboard take-out container and paid the NT83 then made my way back to the station stopping at one of the many breakfast places to buy a vegetarian steamed bun and some soy milk for breakfast. Sorry forgot to take photo.

419 section 1 Bo’ai rd

The train ride back to Taipei was quite pleasant (trains in Taiwan are considerably nicer than Australia’s), the journey seemed to go quite quickly and before I knew it I was back in Taipei main station. Although I was excited to be back in Taipei it also meant that I was near the end of my Taiwanese trip which was a shame.

Earlier that morning whilst trying to find out the names of all my new favourite bands in English (the info on set times at the festival was all in Chinese) I’d found out that one of my new favourite bands from Wak up fest (Solemn) was playing a show in Taipei that night at one of the most well-known live indie music venues in town called the Wall so I was keen to go and check them out again. Solemn were part of a 4 band line-up that consisted entirely of female fronted metal bands, 3 were from Taipei and the headliners Head phones president were from Japan.

DAY 19: After a bit of a sleep in I walked around the corner to a fruit shop to grab some fruit for breakfast when of course I came across a vegetarian buffet restaurant so a few hours later I headed back there for lunch. It was the standard mid-range buffet similar to Long Spring in Tainan, but they had a few less common dishes including steamed taro. My plate cost about NT170

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Yummy vegan buffet lunch

Yummy vegan buffet lunch

286 Dalong st (sing only in Chinese)

After lunch I got the MRT to Da’an park as it was one area of the city that I hadn’t spent much time yet. I ended up having a bit of a knap in the shade before making full use of the awesome play equipment and monkey bars in the park’s play area which seemed to have an unusually high number of adults playing there (or maybe that’s just normal in Taiwan).

By chance, on one of my first days in Taipei several weeks earlier I’d heard about a tattoo studio in Taipei called Queen Tattoo Ink that only tattoos women. I really liked their work that I’d seen on their Facebook page which had lots of beautiful colour and shading. I’d been thinking about getting one of my tattoos turned into something else for a while but hadn’t really given it much in depth thought until I heard about this studio but thought they sounded like the perfect place to get my dodgy spur of the moment Thailand job fixed up. So that evening I went to their studios to discuss the design etc and made an appointment the following day to get it done. I didn’t really have any definite ideas about what I wanted so I just left it up to the artist to design something.

OOH CHA CHA VEGAN HEALTH BAR

DAY 20: Since I only had a couple of days left in Taiwan and realising just how many awesome veggie/vegan restaurants there were left on my list, I decided to skip the buffets for the day. Although I really liked most of the buffet restaurants I’d been to I was keen to try a few different cuisines so I went to Ooh Cha Cha an all vegan health food bar located right next to Guting MRT. I’d checked out their menu online a few days prior and it looked interesting, lots of quinoa and tempeh dishes and a variety of sandwiches and raw desserts. There were also lots of gluten free options, which were well labelled.

Tofu bahn mi sandwich and smootie

Tofu bahn mi sandwich and smootie

Banana swirl cheesecake @Ooh Cha Cha

Banana swirl cheesecake @Ooh Cha Cha

I ordered the tofu bahn mi sandwich, a cacao, goji and banana smoothie and a slice of the banana swirl cheesecake for dessert. The sandwich was fairly tasty but nothing too exceptional, smoothie was really nice but I thought it was quite tiny for the price and the cheesecake was really tasty and not too sweet.

207 Nanchang rd (30 second walk from Guting MRT exit 2)

After lunch I went to the tattoo studio for my 2pm tattoo appointment. I’d left the design pretty up up to the artists as I wasn’t really sure of exactly what I wanted. When I arrived they showed me what they had drawn up which was a mostly turquoise and blue Chinese style phoenix with lots of tiny detail and shading on the feathers.
It turned out to be quite a marathon job, taking just over 5 hours to complete due to all the fine details so it was almost 8.30pm by the time I finally left in search of some dinner.

Before and after attoo from Queentattoo Ink

Before and after tattoo from Queentattoo Ink

SOUL R CAFÉ

Another of Taipei’s 100% vegan restaurants, it was only about a 15 minute walk away from the tattoo studio so I thought I might just make it before closing time at 9pm. They have a mostly western menu dominated by various kinds of burgers and pasta with a heavy use of mock meats. Personally pasta is the last thing I would ever consider eating when it’s 40 degrees with high humidity outside, especially in a place like Taiwan where there is an abundance of amazingly fresh and delicious fruit and vegetables on offer, but I guess it must be fairly popular since half of the menu at Soul R Café are pasta dishes. They do however have an excellent and very extensive dessert menu offering a variety of homemade vegan desserts including ice cream, waffles, brownies and crème brule.

It was just before 9pm when I finally arrived here to find that they had literally just closed, but the staff kindly offered to make something for me to takeaway. They only had a few things left so my choice was very limited. I eventually settled on the apple burger and the chocolate walnut waffles.

Impressive vegan dessert menu @Soul R Cafe

Impressive vegan dessert menu @Soul R Cafe

Mediocre apple burger @Soul R Cafe

Mediocre apple burger @Soul R Cafe

Chocolate and walnut vegan waffles

Chocolate and walnut vegan waffles

The burger was quite literally just a bun with some lettuce, a slice of apple and some vegan mayo on it so not entirely sure why it took them over 30 minutes to make, the waffles however, were much better and some of the nicest waffles I’ve had. Soul R café is definitely a good place to go for desserts but I don’t think I’d bother going back for mains.

6 Alley 1, lane 217, section 3 Zhongxiao rd E

DAY 21: My last full day in Taipei had sadly arrived. I was up fairly early as I planned to go to Wulai which was the top of my long list of places that I still wanted to go. It was about a 30 minute train ride and then another 30 minutes on the bus. Wulai is a tranquil Aboriginal community with some of the most stunning hiking and scenery in the country. It is also really interesting from a cultural perspective as the traditional culture and the Atayal (the original inhabitants of the area) is still very much alive and well in the village despite it being a very popular tourist destination.

Wulai Old st

Wulai Old st

Wulai waterfall

Wulai waterfall

After a quick stroll through the old st I walk up the road to look at the waterfall. It was a very hot day and my leg was a little bit sore still from the previous days tattoo session so I wasn’t really up to do any of the more lengthy hikes in the area or visit the hot springs so I walked back to town and went to the Atayal Aboriginal culture museum. Despite it being quite small the museum was really interesting with lots of photos and miniature replicas of traditional houses and info on traditional foods etc. Unfortunately a large group of very unruly school children arrived there at about the same time and seemed to find me a much more interesting subject to stare at which made it slightly less enjoyable.

TAIYO POPO RESTAURANT

I was quite interested to sample some of the Aboriginal cuisine that Wulai is famous for, I had done a little research to see if there were any vegan friendly restaurants around town and I’d come across Taiyo Popo which was almost right next to the museum. They had an English menu so after checking what was “su”, I ordered the tossed betul nut flower salad with sesame oil dressing, a taro rice dumpling and some millet rice.

Everything was really good, the salad was very fresh and tasty and the dumpling had a delicious smoky flavour.

Tossed betul nut flower and sesame salad with millet rice

Tossed betul nut flower and sesame salad with millet rice

Taro rice cumpling @Taiya Popo

Taro rice cumpling @Taiya Popo

14 Wulai old st

There were many little street stalls scattered along the main st selling a variety of traditional snacks, many of which were vegan so I got a grilled rice cake stick with soy sauce and seaweed topping which was delicious and a box of one of my new favourite foods: candied wild yam which was also really yummy.

Grilled rice cake with soy sauce and sea weed

Grilled rice cake with soy sauce and sea weed

One of my fave Taiwanese food- candies wild yam

One of my fave Taiwanese food- candies wild yam

I ended up going back to buy two more rice sticks, this time I got one with brown sugar and black sesame topping and the other with matcha red beans. The former being the much nicer of the two as the red beans made the rice cake all soggy.

More rice cakes, top: brown sugar with black sesame, bottom: matcha red bean

More rice cakes, top: brown sugar with black sesame, bottom: matcha red bean

After another hour of ambling around I was feeling quite tired and sunburnt so jumped on the bus back to Taipei.

DAY 22: I had been putting of packing for the last few days as I was in denial that I was leaving, but I really couldn’t put it off any longer since my flight was now just a few hours away. So I quickly rammed everything into my pack and then set out to get some takeout lunch to eat on the way to the airport. I had planned to go to Minder a vegetarian buffet restaurant chain as they had a branch in Taipei main station but then I discovered that the airport bus stopped just a few blocks away from where I was staying so it seemed more practical to just go to the veg buffet around the corner to get food instead.

Lunchbox from Chinese veg buffet

Lunchbox from Chinese veg buffet

There is also a vegetarian /vegan restaurant in the airport serving mostly Korean and Taiwanese food. It’s located in Terminal 1 B1 foodcourt.

Vegan restaurant in International airport

Vegan restaurant in International airport

Melaka Malacca Malaysia

After hightailing it out of the meat filled concrete jungle of Ipoh two days earlier than planned due to the distinct lack of edible food ( must be the only town in Malaysia where finding bananas is a chore) I jumped on a bus and headed straight for the very touristy former Dutch colonial town of Melaka.

Some of the sights in Melaka

Some of the sights in Melaka

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FO KWANG

I arrived at my hostel hungry, tired and more than ready to sample some of the vegan food that this town had to offer. Upon check in I was directed to this restaurant by the friendly man who owned the guesthouse I was staying in. It was about a 10 minute walk from the tourist hub of Jonker st and is located right in the heart of the old Chinese quarter near to Bukit Cina (old Chines grave yard).

While it may not be the most amazing vegan food I have ever had at RM2 (70 cents) for a large plate (or should I say a basket lined with grease proof paper) for rice and 3 choices of veg it’s definitely got to be one of the cheapest.

Cheapest lunch ever

Cheapest lunch ever

I was quite surprised just how much food was shovelled into my basket, it’s amazing they can actually stay in business for that price. Little English was spoken by the guy behind the counter but everything is vegan anyway. All the food was quite fresh considering it was well past lunchtime and not quite dinner time yet (I ate here at 4.30pm). Well worth a visit!

117 Jalan Temanggong

GEOGRAPHERS CAFE

A fellow vegetarian staying at the same place as me suggested this vegetarian friendly restaurant conveniently located right in the middle of Jonker st so figured it was worth checking out.

I ordered the Straights of Malacca salad which had an assortment of grated veggies and rice cubes with fried tempeh and tofu and a spicy curry dip. At RM9.90 I was expecting a reasonable sized plate of food so was quite disappointed to see  that it was merely more than a few mouthfuls. It was quite tasty though.

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83 Jalan Hang Jebat

VEGGIE PLANET

I had read good things about this restaurant on other vegan blogs so was looking forward to trying it for myself. I ordered the fresh veggie rolls, fried curry tempeh and the veggie raman noodle soup.

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I enjoyed the tempeh, it was coated with curry powder and sprinkled with roasted curry leaves and it had a nice crunchy texture. The veggie rolls were alright, although as much as I like spicy food I wasn’t a fan of the very large chunks of raw red chilli throughout, especially since it came with a spicy dipping sauce.

The raman noodles were even more disappointing, or should I say disgusting. They had no flavour at all aside from the overpowering taste of salt and there were large chunks of some revolting tasting and overly chewy brown thing in it. Not sure if it was mushroom or some kind of fake dead thing but it was rank. So despite being quite hungry I left the bowl mostly full and forked out the rather hefty RM22 for my meal which did not include a drink because all the drinks were so outrageously expensive (RM10 for fresh juice when they cost max of RM4 everywhere else).

41 Jalan Melaka Raya

HUI YUAN VEGETARIAN

Another of the places suggested by the guesthouse owner, this cheap and relatively cheerful Chinese buffet restaurant is 100% vegetarian but some dishes did have egg. I piled up my plate with as much fried tofu and vegetable curry as could possibly fit and it still only cost RM7 ($2.50). They had quite a nice tofu dish that had big cubes of crispy fried tofu in a thin soy and chilli sauce as well as the usual Malaysian type curries and some stir fried greens.

6B Jalan Laksamana 12

SIMPLE LIFE TRACEY’S KITCHEN

I discovered this 100% vegetarian and organic restaurant whilst cycling past after my disappointing meal at Veggie Planet and after a quick stop to check out the menu decided it was worth a visit so headed back a day or two later for dinner.

I had a fresh watermelon juice, a red bean steamed bun and the vegetable curry pot which also came with a number of side dishes including a cucumber and bean salad, clear thin soup, a tofu and herb pickle type thing, a bowl of brown rice and also a slice of watermelon.

Yummy dinner at Simple Life

Yummy dinner at Simple Life

This was easily the best meal that I had in my few days in Melaka, the vegetable curry pot being a particular standout. Although quite similar to a traditional Malaysian laksa minus the noodles, it differed in that, rather than having a coconut milk base it was made with cashew nut milk instead which gave it quite an interesting and unique flavour.

The other side dishes provided the perfect contrast to the curry which was very spicy and as much as I enjoy strong curries it did leave me with burning lips and a sweaty brow.

The only thing I didn’t like about this restaurant were some of the staff. Despite being quite polite and friendly, they seemed completely shocked that I (a western tourist) would knowingly order a rather spicy curry and then also decide to use chopsticks rather than a fork to it with. One particular staff member at Simple Life literally sat there at a table on the other side of the restaurant almost the entire time I was eating staring at me and making comments in Malay to the other staff as I ate my spicy curry with chopsticks which made me feel quite uncomfortable and a little irritated. Thankfully some more customers came in and otherwise kept her busy. I would still go back and eat there again though as the food was worth it and it was quite good value for money at RM21 for everything.

150 Jalan Merdeka Taman Melaka Raya

Cambodia- Battambang, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

BATTAMBANG

I had to wake up at 5am in order to get the first train to get to the bus terminal in time for 7am bus to the Cambodian border. I arrived 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time to find the bus was almost full already. I scrambled on board and squeezed into my assigned seat (literally, the seats were tiny). Despite being only 5’3″ I found myself almost unable to move my legs due to the near non existent leg room. The sun may have only just risen but I knew it was going to be a very long day. There is also a train that goes from Bangkok to the border but after lots of internet research I decided to fork out the extra 150 baht for the bus instead as it was supposedly faster and more comfortable.

It turned out to be quite a strange and eventful bus ride, due to my considerable lack of Thai language skills I wasn’t able to find out what was going on most of the time, 30 minutes before the scheduled arrival time of 11.30am we stopped for a break at a petrol station. It took about 5 minutes of trying to ask various people if this was the border or how long we would be stopping for. I eventually managed to find out we were just stopping for about 15 minutes and that the border was still another 2-3 hours away. I joined the extremely long toilet queue and by the time I got out I turned to see my bus  slowly driving away in the direction of the road. Panicking, I bolted back and virtually had to throw myself in front of the bus to get them to stop and let me back on. About an hour or so later the bus was stopped by two men in army uniforms on the highway (in the middle of nowhere), they boarded the bus and wanted to check everyone’s ID before escorting a middle aged women with a small baby off the bus (still no idea what that was all about).

At 1.15pm (2 hours after the scheduled arrival time) we finally reached our destination. I’d read that there was a lot of corruption in this area with many immigration officials trying to rip off tourists so to be on the safe side I got my visa online several weeks prior to my trip. Next to the bus stop is a white building where you are herded into to get your “Cambodian visa”, this from what I read was the place to be avoided as you have to pass through Thai immigration first before you can officially enter Cambodia. I walked a few hundred metres down the road to the Thai passport control then proceeded to the Cambodian immigration office to get my visa stamped. This whole process took around 2 hours, after which I was finally officially in Cambodia. By this time it was too late to get a public bus to my final destination of Battambang, so I walked passed the “free tourist shuttle” to the bus station (apparently taking unsuspecting tourists to a bus station with extremely inflated bus ticket prices). Instead, I continued walking down the road through the hideous border town of Poipet.

Although it was hot, humid, dusty, smelly, noisy and full of people hassling me I was glad to be getting some exercise and have the opportunity of moving my legs again after the arduous bus ride. All the bus companies operating in Poipet have offices along the main street, so to find a bus you have to walk along the road and stop in at all the small desks in every office to check on bus times and prices.  There weren’t any buses going to Battambang for several more hours so I walked back towards the beginning of town to where I’d seen a shared taxi office. It cost $8 for the 3 hour journey and we left straight away, picking up and dropping off other passengers along the way.

At 6pm, 11 hours after leaving Bangkok I finally arrived in Battambang just as it started to get dark.

Despite Battambang being the second largest city in Cambodia it has a very laidback, non touristy small town vibe and is easily small enough to walk or cycle around. There are two 100% vegetarian restaurants in town so after a well deserved sleep in I ventured out to check them out and explore the area.

TE KUCHA A RESTAURANT

In Battambang they’re not really into naming streets or having street signs for that matter, so to find particular places requires you to count how many streets away from the river you are and then find a landmark or prominent building in order to figure out where you are. Thankfully this was quite easy thanks to the town’s small size and the fact the two veg restaurants were both located across the road from each other near a well known hotel.

Te Kucha a is the better known and slightly classier of the two, it was the first one I found so decided to stop in for breakfast/brunch. The menu had lots of pictures and was written in English and Khmer. Enough English was spoken by the friendly staff for me to find out which items were egg and dairy free. I ordered a fresh watermelon juice and the teppenyaki tofu with rice. I wasn’t really sure exactly what teppenyaki was but it turned out to be a good choice. It’s a sizzling stir-fried tofu and vegetable dish with black bean sauce, very tasty and quite a lot of food for $2.

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La Ha rd (opposite Asia Hotel, street has no sign but it runs diagonally north from Phsar Naht market).

I spent the remainder of the day exploring the town and chilling out at my hostel. Whilst walking around one of the more residential areas and trying to find a shop where I could buy some snacks as I was starting to get hungry, I saw a small street stall selling banana kebabs so walked over and bought a couple for my lunch. They were the best banana kebabs ever, they’re were lightly sprinkled with brown sugar, then roasted on an open fire until they became crispy and caramelised on the outside and mushy on the inside. Each kebab has 4 small bananas on it and cost only 1000 riel (25 cents), total bargain.

Delicious banana kebabs

Delicious banana kebabs

WOODHOUSE RESTUARANT

For dinner instead of going to the other veg restaurant which was more of a breakfast place I decided to try a veg friendly restaurant near Phsar Naht market that I’d checked out earlier in the day. I’d chatted to the friendly owner a bit while I was looking at the menu after my breakfast who was a vegetarian herself and spoke quite good English, I explained that I was vegan and didn’t eat tomato. She was very happy to accommodate these requirements and offered to customise whatever I ordered off the menu. For dinner I ordered a mango shake and the masala veggie wrap with side salad, which I expected to be just curried veggies in a baguette etc. So I was quite surprised to discover in was in fact a savoury stuffed pancake somewhere in between an Indian dosa and a French crepe but with a SE Asian twist. Although it was a little on the oily side the wonderful flavour more than made up for it, even the salad was full of flavour.

Savoury stuffed crepe

Masala veggie wrap

opposite Royal Hotel west of Phsar Naht market

CAFE JIRAH

My last full day in Battambang already, for breakfast I went to Café Jirah, they didn’t have many vegetarian options on the menu but when I enquired they, like most of the other restaurants in Battambang the overly friendly staff were only too happy to accommodate my dietary needs and change anything on the menu to suit. I ordered the sweet potato noodles with stir-fried veg and no egg or meat.

Sweet potato noodles with a side of rice

Sweet potato noodles with a side of rice

It was very nice but not amazing by any means, I was a little perplexed as to why a noodle dish would come with a side of rice though. I think they just wanted to make sure I had enough food since I didn’t want the two main ingredients, it also came with a small plate of pickled veggies that I wasn’t that keen on.

street 3 south of Phsar Naht market

For the afternoon I had booked a sunset and bat caves cycling tour through a small local company called Butterfly tour. Started up just a few months ago by a lovely university student named Sopheap. I was picked up by tuk tuk surprisingly on time  (I was expecting Asian time) and taken to the office down a very picturesque rural laneway to get our bikes. Myself and another girl from Belgium and our guide Sopheap then set off for the relaxing 11km ride through farmland and rice paddies.

Sundried rice

Sundried rice

We had a short stop about half way for a drink and then continued on until we reached a very steep hill/cliff jutting out from the otherwise flat landscape. It was a 10-15 minute walk up to the top of the hill which has a Buddhist temple and a number of caves. We found a spot to sit in the shade whilst Sopheap told us a little about Cambodia’s history and current political situation which was very interesting to hear about from a  locals perspective. Afterwards we had a look around some of the caves, many of which were used as prisons and torture chambers during the Khmer Rouge era, which although was shocking and rather depressing it is also important to better understand the current political situation and the issues Cambodia faces today. We took a few photos of the large gold statue of the sleeping Buddha and then walked back down the hill towards the bat cave just in time for sunset. We stayed for around 15 minutes and watched the thousands of bats flood out of the cave before grabbing our bikes for the ride back into town.

Sleeping Buddha

Sleeping Buddha


Bats, bats and bats

Bats, bats and bats

The whole tour was very well organised and professionally run, Sopheap is a very lovely guy with a genuine passion for making Cambodia a better place for everyone and educating foreigners and tourists alike on the history and politics of the country. The 5 hour tour cost $11+ a $3 cave entrance fee which was fantastic value for what you get and well worth the money. Tours can be booked in advance on their website.

http://www.butterflytour.asia/#/

GREEN MANGO

Before my midday bus ride to Siem Reap I went for a walk around the corner from my guesthouse to the less touristy part of town for breakfast at a café called the Green Mango. I ordered the Asian salad with sesame dressing and the trio pita small plate which consisted of some freshly baked pita bread with hummus and black bean hummus and pesto (I did ask for mine to be pesto free with more of the other two instead but that request got lost in translation somewhere I think). The salad was much larger than I expected and fairly tasty. The black bean hummus was very nice and although the hummus was very hard and crumbly making it difficult to spread it did have a nice flavour.

Asian salad

Asian salad


Trio pita plate

Trio pita hummus plate

The Green Mango had quite a large and varied international menu with plenty of veganisable veg options (if you can get that point across to the staff) and also serves as a training school for impoverished girls from the area to give them a start in the hospitality industry.

 

 

SIEM REAP

I arrived in Siem Reap on New Year’s eve in the early afternoon after a 5 hour bus ride. After checking in to my guest house I grabbed a map to see where the closest place for lunch was, Peace café turned out to be just down the road and since it was one of the top picks on my list I wasted no time in getting there as I was pretty hungry by then. My guesthouse were all out of rental bikes so I went to the one across the road, which were surprisingly laid back about the whole rental process. They didn’t want a deposit, nor did they even ask me for I.D or my name etc and they said I could pay the $1 per day hire fee when I brought the bike back. So off I went, arriving at the tranquil garden setting of Peace café just 5 minutes later.

PEACE CAFE

Peace cafe garden

Peace cafe garden

Most items on the menu were vegan aside from the ones listed inside the front cover as containing milk. Peace café is 100% vegetarian and also egg free. I ordered the taro fries, lemongrass tofu with brown rice, a mango shake and for dessert I was excited to discover that the banana and raison stuffed chocolate crepe was vegan so obviously I had to get one.

Lemongrass tofu

Lemongrass tofu


Taro fries

Taro fires


Very delicious stuffed chocolate crepe @Peace cafe

Very delicious stuffed chocolate crepe @Peace cafe

Well everything was absolutely delicious and it was such a peaceful and chilled area to relax in after the tiring bus ride. They had a book shelf with lots of books that people have donated so I grabbed an old Lonely Planet on Cambodia and found a comfy couch to sit on.

Peace café also run a number of community classes/workshops including yoga, pilates and some language lessons, English and Khmer. most of them are for a donation, the yoga costs $6.

I also returned to Peace café the following day (New year’s day) for lunch after my marathon bike rice around Angkor Wat and ordered the Green Goddess smoothie, the vegetarian shish kebabs, fresh spring rolls and a small Bong Chum salad.

Bong Chum salad

Bong Chum salad

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The shish kebabs were very tasty, with about 5 or 6 different vegetables and tofu and had an unusual spicy flavour that I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. The Bong Chum salad was also nice and very fresh but not as quite as good as it sounded on the menu.

My third and final visit here was on my last morning, after a mix up with my bus ticket to Phnom Penh I had an extra hour to spare and as I was getting a little hungry and knowing that I had a 7+ hour bus ride ahead of me raced over to grab some take out for the road. I got stir-fired tofu and veggies and what turned out to be a particularly yummy brown rice salad with dates, raisons, ginger, walnuts and celery. I also had a delicious papaya shake while I was waiting for my food.

st 26 between river rd and Wat Bo rd

After my lunch I cycled into the town centre to check out the touristy area where the majority of NYE celebrations were taking place. I wasn’t really expecting there to be much happening since Cambodia is a mostly Buddhist country that follows a different calendar, but as it turned out Siem Reap is one of the most touristy towns in the country and I arrived on the aptly named Pub st to a sea of people, a mix of tourists and locals filling up several blocks dancing enthusiastically to some very very loud and bad 90’s dance music.

NYE in Siem Reap

NYE in Siem Reap

I parked my bike in one of the side streets and then spent the next  hour exploring all the quaint and very Parisian looking laneways around the night markets and old market areas,then it was time for the circus. I had heard about a Battambang based organisation called Phare Ponleu Selpak which offered free performance and visual arts programs as well as free schooling and medical treatment to under privileged and at risk children and young people. As it so happened they were performing in Siem Reap when I was there so went along to watch their show which was a lot of fun. For further info on this organisation check out their website http://www.phareps.org/

After the performance I went back into town to join in with some of the celebrations, shortly before midnight I decided to head back as I was very tired from all the travelling and was a bit over the crappy music and crowds of people. It took me a while to find my bike since I wasn’t yet familiar with the town and couldn’t quite remember exactly which street I had parked it on, I eventually found it about 40 minutes later and cycled back while watching the midnight fireworks.

The plan was to get a few hours of sleep then cycle the 11km’s out to Angkor Wat in time to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, though I was kept awake most of the night by the guy in the room next door who’d obviously over-indulged in the NYE celebrations and was up retching and vomiting at an horrendously loud volume for most of the night. Turns out the walls of my $4 a night hostel were paper thin.

I’d literally just dozed off when I was greeted with the joyful sound of my alarm blaring out into the dark silence at 4am. I scrambled out of bed and jumped on my bike heading towards Angkor Wat. It was quite a pleasant and easy ride out there, with hardly any traffic and the cool early morning air gently waking me up. About 30 minutes later I reached the main entrance where I bought my ticket then carried on to the bike parking station under a tree, and followed the growing masses of people along the path to the lake in front of the temple.

The long wait for the sun to rise whilst constantly having to defend my much sort after second row position from the hoards of over excited Japanese tourists that surrounded me was enough to make me consider moving somewhere a bit less touristy, but as the rising sun slowly began to reveal the incredible beauty of Angkor Wat I decided to stay and join in the elbow fight.

Sunrise @Angkor wat

Sunrise @Angkor wat

Once it was light I wandered off to explore the inside of this vast temple complex. I spent the best part of an hour walking around the seemingly endless labyrinth of tunnels, staircases and stone carvings, before consulting my map and cycling on the see some of the other buildings and ruins of this once mighty city.

Eager crowds awaiting the new years day sunrise

Eager crowds awaiting the new years day sunrise

Unfortunately due to time constraints I only had 1 day to see this area, which although sounds like a long time it isn’t anywhere near enough (a 3 day pass is optimal to visit the majority of sites). At the time Angkor was built it was thought to be one of the largest cities in the world spanning an area of approximately 1000 square km’s. There are distances of 1-5km’s between each building so cycling from one to the next was quite time consuming and tiring as it had turned out to be quite a warm day. I filled up on mangos and bananas at the numerous fruit stalls along the way and spent the best part of the day sight seeing.

One of the many amazing sites @ Angkor wat

One of the many amazing sites @ Angkor wat

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By around 3pmish I was getting a little templed out and exhausted from being constantly bombarded by cute little kids trying to manipulate me into buying some souvenirs and then trying to me feel guilty when I said no, and also having cycled an estimated 60+kms on next to no sleep I decided it was time to head back into town. I had planned to go to the vegetarian friendly Butterfly Gardens restaurant for lunch but after looking at their boring sounding menu I ended up heading back to the tranquil garden setting of Peace café a block away to spend the afternoon relaxing in their garden with a book.

THE SINGING TREE

My evening was spent strolling around the various night market and getting a well deserved $2 hour long foot massage. I also stopped in at The Singing Tree restaurant for a bite to eat. Located in a trendy little laneway full of bars, restaurants and fashion boutiques you could be mistaken for thinking you’re in Paris or London. I ordered a fresh coconut juice and a veganised version of the national dish, the tofu Amok which is a mild and very coconutty curry served with veggies and of course rice. I enjoyed the Amok although it wasn’t quite spicy enough for my taste. The Singing Tree serves meat but has a large vegetarian menu with vegan options labelled with a “v”.

Tofu amok curry @the Singing Tree

Tofu amok curry @the Singing Tree

The Passage (near Old market)

Realising it was my final day in this very touristy but charming little town I was adamant on doing one thing, finding the vegetarian restaurant that had thus far alluded me Chamkar.

CHAMKAR

This tiny hole in the wall restaurant located in the same laneway as The Singing Tree is rather easy to miss as it is not that well signed, but my persistence finally paid off. It only has room to seat about 10 people at a time so eating here often involves a wait of up to 1 hour, especially at dinner time, but it’s totally worth it. After eating here twice (in one day) I would go so far as to describe Chamkar as one of the best and most inventive vegetarian restaurants in the world, easily up there with Millennium in San Francisco which is a pretty big call. For lunch I ordered the pumpkin and basil curry stuffed tofu which a number of reviewers on happycow.net had raved about and a mango shake.

Extremely delicious stuffed tofu from Chamkar

Extremely delicious stuffed tofu from Chamkar

The tofu was served with a spicy mushroom and onion gravy that complimented the other flavours perfectly and a big bowl of organic brown rice. I couldn’t quite identify which spices were used in the gravy as it had such an unusual and distinctive flavour but this is one dish I would happily eat every single day.

For dinner I returned feeling the need to make up for lost time as there were so many things on the menu I wanted to try. I got an iced lemongrass tea, the creamy mushroom dip which was recommended by staff and came served with slices of toasted baguette and the root vegetable fritters. Unfortunately the battery of my camera died during the afternoon so no pics of dinner but it was easily as good as lunch if not better. The dip was recommended to me by the staff and is a Chamkar specialty and very delicious. I not usually a massive mushroom fan but this dip was more of a thick coconut curry more than anything. The fritters were also quite unique, being made predominantly of mashed cassava which was then dipped in a yellow curry paste batter, rolled in panko break crumbs (I think) and then deep fried. It was served with a spicy green mango chutney and the chutney of some other exotic fruit I can’t remember the name of, but it was yellow and tasted somewhere in between a squash and a pear.

I couldn’t leave without dessert, unfortunately they were out of my first option of the traditional Khmer yellow bean cake so I opted for the banana in warm coconut milk with crunchy toasted yellow split peas, yum yum yum!

The Passage (Old Market, opposite end of laneway to The Singing Tree)

In between my indulging at Chamkar on my last day I also went on an organised group tour to the floating village, well that’s where we were meant to go but due the low water levels and the fact that the village had floated to an inaccessible part of the lake, we were told that we’d be going to Kampong Phluk, the stilted village instead.

It was a 30ish minute drive from Siem Reap and then a further 40 minute boat ride on one of the dodgiest looking boats I’ve ever seen. Thankfully it didn’t capsize on the way and as it sailed around a corner we were greeted with the fascinating first glimpse of the stilted village. It was much larger than I had expected with everything from a school, restaurant and even a police station and medical clinic, all perched on top of stilts up to 10-15m above the water it was quite a spectacular sight, they even had a boat that had been converted into a greenhouse to grow veggies.

Kampong Phluk

Kampong Phluk

As we reached the far side of the village the stilted houses gave way to an immense and beautiful flooded forest. The boat moored at a restaurant so we could have a look around and we were also given the option of taking a small dugout canoe through the forest for an extra $5 which I decided to do.

As we paddled deeper into the forest the noise of the village gave way to a serene silence and an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. At the far end of the forest there was a huge treetop walkway that allowed villagers to go from their houses to their fishing nets without having to use a boat, we glided under it into a clearing and then slowly drifted along as the sun set over the water which was a truly breathtaking sight.

The serene flooded forest

The serene flooded forest

We paddled back to the bigger boat to join the others then set off for the centre of the lake to continue watching the sunset. Once it was nearly dark we turned around and made our way back up river to our waiting van. Unfortunately my camera battery died from taking so many forest and sunset pics so I missed the stunning scene of the silhouetted stilt houses with the backdrop of the red and purple sky with the setting sun glistening on the water. It was an eerie yet incredible sight.

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After dinner at Chamkar I walked around the markets once again to stock up on snacks for my 9 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh the following day then went back to my hostel to pack.

VITKING HOUSE

Although I didn’t actually get a chance to eat here I did drop in to get a drink and take a squiz at the menu. Located about a 15  minute walk out of the town centre in a very residential area, this place offers lower prices and a more authentic Khmer dining experience than restaurants in town.

The staff seemed quite shocked when I walked in and asked for a menu, I got the impression that “tourists” don’t eat here that often and that they assumed I was probably just lost and after directions. I had an iced jasmine tea with coconut milk with was just the thing for a hot afternoon. Mains were all around the $2-3 mark and were quite generous sized servings. The restaurant is set in a large and relaxing garden with low tables and cushions on the floor to sit on.

Iced Jasmine tea

Iced Jasmine tea

st 7 (Makara) next to University of SE Asia Wat Bo area

PHNOM PENH

Despite the distance between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh being only around 200km, travelling between these two cities requires an arduous 9 hour long bus ride. I had booked the 10am bus thinking I’d arrive with enough time to go for a walk around the city before bed time but due to some complication with my booking (the guy who booked my ticket got confused with the date and accidently booked me on the 10am bus the prior day) I ended up having to get the midday bus instead which left 1 hour late.

The journey seemed to take forever, not helped by the really weird (and bad) 1980’s B grade Chinese zombie action movie that was being played on the bus over and over again at an ear piercing volume, not even my mp3 player at maximum volume provided an adequate escape. Also due to the extremely underdeveloped infrastructure in Cambodia, the roads are in such a terrible condition that the maximum speed of most vehicles is around 30-40kms an hour. I eventually stumbled weary eyed into my hostel near the central market at around 10pm.

I had heard from Sopheap (bicycle tour guy in Battambang) that there were anti government protests happening in the capital but didn’t think to check exactly where they were when finding a place to stay. They turned out to be literally right across the street, I wasn’t too concerned though as they seemed to be very peaceful and appeared to be more like a giant picnic than anything else with the majority of the protesters being families with young children, monks and the elderly.

The following morning on my way out to buy some fruit from the markets for breakfast I took a detour through the park and stopped to chat to a few of the protesters to learn a bit more about what was going on.

After breakfast myself and another girl from the hostel decided to share the tuk tuk ride out to the killing fields. I had been in two minds as to whether I wanted to go here or not, but a number of other travellers I’d met said it was really interesting and not as bleak and depressing a place as the name might suggest. I also thought the idea of turning a place with such an horrendous history into what is essentially a commercialised for profit tourist attraction to be rather distasteful to say the least, but I wanted to learn more about Cambodian history in order to better understand the country and the political situation that was unfolding across the street from my hostel. I also thought it would be better to see it for myself before deciding whether to be for or against this kind of “tourist attraction”.

Whilst I wouldn’t exactly agree with the “peaceful” label that most other travellers I’d met had described it as, it was certainly interesting but still rather horrific. The entry fee gets you an audio guide which you can listen to at your own pace whilst walking around the area which was very informative, well done and included lots of personal stories of many of the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge and their friends and family members.

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Excavated mass graves

Excavated mass graves, victims skulls and the killing tree

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Some things though I did have to skip as they were just far too gruesome and detailed, such as the documentary film that is played in one of the museum rooms every hour or so and some of the signs, particularly the pictures of victims around the killing tree where many children and babies were murdered by soldiers.

KN’YAY

A much happier sight @Kn'yay

A much happier sight @Kn’yay

After spending around 2 hours here I found my travel buddy for the day and our tuk tuk driver and headed back into the city. I asked to be dropped off at a vegan restaurant for lunch that I’d heard was good. As soon as I stepped out of the tuk tuk I was greeted with a sign that I was very happy to see: vegan ice cream!

The menu

The menu

Located in a rather posh terrace guesthouse I felt a bit out of my comfort zone in such an upmarket environment but quickly got over that once I looked at the menu. As is often the case when eating at all vegan establishments, the option of being able to eat everything on the menu can be a little overwhelming. Eventually I ordered the sweet potato, and pumpkin curry, fresh spring rolls and a watermelon and chilli shake.

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The spring rolls were tasty but quite standard as far as Cambodian spring rolls go, the dipping sauce was the real stand out. Instead of the usual sweet chilli vinegar it also had coconut milk and finely chopped herbs, giving it quite a distinctive flavour.

I also enjoyed the curry, the only downside being that the pumpkin was a bit undercooked.

For dessert I got 3 scoops of ice cream: coconut, coconut ginger and chocolate.

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The Terrace @41 street 95 of Monivong Blvd

After lunch I slowly made my way back towards Central market on foot, meandering through the many small laneways and street markets in the very Parisian looking BKK area.

EVERGREEN

The closest vegetarian restaurant to where I was staying and one of the few that was not in the BKK or Independence monument area, I dropped in for dinner here on my way back from my walk.

I got the fried yellow noodles with tofu which came to about $2 (tofu was 50c extra), it was quite substantial and fresh, definitely good value. A cheap filler if you’re in the area but not worth going out of your way for.

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109 street 130 (near the riverside)

Just before dark I arrived back near my hostel and was surprised to find that the ironically named “Freedom Park” that had been bustling with protesters earlier that day was now completely empty, barricaded off and surrounded by hundreds of riot police who filled up the sidewalk for several blocks on every side of the park. It took around 20 minutes to convince the cops to let me through the barrier to get back to my hostel where I was met with a large crowd of stunned backpackers angrily discussing the scenes that had taken place during the day.

I managed to get filled on what had happened, apparently about an hour or so after I had left that morning and despite the protest being extremely peaceful, the government (which in Cambodia is essentially a very corrupt dictatorship) who are very intolerant of anyone who opposes them sent in around 500+ riot police (the protesters in the park that morning were around 300), who started beating people with batons and rounded them up into a corner of the park. They then began to open fire in an attempt to deter the protesters from returning, 5 were killed and dozens of others were injured.

Riot cops

Riot cops

For the remainder of my time in Phnom Penh the area around my hostel was blocked off every evening by hundreds of police who refused to let anyone in or out and every single park and public space in the entire city was filled with riot police armed with batons and automatic rifles under strict orders to not let anyone so much as sit in the park (including tourists). There was also a complete ban on anyone gathering in a group of more than 5 persons  which seemed to me like a rather pointless and impractical law to try and enforce.

Given that no one was allowed to go out for the rest of the evening and the night markets having been cancelled due to the ban on large gatherings, I spent the night hanging out with and swapping stories with the other people in my hostel.

After such an eventful first day in Phnom Penh I was hoping day 2 would be a little more subdued, and with rumours circulating of retaliation against police for their over the top brutality I decided to spend the day strolling around the expat enclave of the BKK district.

CAFE SOLEIL

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My first port of call was a brunch stop at a cute little French inspired vegetarian café sharing my name located in the hipster central area of street 278.

The menu was a bit of a mixed bag of dishes from all corners of the globe but with a particular focus on French and Cambodian staples. I ordered the mango, tofu and cashew nut curry, a bowl of mixed fruit salad and a watermelon juice.

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The curry was very yummy, the mangoes weren’t too overcooked as is often the case, still quite firm but also full of flavour having soaked up all those spices and curry paste. The crunchy roasted cashews and tofu also gave the dish some extra texture.

22 DEo street 278

ARTILLERY CAFE

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I had come across a few other vegetarian friendly restaurants in one of the visitor guides that are in just about every shop in Phnom Penh. This place sounded like it was worthy of a visit but as I was a bit perplexed as to where street 2401/2 was it went to the bottom of the list.

Having barely left Café Soleil I was surprised to find this place on the same street less than a block away, so figured I may as well make the most of it and try some of their raw vegan desserts.

Although there were a few token meat dishes on the menu as seems to be the case with all the vegan restaurants in Cambodia, this café, that was packed to bursting point on both of my visits with fashion conscious expat hipsters and offered an interesting array of healthy vegetarian dishes with a large number of vegan, raw and gluten free options.

I had a slice of the raw cheesecake and a banana and date smoothie, both were top quality.

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I also returned here for brunch the following day and had the very delicious and huge Angkor salad, the hummus heaven plate and a raw cacao and goji berry smoothie which were all incredibly delicious.

Angkar salad

Angkar salad

The heavenly hummus heaven

The heavenly hummus heaven

The hummus heaven being a particular standout due to the yummy freshly baked walnut bread it was served with. Artillery is definitely one of my top vegan picks in Phnom Penh.

street 278 (near the corner of street 63)

VEGO SALAD BAR

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After a few more hours of taking in the sights (and smells) of the area and a brief visit to Russian market I slowly started heading back towards the hostel. Figuring I’d probably get hungry later and wouldn’t be able to get out due to the riot police street blocks I decided to grab some food to go from another one of the veg places that were advertised in the visitor guide.

I was surprised to discover that despite the name it wasn’t entirely vegetarian, but they still had plenty of vegan options for the wraps and sandwiches and also a well priced pick n mix salad bar at $3.95. I opted for the Tel Aviv pita (felafel) with avocado.

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I wasn’t really expecting much from it to be honest other than a cheap meal, but it was actually pretty good, probably some of the best felafel you’re likely to get in Cambodia, not that there’s much competition.

21B street 294, also second location street 51 behind Wat Lanka

My final day I decided to rent a bike to explore the more far flung corners of the city that were too far to go on foot. After my yummy brunch at Artillery I headed west around the outskirts of the city then along the picturesque river front past the grand palace which looked incredibly similar to the one in Bangkok.

THE CORN

By mid afternoon I was feeling the heat and the effects of the ungodly amount of traffic fumes and dust I’d been inhaling whilst cycling around so decided it was time for a rest and a bite to eat.

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I was surprised to find this restaurant was empty when I arrived even though it was in between lunch and dinner time, it is located down the end of a tiny little lane that I would have easily walked passed if it weren’t for the vegan sing and menu out front.

I got a fresh coconut juice, the very tasty but rather uninspiring and disappointing looking roasted pear and pumpkin salad and the tofu, banana and sweet potato curry.

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I thought the salad was tasty but for $4 (quite a hefty price tag for an entrée in Cambodia) for a pile of pale lettuce leaves with a few token slivers of pear and pumpkin was quite over priced I thought. The curry was good but not great, aside from the banana it tasted almost identical to the curry that I’d had at Kn’yay, not that that was necessarily a bad thing.

I also got some dessert here figuring it would probably be the last time in a while that I’d be able to order a vegan crepe with ice cream (raspberry) for $4.

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The crepe was nice if a little on the tough side but once the ice cream melted a bit it was pretty good.

26 Preah Suramit Blvd

THE VEGETARIAN

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to eat a proper meal here but I did drop in for a drink and more dessert on my way back from The Corn. Prices were quite reasonable ($2-3 for mains) and the plates of food looked pretty huge. They offer the usual mix of veganised traditional Khmer and western dishes. I had a fresh papaya juice and a bowl of cashew and black sesame pudding.

158 street 19

Bangkok-Thailand

UPDATE

On a recent visit to Bangkok I ate at a few new places and also visited (several times) Bangkok’s fabulous all vegan bakerie, Veganerie.

VEGANERIE

I was pretty excited to finally have the chance to check this place out as I’d heard a lot about it and had seen quite a few very enticing looking photos, thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

Veganerie’s strong point is definitely the ice cream, waffles and smoothies. I tried quite a few different items during my 3 visits there including things from their ready baked section and from the menu. While most of the baked goods were very nice they weren’t always up to the same standard as the menu, but overall I thought this places was great and definitely worth a trip to Bangkok.

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Baked goods @Veganerie

Baked goods @Veganerie

Raw carrot cake GF

Raw carrot cake GF

apple crumble with black sesame and almond, coconut ice cream.

apple crumble with black sesame and almond, coconut ice cream.

Pumpkin brownie

Pumpkin brownie

Green smoothie

Green smoothie

Red velvet cake

Red velvet cake

Chocolate fudge brownie frappe

Chocolate fudge brownie frappe

4F Mercury Ville, Chitlom BTS, Lang Suan Street

SOYA SOYUM

I accidentally discovered this place on my first trip to Veganerie. It’s located right below the bakery on the 3rd floor which makes choosing where to get your sugary vegan fix somewhat difficult.

It’s not all vegan as some things contained honey, the whipped cream was made from coconut milk and was seriously delicious.

Chocolate soy milk shake bubble tea frappe

Chocolate soy milk shake bubble tea frappe

Mercury Ville shopping centre
Level 3

BONITA’S CAFE

Cute little all vegan cafe with vintage decor and a western, Japanese fusion menu. I tried the tofu terriyaki burger and the datorade (date) shake. Both were good.

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56/3 Pan Street, Silom

MANGO

Another of the veg/vegan restaurants located near the hideously touristy Khoa Sna rd district. This restaurant also serves as an art gallery. The menu is very very similar to Etho’s which is literally just around the corner. The presentation of the dishes and a slight variation of ingredients is pretty much all that set the two apart.

I ordered the tempeh salad which came served in a bowl approximately twice the size of my head. It was very fresh and tasty and quite filling. I also had a hibiscus juice.

Gigantic tempeh salad @Mango restaurant

Gigantic tempeh salad @Mango restaurant

13 Tanao RD

BANANA FAMILY PARK VEGETARIAN FOOD COURT

Banana family park

Banana family park

A fellow vegan got me onto this place which made a nice change from the more expensive restaurants. It’s tucked away down a small alley behind other buildings about 100m from Ari MRT. Set in a peaceful garden with a number of all vegan food stalls to choose from. Most of the stalls were shut when I went there so chose was somewhat limited. Rice with 4 choices and a fresh spring roll came to just 40 baht.

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17/1 Phahon Yothin Rd, Phaya Thai

After a very early start from Chiang Mai I arrived in Bangkok and hopped aboard the bus from the airport before wandering around for about 30 minutes trying to find someone who could speak enough English to get directions to my some what elusive hostel. Eventually I found it tucked away in a very quiet residential laneway with no street sign.

This was my first visit to Bangkok as my previous trip to Thailand was during the devastating 2011 floods when much of Bangkok was under water, which resulted in me spending more time in Chiang Mai instead. I’d met quite a few people on my travels that had been to Bangkok and after asking them what it was like it would seem that it’s a city you either love or hate so I was keen to see it for myself to make up my own mind. It certainly sounded pretty vegan friendly if happycow.net was anything to go by so I was confident I wasn’t going to starve at least.

Although I intentionally booked a hostel far away from the superficial bogan central of Khao San rd it seemed that was where the 2 best vegan restaurants in the city where located, so begrudgingly I jumped on a bus headed in that direction. 1 1/2 hours later after weaving through every little alleyways in Chinatown and getting dizzy from inhaling a disgusting amount of exhaust fumes and pollution (public buses in Bangkok have open windows instead of air-con) I finally arrived at my destination.

ETHOS VEGETARIAN CAFE AND BAKERY

I was craving something light and healthy to counteract all those exhaust fumes so I ordered the mixed salad (no tomato), some deep fried tofu, an iced hibiscus tea and a blueberry and coconut shake because I couldn’t decide between the two. It all arrived within 10 minutes and was so fresh and tasty, even the salad which I expected to be quite plain was very tasty, the portion sizes were also quite generous.

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Tempeh burger

Tempeh burger

This café had a really great vibe, tucked away in a quaint little laneway right next door to 2 other veg restaurants (May Kaidee’s being one of them), with lots of funky artwork adorning the walls and cushions on the floor to sit on. The staff were all very friendly and helpful, even to the point of inviting me to go out with them the following evening after learning that I was travelling alone.

I also went back here on my last day for dessert and to get some takeaway for my bus trip to Cambodia the next day. I got a delicious apple crumble that had black sesame seeds in it and was served with a very yummy custard made from coconut cream and a soy masala drink which was like and chai flavoured shake, so yummy. For takeout I ordered the red curry tofu and veggies, which was still delicious even when it was cold the next day. They also have vegan, gluten free pancakes on the menu as well as quite a few other vegan desserts. Ethos is a definite must if you’re in town.

Yummy apple crumble @Ethos

Yummy apple crumble @Ethos

85 2 Tanoa rd (look for small laneway next to Burger King)

My second day was spent wandering around the area of Sukhumvit rd, an interesting combination of huge shopping malls, rich expats and seedy bars and night clubs.

TERMINAL 21 FOOD COURT

After several hours of people watching and window shopping I ended up at the end of Sukhumvit rd in Terminal 21 shopping centre, which turned out to be a bit more than your average Bangkok shopping mall. Each level of the mall is decorated in the theme of one of the great cities of the world, so after a quick stroll through Rome, London, Paris and Istanbul I found myself in San Francisco’s Pier 21, also known as the food court.

The Bay area comes to Bangkok

The Bay area comes to Bangkok

None of the stalls in the food court take cash so first you need to go to the counter next to the escalator where you can exchange cash for a pre paid voucher card. With card in hand I found the vegetarian food stall which was near the juice/dessert stand with an eye catching display of mangoes and dried fruits. Little to no English was spoken so I just had to point and guess which things were egg free. I ended up with brown rice, pumpkin curry, stir-fried mixed veggies and some very spicy tofu curry which came to 40 baht ($1.50), the portions were quite big, especially for the price and it was quite fresh and tasty for food court food.

Vegan food court lunch

Vegan food court lunch

I also got a fresh mango and banana shake from the juice bar next door. With my mouth and lips burning from the tofu curry I headed straight for the dessert stall to get something to cool off. I ordered a small mango sticky rice and one of my favourite Thai desserts mung bean (split yellow peas) with coconut milk. Yum!!

Mango sticky rice and coconut mung dahl

Mango sticky rice and coconut mung dahl

Terminal 21 shopping mall level 5 food court (San Francisco pier 21)

Feeling rather full after all that food I strolled around the other levels of the mall winding up in the international gourmet food market on the lower ground floor which has a large supermarket that seemed to cater predominantly to the upper middle class expats that live in the area. This store had quite a lot of vegan products including chocolate coated sun dried bananas and my favourite find, pear and almond flavoured chocolate bars. There is also a large bulk goods sections with lots of dried fruit and nuts so I stocked up on some snacks for my upcoming bus ride in a few days time.

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Day 3 I went back to Sukhumvit rd to the Eastern bus terminal to buy my bus ticket to the Cambodian border for the following day. Once that was all organised I went to check out a nearby veggie restaurant called May Veggie Home on Sukhumvit soi 55, but finding that closed I got some fruit from a few different street stalls for my breakfast instead. I got a bag each of watermelon and mango and then also got some grilled bananas which were char grilled with the skin on so they go all gooey and caramelised before being peeled, chopped and placed in a bag which you eat from using a kebab stick. All fruit bags were 20 baht each

MAY KAIDEE’S

For lunch I headed back up to Khao San rd to what is considered to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok if not Thailand, May Kaidee’s, and it didn’t disappoint. They have a huge menu so deciding what to get was difficult but eventually I opted for the mint and coconut shake, spicy green mango salad and some red rice with tofu and an assortment of stir-fried curried veggies including broccoli, basil, taro and sweet potato.

Delicious lunch from May Kaidee's

Delicious lunch from May Kaidee’s

Everything was exceptional, especially the mint, coconut shake which was just the things after traipsing around Bangkok on a hot and humid day. The only downside was that I was too full to try any of their amazing sounding desserts. If you are around on a Saturday they have an evening all you can eat buffet for just 150 baht ($5) too.

59 Tanoa rd (small laneway behind Burger King)

My last morning in Bangkok had arrived already despite the fact that I’d been so busy enjoying just exploring the city that I hadn’t had the chance to do any of the usual touristy things like visit the Grand Palace or any of the temples. Since my hostel was situated right near some of the biggest malls in Bangkok I decided to make them my first stop of the day. On the way I got some red sticky rice with taro that was wrapped up in banana leaves from a street stall outside MBK mall for breakfast before some window shopping which I quickly got bored so headed up to the food court level where there was a vegetarian food stall.

MBK FOOD COURT

The MBK international food court has a bit of a weird system, when you first enter you are given a pre paid card that I already loaded with 1000 baht, you then go and order the food you want form any of the stalls and only pay the deducted balance upon exiting after you’ve eaten. I found the vegetarian stall towards the front of the food court ( there were also several middle eastern stalls with vegan options). At the front of the stall all the available options were displayed in plastic form in bowls (Japanese style), it was a bit on the pricy side for a food court, at around 120-150 baht depending on what you get. I decided on the basil fried rice with tofu and veggies. It was nice but nothing that spectacular, especially given it was more expensive than most of the mains at May Kaidee’s but if you’re hungry and nearby it’s a decent enough option.

The menu

The menu


Over-priced and boring lunch @ MBK mall

Over-priced and boring lunch @ MBK mall

MBK mall international food court level 5

Being well and truly over the mall experience I quickly went back to the supermarket in Terminal 21 to stock up on snacks for the next days buy more pear and almond chocolate and some snacks for the next days bus trip and then jumped on the bus back to Ethos for dessert and some takeaway food for tomorrows lunch.

Chiang Mai- Thailand

Chiang Mai a quaint and historically significant city surrounded by a 13th century wall and moat which remains largely intact adding to the old world charm of this city. Not only is Chiang Mai the capital city of northern Thailand  it is also the Thai capital of all things vegan.

Chiang Mai wall

Chiang Mai wall

My 1st visit here 2 years ago left me overwhelmed by a seemingly endless choice of quality and reasonably priced vegan food options and probably a good few KGs heavier, so of course I was more than happy to return. Although the old walled city of Chiang Mai is quite small,  being roughly a 30 minute walk from one side to the other it is absolutely bursting with vegetarian restaurants not to mention the 100’s of vegetarian friendly ones. It’s near impossible to walk more than 20m without seeing at least a few restaurants advertising vegetarian food.

The following list is not an extensive one by any means (happycow.net listings for Chiang Mai seems to be  fairly up to date) but a brief guide to some of my favourite vegan discoveries.

After a couple of hot and steamy days in Singapore and KL I touched down in the more temperate mountain climate of Chiang Mai. With 3 days to kill before a week of volunteering at the blissful human and animal sanctuary of Elephant Nature Park (my previous visit to Chiang Mai also included a 2 week volunteer stint at the park). Armed with a list of my favourite vegan eateries from last time and what turned out to be a very accurate memory of the location of a few hidden vegan gems in the vast number of street markets that this city has, I felt well prepared to eat my way through as much of the city as I could.

AUM VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

100% vegetarian and organic AUM veg specialise in maki rolls aka vegetarian sushi which they make fresh to order. After a 5am start and a 2 1/2 hour flight from KL I was quite hungry so I ordered the pumpkin maki rolls, an avocado smoothie and the cashew nut stir-fry with tofu and veggies and some brown rice. It all arrived very quickly and was as delicious and fresh as I remembered it being.

Pumpkin maki @Aum veg

Pumpkin maki @Aum veg

Cashew nut stir fry, avocado smoothie and rice

Cashew nut stir fry, avocado smoothie and rice

66 Moon Muang rd (eastern wall near Thapae gate)

BLUE DIAMOND

A lovely lady named Jodi who works at Elephant Nature Park had told me about this place last time and I am glad she did as I never would have gone to it otherwise as I generally prefer to stick to entirely veg places when travelling. Part grocery store part restaurant and part bakery Blue Diamond has just about everything an eco conscious traveller may need, from chemical free skin care products to homemade vegan cookies, they also specialise in GF baking, and if that’s not enough to make you want to go there they also make their own vegan ice cream and yoghurt (soy and coconut milk based). They also make some pretty tasty vegan and GF pancakes and have a very extensive list of flavours to choose from.

Apple and cinnamon pancakes, fruit salad with soy yoghurt and mango banana smoothie

Apple and cinnamon pancakes, fruit salad with soy yoghurt and mango banana smoothie

Pancake menu page

Pancake menu page

Vegan and GF baked goods @Blue Diamond

Vegan and GF baked goods @Blue Diamond

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All the vegan and GF options are clearly labelled. I got a vegan and GF avocado and ginger cupcake to try. I’d never heard of avocado in baked goods before so wasn’t sure what to expect but one bite and I was hooked, deliciously avocadoey and perfectly moist with a slight hint of ginger, it was totally worth every cent of the $2. I also got a small tub of the coconut milk yoghurt to try which was also quite tasty, the next day I went back and got a tub of vegan avocado frozen yoghurt, some mango ice cream and a GF blueberry muffin, the coconut cream pies (they’re in the display cabinet) are also highly recommended.

Avocado and ginger cupcake (GF) and coconut milk yoghurt

Avocado and ginger cupcake (GF) and coconut milk yoghurt

Blueberry muffin (GF), raw cake (GF) and avocado frozen yoghurt

Blueberry muffin (GF), raw cake (GF) and avocado frozen yoghurt

My favourite thing at Blue Diamond the coconut cream pie

My favourite thing at Blue Diamond the coconut cream pie

35/1 Moon Muang soi 9

WAT PHRA SINGH TEMPLE RESTUARANT (NAME UNKNOWN)

A random find whilst walking through the Sunday street market, the food may not be the most amazing vegan food you’ll find in Chiang Mai but for only 25baht ($1) for a rice and 2 curries it’s probably the best value, there’s a large choice of dishes to choose from, little English is spoken but it’s all vegan so you can just point to the dishes you want.

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My $1 lunch

My $1 lunch

Rachadanoen rd near the corner of Singharat rd (look for the red and yellow sign with vegetarian written on it).

DADA KAFE

Not all vegetarian but lots of options, huge range of fresh smoothies and juices, the mango, avocado, cocoa and coconut is one of my favourites. It’s a very popular breakfast spot for expats and tourists.

One of the best smoothies ever

One of the best smoothies ever

Raspberry and mint coconut milk smoothie and fruit salad @Dada Kafe

Raspberry and mint coconut milk smoothie and fruit salad @Dada Kafe

Ratmakka Phra Sing (near the corner of Moon Muaeng rd)

JUICY 4 U

Similar to Dada Kafe and also right across the rd, Juicy 4 U is all vegetarian and as the name suggests they have lots of fresh juices on the menu. They also make pretty good sandwiches.

Create your own club sandwich @Juicy4U

Create your own club sandwich @Juicy4U

Ratchamanka 5

BROWN RICE CAFE CLOSED

I discovered this place as it was right next to my hostel and only went to eat here because it was raining too heavily to go further afield. It’s 100% vegetarian and organic and they had a few interesting options not typically seen on menus in Chiang Mai.

Lemongrass, chilli and lime iced tea

Lemongrass, chilli and lime iced tea

I couldn’t decide what to get when I went there so ended up ordering 2 mains. The minced tofu and spicy mango salad was excellent although it was very spicy. 

The minced tofu and spicy green mango salad

The minced tofu and spicy green mango salad

I also got the pad si ew which I expected to be quite plain but turned out to have a very yummy black bean sauce. Aside from my 2 mains I also ordered a lemongrass, lime and chilli drink, which was very unusual tasting but very delicious. My whole meal only came to 200 baht ($7) which I thought was excellent value as the portion sizes were huge and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in Chiang Mai.

Pad si ew

Pad si ew

85/5 Samlan rd

FREE BIRD

It’s 100% vegetarian and organic (99% vegan) and all profits go to helping Burmese refugees. They do some pretty special and unusual combinations of smoothies that are worth going there just for them let alone the wonderful atmosphere and the reasonably priced and super tasty food.

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Tea leaf rice salad and pumpkin curry @Free Bird

Tea leaf rice salad and pumpkin curry @Free Bird

116 Maneenopparat rd (northern wall near Sanam kila rd)

TASTE FROM HEAVEN

A vegetarian restaurant with all profits going to the very worthy cause of Elephant Nature Park. I did a cooking class here a couple of years ago which was very enjoyable. They have since moved location and are now conveniently located just a few minutes walk away from Elephant Nature Park’s head office. The food is fresh, tasty and has a standard Thai menu featuring all the usual dishes, the deep fried basil leaves were a particular favourite as was the vegan cinnamon and caramel cake if they still have it. Please let me know if you go  to or find this restaurant and what it’d like now.

Delicious pumpkin curry with red rice and a green smoothie from Taste from Heaven

Delicious pumpkin curry with red rice and a green smoothie from Taste from Heaven

34/1 Ratmakka

THE OLIVE TREE (FORMERLY JERUSELUM FELAFEL)

If for any reason you feel like a break from Thai food this is a great restaurant. As the name suggests it’s Israeli/ Mediterranean (not 100% vegetarian) but there’s plenty of vegan options. I’ve only ever tried the hummus and felafel which were both very nice, fresh and reasonably priced, 140 baht for 4 felafels, a plate of hummus and a pita bread.

Felafel from The Olive Tree (formerly Jerusalem felafel)

Felafel from The Olive Tree (formerly Jerusalem felafel)

27/9 Moon Mueong rd

SUNDAY WALKING STREET MARKETS

If Chiang Mai is famous for anything it’s got to be it’s street markets. Every night of the week somewhere in the town the streets are shut off to traffic and the crowds descend upon 100’s of tiny stalls selling everything from household goods, local handy crafts and of course street food. Whilst there are way too many vegan friendly food stalls to list here (and I’m constantly finding new ones), here is a quick guide to help get you started on gastronomic journey. My favourite market for vegan food has to be the Sunday walking street. Starting just before sunset this market starts at Moon Mueong and continues all the way to Wat Phra Sing, spilling out down numerous side streets. Right at the very start of market (moon Mueong end) are several stalls selling sweets made from sticky rice, all of which are vegan. Mango sticky rice is of course everywhere making it one of the most common vegan treats around and most of the other sweets made from sticky rice often in the shape balls with red bean etc stuffings or thin pancakes are vegan. If you spot any stall that says “vegetarian” 99.9% of the time the food is vegan, if you’re not sure ask if the food is “jay” or “kin-jay” to say “I am vegan. English is quite widely spoken in Chiang Mai so if you’re Thai isn’t up to scratch just ask if there is egg or milk. Some of my favourite treats I’ve found at this night market include grilled banana kebabs dipped in coconut milk, red bean, taro and pumpkin stuffed pastries, grilled black sticky rice kebabs dipped in spicy sauce, black sesame pancakes, herbal jelly (also known as grass jelly), red date juice, taro stuffed pancakes and cendal pronounced chendal which is pandan flavoured tapioca worms (think gummy worms) in a coconut milk soup, often with shaved ice and red beans (sometimes the add condensed milk, so just ask for it without). The vegan food is usually fairly obvious, the only animal product you it is likely to contain if it’s meat free will be egg and since all the food at street markets is made fresh onsite if something contains eggs you will see them somewhere around the stall.

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Yummy street food

Yummy street food

SALAD CONCEPT

One of the newer vegan friendly places in town. I was in a salady mood so gave it a try. The staff spoke minimal English so figuring out which of the dressing were vegan was a bit tricky. I got a salad and tofu wrap with a tahini sauce which was very tasty and quite cheap for Chiang Mai at around 40-50 baht.

A small local start up company called “Chiang Mai Bread” have srecently started making nut based vegan cheeses which are sold in a few small health food stores around town as well as the local farmers markets.
https://www.facebook.com/cmbread

RIMPING SUPERMARKET

Rimping is a bit of an upmarket supermarket located just outside the old city in Chiang Mai. It predominantly targets the wealthy expat crowd and as such has quite a large selection of western organic, vegan and health foods such as kale and various packaged goods that are often hard to find elsewhere in Thailand.

various locations check website for address details http://www.rimping.com/

49 / 9-10 Soi 13 Nimmanheamin Rd

Salad wrap @ Salad Concept

Salad wrap @ Salad Concept

ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

The aptly named Lucky

The aptly named Lucky

Some of the happy free roaming eles @ENP

Some of the happy free roaming eles @ENP

I was very excited to be going back here for a week of volunteering after my amazing time there several years ago, especially as there were now 3 ele babies that had been born at the park since my last visit so I was eager to meet them.

Yin Dee ENP's youngest baby with mother Mintra and an aunty

Yin Dee ENP’s youngest baby with mother Mintra and an aunty

This incredible non profit animal sanctuary was started up by an inspirational local hill tribe women named Lek around 10 or so years ago and since then has grown into a sanctuary and refuge for not just elephants, but dogs, cats, water buffalo, pigs, ponies and any other animal that is in need of love and a safe home. The tranquil valley set in the middle of the Thai jungle also makes it a wonderful refuge for humans wanting to escape the hectic city pace of the rest of Thailand. During the Bangkok floods in 2011 ENP also rescued around 400+ Bangkok street dogs and now also have a dog sanctuary within the park.

Although ENP is surrounded by trekking camps which use elephants to entertain tourists, either by forcing them to perform tricks including painting or giving people rides, ENP is trying to show other camps that elephants need not be abused and exploited in order to run a profitable business. At ENP most of the elephants and other animals have been rescued from horrendous situations and lifelong abuse, many of them are blind and/or severaley disabled as a result and are now allowed to roam free around the 200+ acres of the park. The majority of the elephants have formed surrogate herds/ family groups and have also been encouraged to adopt natural behaviours again such as mud bathing and food foraging.

Fa Mai and Chang Yim happily playing

Fa Mai and Chang Yim happily playing

These conditions give visitors the rare opportunity to observe and learn about natural elephant behaviour while still also getting some close up cuddle time with these incredible animals. The park also has a big emphasis on education people (locals and tourists) on the issues and challenges faced by elephants in Thailand and throughout Asia, especially in relation to their rapidly declining numbers and the horrendous torture of Phajaan training which is the traditional and still to this day only way that elephants in Asia are trained to do tricks, accept riders and follow orders from humans. ENP does not allow any of their elephants to be ridden or their mahouts to carry bull hooks to “control” their elephants.

Bath time with Medo and Mae Lanna at the river

Bath time with Medo and Mae Lanna at the river

The volunteer week starts early on Monday morning when some of the friendly staff pick you up from your guest house in a minivan and take you to the office to pick up your free volunteer t shirt, finalise money and mingle with all your new volunteer friends. The drive out to the park takes about 1 1/2 hours, on the way we watch a video about the history of the park and of the plight of the Asian elephant.

I’m not going to lie but one of the best things about ENP is the food, especially if you’re veg/vegan. The founder Lek and her husband Darrick are both staunch vegans so finding enough to eat at ENP is definitely not a problem. All the food is vegetarian and most if it is vegan, for lunch and dinner there is an extremely long buffet table (around 30m in length) packed full of delicious smelling (mostly) vegan Thai food, and if that’s not enough at lunchtime there is also a large salad buffet featuring traditional Thai salads such as banana flower and papaya salads as well as fresh fruit.

ENP lunch

ENP lunch

Accommodation is nothing flash but it’s still very comfortable and has everything a volunteer might need including a hoard of friendly cats who are only too happy to snuggle up with you in bed and keep you warm at night (it does get down to 4 or 5 degrees at night at ENP in winter). The rooms also have electricity and the bathrooms even have hot (ish) water. There is also wifi in the meeting areas.

My room

My room

Leozante- my hot water bottle for the week

Leozante- one my hot water bottles for the week

Volunteer duties vary depending on the season, both of my visits have been in winter so we had similar chores each time. These include washing and preparing the elephants food, you get to chop up pumpkin with machetes which is rather enjoyable, mashing up bananas to make bran balls for some of the older toothless eles, cleaning the shelters ie picking up ele poo is also a regular task as is the daily ele bath time. Usually each group will spend at least one day cutting corn/grass (also with machetes), cleaning out the mud pit or just doing general property maintenance like building pathways or collecting sand.

While this may sound like hard work, which sometimes it is, most of the time it’s pretty chilled and fun and volunteers still only work for around 4-5 hours a day, broken up into a morning and afternoon shift so there is still plenty of time to relax, make friends and enjoy the beautiful surroundings or even go tubing in the river. Ele volunteers are also encouraged to help out with the dogs by taking them for walks or just playing with them which was something I did on most days. Also if you want to get a souvenir of your time here the lovely Jodi who works there is also a tattoo artist.

While the elephant volunteering is generally a bit more of a holiday with a few hours of token jobs each day, for those people wanting a bit more of a workout the dog volunteering is a great option. On my most recent visit I spent 2 weeks at ENP as a dog volunteer which although it was quite tiring and very busy I found it to be a much more rewarding experience than volunteering with the elephants as the 500 dogs there are in more desperate need of help than the elephants at the park since the dogs often get overlooked.

Dog volunteer tasks include taking dogs for walks, administering lots of cuddles, feeding, cleaning shelters, breaking up fights, assisting with vets, bathing dogs, pulling off ticks to name but a few things. For people on a tighter budget but still wanting to see what ENP is all about dog volunteering is also a great option because it’s about 1/4 the price of elephant volunteering. Many of the dogs are also up for adoption and/or sponsoring in case you fall in love with one (or several) and just have to take them home with you.

Peedee- just one of the 484 loveable ENP dogs.

Peedee- just one of the 484 loveable ENP dogs.

My ENP ele tattoo

My ENP ele tattoo

If you’re headed to Thailand and want to get some obligatory elephant snaps but without supporting or contributing to their abuse and suffering this is definitely the best place to go. They now have quite a few different volunteer options available including at other locations across Thailand and SE Asia. They are becoming increasingly popular and volunteer spots often fill up months in advance, especially in peak season (Dec- Feb) so book early, they also have the option of day and over night visits and the pamper the pachyderm program for those wanting to check the place out but are short on time or not up for volunteering.

http://www.saveelephant.org/

Singapore- the land of vegan

Singapore: an unassuming little island of the southern coast of the Malaysian penisula. While it has become a popular place for travellers to stop for a few days, usually on the way to somewhere else, many a tourist (including vegan ones) merely pass through, remaining completely oblivious to the extraordinary amounts of vegan goodness crammed into this tiny little patch of land in the middle of south east Asia. Scrolling through various vegan related sights on the internet, Singapore barely ever gets a mention in the lists of most vegan friendly cities or countries, but in this blogger’s/ traveller’s opinion it easily scores a place in the top 10, even beating so called vegan meccas such as New York. A quick glance on websites like happycow will confirm Singapore’s status of vegan heaven, happycow has over 300 listings for Singapore which is by no means comprehensive, not bad for an island that has a total land area of just 660 sq kms, even the airport has more vegan options than many major cities.

Fortunately, I happened to discover this Asian vegan heaven many years ago, when like most other people I was stopping over briefly on the way to somewhere else (Nepal to be exact), and since then I have become a very frequent visitor to these shores.

Knowing where to begin in a place with such a ridiculously high density of vegan/vegan friendly eateries can be a monumental task in itself, although there is barely an inch on the island where vegan options are not readily available (Sentosa probably being the least vegan friendly), I usually prefer to start my vegan eating adventure in the area around the hipsterville of Bugis village.

 

FORTUNE CENTRE

Vegan paradise

Vegan paradise

A vegan friend I met through couchsurfing first introduced me to this mindbogling place, having walked past it numerous times assuming it was just your average big ugly, generic shopping centre selling various useless consumer crap. Turns out it’s possibly the only one of its kind in the world, this 4 level almost entirely (about 98%) vegan food court, has everything to satisfy even the fussiest or most gluttonous vegan, with everything from cheap and cheerful local joints, macrobiotic health food restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, fresh organic juice shops plus a few more upmarket restaurants.

Usually it’s my first port of call when I’m in Singapore, the constantly evolving array of vegan food options in Fortune Centre could easily feed you for a week or more without ever having to eat at the same place twice. It’s not 100% vegan, on my last visit several of the restaurants serving meat upstairs had morphed into vegetarian eateries leaving just 2 places on the ground floor that have animals or their products on their menu.

190 Middle rd, Bugis,

SU SHI PIAO XIANG

Cheap and cheerful local vegan eatery

Cheap and cheerful local vegan eatery

Located on the ground floor of Fortune centre on the corner of Waterloo st and Middle rd is Su Shi Piao; the cheapest vegan food option and one of the most ppopular in the centre,also by far the least touristy, minimal English is spoken here but as the menu consists entirely of photos of the dishes displayed on the wall ordering is never an issue, and since it’s 100% vegan you don’t have to worry about getting your dietary needs across. Mains start from just SG$4, they also have a tasty ready cooked buffet to choose from in case you’re in a hurry or just want an extremely cheap meal. I usually get the latter, for SG$2.50 you can get rice and your choice of 3 different curries, add ons such as spring rolls or a big slab of fried tofu cost around 50 cents extra.  The food is always very fresh and tasty, even the buffet food, which has quite a fast turnover doesn’t sit there for long before a new batch is brought out, and despite the language barrier the staff are always very friendly and helpful.

 

PINE TREE

One of the more local eateries in the centre, limited English is spoken but everything is vegetarian and I think vegan, English menu is available. I got the tofu veggie claypot which I enjoyed, it was also quite cheap (around $5) especially given how large it was, it also came with a large side of white rice.

Pine Tree

Pine Tree

Level 3 Fortune centre

TRACY JUICE CULTURE

Of the 3 fresh juice shops in Fortune centre Tracy’s is the only organic and as you would expect easily the most expensive, Offered on the menu are a large variety of unusual combinations and concoctions such as wheaty black soya and sunflower carrot. They have a few interesting dessert options too, their pumpkin kaya is especially good. FYI some of their menu items contain honey so always remember to check first.
Tracy’s has also recently started doing food at lunchtimes, there are only two options: either the thunder tea rice set or udon noodles, both are priced at around $7. I tried the udon noodles on my last visit and they were spectacular, definitely the tastiest udon noodles I’ve ever had, very filling and great value.

Udon noodles

Udon noodles

http://www.tracyjuiceculture.com/index.html

 

XING HUA VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

On the corner of Bencoolen rd, Xiing Hua is one of my most frequented in Fortune centre aside from Su Shi Piao and New Green Pasture.

The yummy 3 coloured roll

The yummy 3 coloured roll

Food wise it’s pretty similar to Su Shi Piao only with more of a focus on mock meat dishes, they also have a buffet and a build your own noodle soup bar which I quite like. You simply grab a bowl fill it up with your choice of veggies, mock meats or tofu then hand it to the guy at the end who cooks it for you. My favourite dish here however is the 3 coloured roll, filled with a mushy silken tofu centre  which is then wrapped in seaweed and spring roll pastry that is then deep fried and served with the most delicious vegan mayo I have ever had.

 

CREATE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

On my recent visit I tried to make an effort to visit a few vegan places on my ever growing list Singapore must eats. Create… is one of the two veggie/vegan eateries left in Fortune centre that I was yet to try (Herbivore being the other) so I popped in for lunch one day.

Similar to New Green Pasture, I would describe Create as the poor man’s version as the prices are a lot lower and the food, while it is still nice and healthy, it is considerably less elaborate than New Green Pasture. I ordered the brown rice set at $6 which included brown rice and 1 small serving of a tofu and mushroom curry, 2 vegetable dishes and a coleslaw style salad. I also got the vegetable sushi rolls.

Brown rice set at Create

Brown rice set at Create

Veggie sushi rolls

Veggie sushi rolls

Level 2 Fortune centre

DELCIE’S DESSERTS (UPDATE: The Delcie’s in Fortune centre has now changed its name to Kwan Im and is no longer making GF cakes, only mooncakes and cookies)

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Having just recently opened their 2nd outlet, the original being in a far flung suburban area. Delcie’s has a strong following in Singapore and not just in the vegan community. Personally though I’m not a massive fan of their cakes, which I find to be a bit on the undercooked, crumbly and soggy side and when I’m paying $6 or more for a tiny little sliver I at least expect it to be cooked properly. Saying that their cheesecakes are quite nice but not the best in the city, they are however the only bakery in Singapore that offers gluten free options that are vegan.

 

 

Strawberry cheesecake

Strawberry cheesecake

Ground floor of Fortune centre

http://delcies.com/

NEW GREEN PASTURE

Deliciously fresh and tasty tofu salad pockets

L top: charcoal noodle salad, R: brown rice set with steamed veggies

L top: charcoal noodle salad, R: brown rice set with steamed veggies

Charcoal noodle salad

Charcoal noodle salad

My favourite place in Fortune centre and one of my faves in the whole of Singapore, New Green Pasture is always AT the top of my list of vegan must eats.Their menu which is constantly changing and evolving, focusses predominantly on fresh healthy ingredients and features some unusual combinations and imaginative creations. Everything is made fresh to order so wait times can sometimes be a little longer than most other restaurants but it’s worth the wait. The Taiwan noodles, Sri Lankan rolls and the Lo mee are my current favourites. The charcoal noodle salad is also highly recommended, as are  the delicious  tofu pockets with salad which have become one of my favourite menu items. They are big squares of deep fried puffed tofu filled with incredibly fresh salad and drizzled with home made vegan tahini mayo (if there’s one thing Sinngapore and SE Asia in general excel at it’s got to be vegan mayonnaise), my advice for this restaurant is don’t be afraid to try something weird sounding, chances are it will probably become your new favourite dish.

Level 4, Fortune centre

 

HOTCAKES

One of the newer vegetarian cafes to open up in Fortune centre serving a mixture of eggless cakes as well as an assortment of vegan (mostly) western foods with pizzas and pasta being the specialites. Since relocating to the ground floor recently they have really upped the stakes when it comes to vegan options. All of the savoury foods are vegan and they are now offering a growing range of pretty impressive vegan cakes. I tried the black pepper chicken burger on my last visit which was particularly tasty.

Black pepper chicken burger @ Hotcakes

Black pepper chicken burger @ Hotcakes

Although it’s not really big enough for a meal it was fairly filling and for just $4 it’s definitely the best value vegan burger in Singapore. I also had a slce of the vegan chocolate cake which is definietly one of the best quality vegan cakes I’ve had in Singapore. Unlike all the other vegan cakes available in Singapore which tend to be overly dry and very fluffy more akin to what would find in the Chinese bakeries, Hotcakes cakes are more what you’d expect from European bakeries. The chocolate cake was perfectly moist and very chocolatey, I also really liked the ganache icing which was very creamy without being too sugary. They are also quite good value at $5 for quite a generously sized slice.

Vegan chocolate and peanut butter cake @ Hotcakes

Vegan chocolate and peanut butter cake @ Hotcakes

Crappy photo, delicious cake @ Hotcakes

Crappy photo, delicious cake @ Hotcakes

HOTCAKES

Fortune Centre, ground floor #01-33

VEGAN GROCERY STORE (NAME UNKNOWN)

on the ground floor of Fortune centre (next to Kwan Im) there is a small vegetarian supermarket (everything is actually vegan), they mostly stock a variety of mock meats and cooking sauces etc. Recently, they have started selling a range of vegan baked goods on a small table at the front of the shop. My favourite are the soy cream filled swiss rolls that come in vanilla, chocolate, coffee and pandan flavours. They also have soy cream puffs, pineapple tarts and a variety of cookies and Chinese sweets at very cheap prices.

TENG BESPOKE VEGETARIAN JAPANESE

This 100% vegetarian Japanese restaurant is tucked away in the back corner of a shopping centre and can be a little difficult to find as there is no sign and several other Japanese restaurants located nearby but it’s definitely worth the effort. Some dishes contain dairy (watch out especially for mayo in the sushi), so make sure to inform the staff when you order that you are dairy free.

I ordered the chicken kebabs on my visit which were very tasty and had a nice texture.

Grilled Japanese asparagas

Grilled Japanese asparagas

Bland sushi roll

Bland sushi roll

Chicken kebab at Teng Bespoke

Chicken kebab at Teng Bespoke

I also ordered a sushi roll (sorry can’t remember the name), which turned out to be quite disappointing and incredibly bland. The texture of the seaweed was also very dry making it quite difficult to actually eat. It was very nicely presented though. My friend tried the grilled Japanese asparagas which was quite good.

They have a large range of set meals too, most of which look very good and are priced around the $20 ish mark. A nice restaurant definitely worth checking out if you like Japanese food, just pick your sushi choice carefully as it’s a bit hit and miss.

TENG BESPOKE

Sunshine Plaza #01-50

91 Bencoolen st (Sunshine Plaza is diagnally opposite Fortune centre)

KWAN IM

Located next to the Buddhist temple on Waterloo rd, being so close to Fortune centre and Albert centre I still haven’t got round to actually trying anything from their menu. Usually I have just been enticed in to the front of the shop where there is a rather sizeable display cabinet packed full of yummy and very reasonably priced Chinese style vegan cookies and short cakes, I for one can never go past the stuffed red bean cookies.

Kwan Im

190 Waterloo rd (next to temple of the same name)

 

ALBERT CENTRE

Vegan desserts a plenty

Vegan desserts a plenty

Yet another vegan filled food court in Bugis, and located just a mere few hundred metres from Fortune centre, the only problem you will have as a vegan in Bugis is trying to narrow down where to eat from the seemingly endless options. While Albert centre may be a little short on main meal options for vegans is sure as hell doesn’t skimp out on desserts or snacks.

My favourite stall in here (sorry I’ve forgotten the name), is one that makes and sells freshly made mochi, the pandan coconut ones are my personal fave. The stall is located in the 2nd isle from the left if you enter from the main entrance and is the 3rd or 4th last on the right furthest away from the entrance.

Two other stalls that i tend to frequent quite regularly are right next to each other a few isle across to the right from the above. Rochor Soy Bean is a stall selling flavoured fresh soy milk, grass jelly (nicer than it sounds), and a variety of bean curd puddings.Next door is House of Desserts, selling similar fair to Rochor Soy, they have a slightly larger selection of bean curd puddings, some vegetable based sweet broths and steamed buns. The sweet potato pudding is always a tasty treat, and I also like the black sesame pudding.

Albert centre

Bugis st, near Bugis market

 

LIVING GREENS

UPDATE

Living Greens have finally re-opened at a new address with a delicious new menu. Find them at: 89 Rangoon Rd (near Farrer Park MRT)

On my most recent visit I ordered the brown rice set which on this day was a very tasty tofu, dahl and pumpkin curry with a side of greens. The curried tempeh burger is also super tasty but a little on the small side.

Living Greens brown rice set

Living Greens brown rice set

For dessert I decided to splash out and treat myself to a slice of the pumpkin kaya pie, it was very good and being free of sugar it wasn’t too sweet, but at $8 a slice it was quite small.

Pumpkin kaya pie

Pumpkin kaya pie

Green tea noodle salad from Living Greens

Green tea noodle salad from Living Greens

One of my favourite vegan restaurants in SG was unfortunately closed temporarily on my last visit while they relocate and renovate, at the time of writing they were unsure exactly when or where they will be moving to so be sure to keep an eye on their website.  Serving healthy whole foods with a focus on raw, gluten free and sugar free. Living Greens serve up some delicious salads, sushi, burgers and cakes just to name a few things, every time I’ve eaten here the food has been tremendously fresh and arrived very speedily.

http://www.livingreens.com.sg/

 

7 SENSATIONS

I finally got around to ticking off another of the many veg restaurants on my list. I have a habbit of going back to the same old favourites, but I had heard many good things about this restaurant so decded to splash out and go there for lunch. Unfortunately since their move from Clarke Quay to the Little India area standards as well as vegan options see to have gone downhill. Vegan options were not marked on the menu which seemed strange for a restaurant that makes a big fuss about having lots of options for vegans as well as a focus on healthy food. Many items on the menu that sounded vegan and are usually vegan eslewhere such as the tofu roll had egg and/or milk in them so my only really options were the more boring items such as salad. I ordered the mango and avocado salad, curried pumpkin soup and a lemongrass and mint iced tea.

The staff were quite accommodating and helpful in suggesting tomato free and vegan options. I had originally ordered the tofu roll assuming that it was vegan like everywhere else, but 20 minutes later the waiter cam back out and told me that it has egg in it and suggested the oatmeal tofu instead which didn’t seem to be on the menu.

Mango and avocado salad, pumpkin soup and lemongrass and mint iced tea.

Mango and avocado salad, pumpkin soup and lemongrass and mint iced tea.

The salad was tiny but relatively tasty, althoughit really could have used a bit more dressing as it was quite dry. The soup was also fairly nice. Suprisingly the tofu was the standout dish, with a crispy skin on the outside and a soft mushy centre. The sauce was really yummy too (some kind of vegan mayo or similar).

Oatmeal tofu

Oatmeal tofu

My whole meal came to a total of around SG$25 which was rather expensive considering it really wasn’t anything special.

279 Jalan Besar

REAL FOODS

Another of the slightly upmarket organic healthy vegetarian restaurants in Singapore Real Foods, I went here at the suggestion of my couch surfing host who was also a vegan. It’s a little on the pricey side, most mains being around $12-13 but it is worth it as an occasional treat. The majority of the menu is vegan (clearly labelled) and there are also plenty of GF options too.

I got the sweet potato and chickpea patties which came with a grilled vegetable salad consisting of asparagus and green beans and also some lettuce, avocado and a very delicious sesame vegannaise. The actual patties had a very nice cumin flavour but were a little on the dry side.

Sweet potato and chickpea patties with salad

Sweet potato and chickpea patties with salad

My friend ordered the steamed dumplings which were also quite good.

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They have quite a few different outlets so please check their website for an up to date listing http://www.realfoodgrocer.com/outlets.html

GENESIS

Finally I made it to this well known and highly regarded 100% vegan eatery. I had lunch here with a few other vegan friends, we ordered quite a number of different dishes so I had the chance to try a large chunk of the menu and was quite impressed with the high quality.

The dumplings were a stand out of the 3 entrees we tried, they were super tasty and fresh. We also tried the yuba rolls which I found to be a little too chewy and tasteless and we also got the Penang Popiah rolls which turned out to be just your average vegetable sushi rolls minus the vegannaise so they were a little boring.

Genesis dumplings

Genesis dumplings

For a main it was a very hard decision, tossing up between the mango salad, one of the rice dishes or a noodle dish, but I eventually opted for the dry dumpling noodles. None surprisingly the dumplings themselves were the highlight of this dish, they were lightly pan fried which gave them a slightly crispy skin whilst still remaining perfectly moist in the centre.

Dry dumpling noodles @Genesis

Dry dumpling noodles @Genesis

For dessert we got a bowl of Chendal and a slice of tofu cheesecake to share between us. The Chendal was a healthier version of the traditional one, using almond milk instead of the usual coconut milk which gave it a rather odd taste and texture that did not go at all with the flavour of the pandan tapioca worms. The cheescake fared a little better, however I felt that the raw flour after taste of the base really let it down.

Raw tofu cheesecake @ Genesis

Raw tofu cheesecake @ Genesis

1 Lorong Telok near Clarke Quay

VEGGIE COTTAGE

I finally got around to going to this cute little vegan cafe tucked away down a small lane behind the Verge shopping centre. The menu changes daily so it can be a little hit and miss. I sat down at a table and waited for a good 10 minutes for the waitress to bring a menu over as she was a little busy talking to her friends. I went on a Sunday so the Nonya curry that I was really craving wasn’t available. After some deliberation I decided to order the avocado dip with tortilla chips which was quite tasty but didn’t come with anywhere near enough dip for the amount of chips.

20141012_120845

I also ordered the spicy fried dumplings which were a little dissapointing as they were tiny and barely had enough filling to be able to taste it let alone be spicy. I’m pretty sure they came out of pre frozen supermarket bought pack too. The tofu hotpot served much better and was really tasty although there were only three tiny pieces of tofu in the whole dish.

Tofu hotpot @Veggie Cottage

Tofu hotpot @Veggie Cottage

I did also order a lemongrass and mint tea but that never arrived for some reason.

Nice little place although the customer service could do with some improvements but if you’re in the area and want a vegan meal with risking accidental ghee consumption at any of Indian restaurants then this place is definitely worth a visit.

13 Dalhousie Lane

http://www.veggiecottage.com/

GOKUL

Whilst there are countless veg Indian restaurants in the Little India district there are very few options for vegans as almost all of them cook with ghee and are either unwilling to accommodate vegans or simply are unable to comprehend why on earth anyone would not want to have dairy. Thankfully however, there is Gokul who not only understand the concept of veganism but are also more than happy to cater to it. Although there is no meat or eggs on the menu here, approximately 1/4 of the dishes have milk or cream in them (these are fairly obvious when looking at the menu), the rest are 100% vegan including all of the naan breads which makes a nice change.

The menu at Gokul is incredibly extensive and a little overwhelming to say the least, with around 500 different items on the menu. Featuring all the standard north and south Indian dishes, they also have quite a few unique options such as tofu sambal dosa as well as a huge range of vegetarianised traditional Malay and Chinese dishes such as nasi goreng and a vaiety of noodles.

I really wanted to try the chicken seekh kebabs but unfortunately they weren’t available on the day that I went so I ordered the Palak (spinach) dahl and the kashmiri naan bread as well as the mee basah instead.

Lunch @Gokul

Lunch @Gokul

I definitely over ordered as the dahl was about double the size that I expected it to be. It was very good though, with lots of fresh spinach mixed throughout. My only complaint wa that it wasn’t really spicy enough for me. The naan bread was also good, but a little on the dry side.

Mee basah

Mee basah

By the time my noodle dish arrrive at the table I was already feeling quite full and really struggled to get through it. It was quite tasty and very substantial.

Although it’s quite a large restaurant, it is a very popular one. I arrived for lunch around 1pm and it was about half full, by the time I left an hour or so later the was a very sizeable line going out the door of people queing for a table so my advice would be to get there early.

http://gokulvegetarianrestaurant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/pdf/gokul_food_menu.pdf

GOKUL

19 Upper Dickson Rd

Little India district

2nd location (smaller restaurant with much smaller menu)

Fortune centre ground floor #01-07

FRUNATIC

Fantastic Frunatic

Fantastic Frunatic

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Fruit salad menu @ Frunatic

A fairly new contender on the vegan scene and one of the most interesting and original concepts to come out of Singapore’s continually expending array of cuisines is Frunatic. If the name hasn’t already given it away this is Singapore’s first ever frutarian restaurant, serving up some very unique combinations of organic and extremely fresh fruits and nut based dishes as well as fresh juices and some particularly delicious treats at a surprisingly reasonable price.

Forest salad

Forest salad

Green salad

Green salad

Tropical

Tropical salad

I really enjoyed all the dishes I tried but if I had to pick a favourite it was probably the Tropical salad, the perfectly soft, ripe mango, in combination with the crunchiness of apples and crushed brazil nuts all drizzled with a sweet mango sauce was divine.

Of course they don’t just serve salad at Frunatic, they also offer some delectable no bake sweet treats as well. I had gone to a vegan pot luck a few days before and some one had brought along a sizeable slab of Frunatics chocolate and raspberry cake which was possibly the nicest raw cake I have ever had.  So after I polished off my main course I had no problem at all deciding that it was dessert time,

Sweet treats @Frunatic

Sweet treats @Frunatic

I ended up with 3 things because I couldn’t decide and they were all quite small and not very expensive. I got a piece of the chocolate raspberry cake that I tried at the pot luck, a mango cake and a cinnamon ball to try. I probably don’t need to say but they were all exceptionally tasty and creamy.

491 River Valley Rd (ground floor of shopping centre)

http://www.frunatic.com/

 

JOLLIBEAN 

Jollibean

Jollibean

One of the countless chains selling soy bean related drinks and snacks  that seem to be absolutely everywhere in Singapore is Jollibean. In Singapore’s heat and humidity a nice cold icy soy milk is just the thing to cool you down, I usually get the J special which is the icy adzuki red beans with matcha flavoured soy milk, but some of the other flavours such as the rose soy milk are pretty good too. Quality and flavours do vary substantially from one outlet to another, I find the one located on the ground floor of the Verge shopping centre to be the best.

Jollibean

Everywhere in Singapore

http://www.jollibean.com/aboutus.htm

 

MR BEAN

Similar thing to the above only Mr Bean has one thing that Jollibean does not, well actually 2, they have an icy mango soy drink and they also have cendal flavoured soy milk. FYI the soy soft serve ice cream is NOT vegan as it contains egg, as do all of their cakes and pies etc, the staff may tell you otherwise but only all the drinks are vegan. Same goes for Jollibean.

UPDATE The Mr Bean on the ground level of The Star Vista shopping mall near Bouna Vista MRT now has several flavours of confirmed vegan ice cream. All of the “Snowy soy” flavours have been confirmed as vegan by the company. Currently they are the only Mr Bean selling this range.

Everywhere in Singapore

http://www.mrbean.com.sg/

 

VEGANBURG

The name says it all

The name says it all

Meal deal: cracked pepper may burger with seaweed fries and beetroot juice

Meal deal: cracked pepper mayo burger with seaweed fries and beetroot juice

One of the things I really love about Singapore is the inventive and diverse range of vegan businesses and restaurants that all seem to flourish in this vegan paradise, one of these is the rapidly expanding Veganburg. The last 3 times I have visited Singapore I have discovered that they have opened yet another outlet or 2 with further plans to continue growing, it’s nice to see something as simple as a vegan burger joint doing so well.  They make all their own patties onsite and whilst it may be no comparison to  places like Lord of the Fries in Melbourne Veganburg burgers are still pretty darn tasty and well worth a visit if you’re craving something other than curries and stir-fries.

Various locations in Singapore

http://www.veganburg.com/

 

GREENZILLA (UDPATE Greenzilla has now closed)

The most recent vegetarian burger joint in SG, Greenzilla is quite similar to VeganBurg, the main difference being that they are vegan friendly but not 100% vegan as some of the burgers and sauces contain dairy so be sure to mention that to staff when ordering.

The first burger I ordered here was the “Shrooms and herbs” burger which although wasn’t exactly amazing it was passable although I was a little annoyed that the staff had ignored my tomato free request despite repeating it back to me when I ordered. I also got the pumpkin pops to try, which are similar to tata tots only made from pumpkin instead of potato. Initially I thought they were really good but the second time I ordered them along with the sweet potato pops they were actually rather disgusting.

Shrroms and herbs burger and pumpkin pops

Shrroms and herbs burger and pumpkin pops

1 The Star Vista near Bouna Vista MRT

WELL DRESSED SALAD BAR

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My most recent vegan discovery, this place is all vegetarian and about 90% vegan, the staff seem to have a good understanding of veganism and were quite happy to make suggestions or inform me of which of the salad dressing a were vegan (all except two of them). They also have quite a diverse menu including wraps, burgers, soup and pasta so they are not just a salad bar.

Some of the vegan menu options

Some of the vegan menu options

I opted for the create your own salad where you choose your green (I got the romaine), you can then pick up to 6 different toppings from a lengthy list that includes several different kinds of beans, tofu, nuts and seeds and the usual salad type vegetables. For an extra $1.50 I also added avocado to mine and as I couldn’t decide between the mango basil or the creamy sesame dressings I just got both.

Yummy and huge salad from Well dressed salad bar

Yummy and huge salad from Well dressed salad bar

282 South Bridge rd

EASTERN HIGHLAND HEALTHY VEGETARIAN CAKE  HOUSE

All vegan bakery

Almost all vegan bakery

The same friend who introduced me to Fortune centre also brought me to this place when they were located in Rochor centre and it has become one of my favourite and most frequented places in all of Singapore and also probably one of my favourite vegan bakeries in the world (Back to Eden in Portland, OR and Veganerie in Bangkok still holds a firm #1 and #2 places in my heart and stomach). There are quite a few Chinese style eggless bakeries in Singapore and while most of them do have a few vegan goodies this is the only one that is entirely vegan although they don’t actually advertise it, this is why I never would have discovered it on my own, assuming it was the same dairy laden breads as all the rest of them. The owner Mr Chang is a follower of Loving Hut’s supreme master Ching Hai and thus makes all his cakes, breads and pastries using soy instead of dairy ingredients and so if you didn’t ask you’d never know that the delicious, unnaturally light and fluffy sponge cake you chowing down on was vegan.

UPDATE Mr Chang has finally listened to my advise and has started to label things as “vegan” FYI he is only labelling some items so there are still quite a few vegan things (especially cakes) that ARE vegan but not labelled as such so be sure to check.

Vegan breads from Eastern Highland

Vegan breads from Eastern Highland

Vegan cakes

Vegan cakes

My hoard

My hoard: L bamboo charcoal bread, front centre: layered pandan sponge cake, R: chocolate sponge cake, top: mini vanilla fruit tartes

At Eastern Highland there are a few staples that are baked fresh daily including various buns, breads and refrigerated cakes, they are particularly well known for their bamboo charcoal bread which is  a very effective detoxifier, as I discovered on my Sydney bound flight later that evening as I vomited up every last trace of the dodgy tempeh I’d eaten in Indonesia several days prior that had been making me feel rather ill ever since. The charcoal bread was just the trick! Another of my favourites is the layered pandan cakes (front in pics of my hoard). Besides the daily staples Mr Chang is never short on ideas for other things to bake, occasionally you may also find  a chocolate mousse cake, durian and apple flavoured cream puffs, charcoal sponge cake, the list goes on, my last visit I tried the durian swiss roll, which was actually pretty damn tasty (if you like the durian flavour that is). You can also buy whole cakes to order.

I’ve become such a regular customer at this bakery (if you call once or twice a year regular) that owner Mr Chang always insists on giving me a ridiculously huge bag of goodies for free which is very nice of him but my waist line could probably do without them. So if you go here and should definitely be near the top of your Singaporean to do list please tell him I said hello.

Eastern Highland Healthy Vegetarian Cake House (5 minute walk from Aljunied MRT)

Blk134 Geylang East Avenue 1

#01-227

Singapore

 

YES NATURAL

Actually 3 shops in 1, Yes Natural is mostly known as an eggless vegetarian bakery, bu on either side of that is also a restaurant and a health food store. The bakery is a bit larger in size than Eastern Highland and sells more or less the same kind of stuff, the only difference being that none of their cakes are vegan and only a few of their breads are ok for vegans (vegan options are all clearly labelled). The vegan breads are pretty good but when there’s a place literally a 5 minute walk away selling vegan versions of all the same stuff there’s not really much point in coming here as well. The health food store have some good stuff though so worth checking them out.

Yes Natural

55 Lor 27 Geylang

Singapore

http://www.yesnatural.biz/

 

BROWNICE

UPDATE Some good news and some not so good news. Bad news first Brownice have unfortunately closed their second outlet in Zhongshan mall (not sure why) but the good news is that they have expanded their menu at the other outlet so you can now not only enjoy all the delicious vegan ice cream still but also choose from the vegan pizza, the cheesy hummus grilled sandwich amongst others, they are now also doing very delicious and chocolatey sundaes which are now my new favourite thing there.
Since the sad demise of my beloved Maggie Mudd in San Francisco several years ago I have longed for another vegan/vegan friendly ice creamery to over indulge at and eat exorbitant amounts of  fudgy brownies and waffles smothered in piles of creamy and delicious vegan ice cream, thankfully Singapore answered my prayers when this fine establishment came into fruition a couple of years ago. Originally just a tiny little cart inside of another vegan restaurant, they eventually got a home of their own just as the other vegan ice creamery in SG (Soyato) decided to pull the plug on their retail shop in favour of supplying other stores and catering for special events.

UPDATE: Brownice have recently expanded their menu and are now also offering a large range of vegan pizzas. They have also started experimenting with raw cakes. I recently tried the raw red velvet cake which was delicious, there is also several different flavours of raw cheese cake and also some ice cream cakes.

Waffles with cendal, hazelnut and mango ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce

Waffles with cendal, hazelnut and mango ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce

Sundae with pumpkin coconut and black sesame ice cream

Sundae with pumpkin coconut and black sesame ice cream

The cheesy hummus grilled sandwich

The cheesy hummus grilled sandwich

Brownie with pistachio and macadamia nut ice cream.

Brownie with pistachio and macadamia nut ice cream.

L: pumpkin and coconut ice cream with caramelised sea salt almonds, R: mud pie

L: pumpkin and coconut ice cream with caramelised sea salt almonds, R: mud pie

Delicious raw red velvet cake with black sesame and hazelnut ice cream.

Delicious raw red velvet cake with black sesame and hazelnut ice cream.

I must admit I think I’ve tried just about all of the ice cream flavours here except for the newer ones that they keep coming coming up with and I must say I was rather impressed with all of it. The waffles with 3 scoops of ice cream was a bit too much for 1 person,. I really struggled to get through it. The pumpkin coconut ice cream is my favourite flavour of all of Brownice’s that I have tried, and while the recipes for the brownies has been changed since the 1st time I tried them, they still beat most others. The mudpie is highly recommended for any chocolate lover and is also gluten free. I also really like how the staff will let you try as many flavours as you want before ordering and they are also very generous with the scoop sizes.

#1: 8 Sim Ming centre

Sim Ming rd (near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve)

http://www.brownice.com/

 

NATURE VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

One of the few proper vegetarian restaurants located in the west, most of the other being hawker centre stalls. I though it was about time that I checked out a place out if the city centre. It has a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. e were a reasonable number of other diners considering it was around 3pm, there also seemed to be twice the number of staff than customers so the service was very quick, friendly and efficient.

This restaurant serves the standard Asian vegetarian cuisine, but it is done quite nicely and the prices were quite reasonable in comparison to the large portion sizes.

I ordered two dishes, the fried tofu skins in black bean sauce and the green curry noodles. I also got a fresh green apple and mint drink that was particularly nice.

Tofu skins in black bean sauce

Tofu skins in black bean sauce

Green curry noodles and green apple and mint juice

Green curry noodles and green apple and mint juice

Both dishes were nice, the noodles were way bigger than I had expected and weren’t quite spicy enough for my taste but the were still good.

My whole meal came to a total of $18

Nature Vegetarian Restaurant
Back of Tradehub 21
Blk 11 #03-4462 Jalan Bukit Merah

http://www.natureveg.com/index.html

ROTI @ ALKA’S KITCHEN

100% vegetarian Indian fusion restaurant located near Clementi MRT. Specialising in wraps but also has a menu featuring creative versions of Indian standards such as kofta balls and dahl puri. The chef/owner has a good understanding of vegan and is more than happy to accommodate vegans or customers with allergies.

Roti wrap from Alka's kitchen

Roti wrap from Alka’s kitchen

#B1-22/23, West Coast Plaza, West Coast Road

SUPERMARKET SHOPPING

Vegan ice cream is everywhere in SG

Vegan ice cream is everywhere in SG

Just some of the vegan delights of Singapore

Just some of the vegan delights of Singapore

It may be no surprise after reading this blog so far but Singapore isn’t just a great place for vegans to eat out, there are also plenty of vegan delights to be found in the supermarkets as well should you feel like eating in or like me just want to stock up in bulk on stuff to take home.

While the name Cold Storage may not sound that exciting, Singapore’s largest chain supermarket has just about everything a vegan might need from vegannaise, So Delicious and Coconut bliss ice cream, Tofurkey (slices and pizzas), and a large amount of more local vegan options. Stores tend to vary from one to the next stocking foods according to that particular area, the best ones for vegan food tend to be in the western expat type areas such as Holland village, Bukit Timah rd and Great World City shopping mall near Orchard rd, and the one above Bugis MRT is also pretty good.

Other chain supermarkets sucj as Giant and Fair Price also have their fair share of vegan goodies as do many of the local markets that are usually held around the many hawker centres near large housing complexes.

Vegan cheese lovers rejoice because Singapore has DAIYA, the object of obsession for vegans around the world excluding North America and Canada, Daiya has been available for purchase in Singapore pretty much since it first went on shelves in Canada and the USA around 4ish years ago and somehow managed to remain under the radar of the usually proactive vegan communities the world over. I stumbled upon this incredible discovery purely by accident a few years ago when after finding Tofurky pizza (with Daiya) in a Cold Storage I did some research online to see if any of their other products were sold in SG when all of a sudden I came across a site listing all the stockists of Daiya in the city. I spent the next few days going to every single one of them to purchase every last bag of it in the entire country. Some of those shops have now moved and/or closed so here is an up to date list of all the places you can get it, they all get a shipment of it every month.

FOUR SEASONS ORGANIC

1 Kim Seng Promenade

Great World City shopping mall (near Orchard rd)

level #B2

80 Marine Parade rd

Parkway Parade

level #B1

EAT ORGANIC

this health food store is almost like hopping in a tardis and suddenly being transported to California, they have it all (almost) from Clif bars  to Earth balance margarine and packaged waffles. They also have Daiya.

619H Bukit Timah rd

(nearish the botanic gardens, also just a few doors down from the German shop that has many delicious vegan biscuits and Speculoos spread).

Other SG restaurants worth checking out:

Chi Yan
Loving Heart
Loving Hut
Loveinbread
Yes Natural restaurant
Greendot

The restaurants, stalls and shops I have mentioned above are merely some of my faves and are by no means a exhaustive guide to all the vegan food found in Singapore, far from in fact, so for a more comprehensive guide to eating and shopping vegan style these blogs are a good start:

http://www.hungryangmo.com/

http://veganash.wordpress.com/