Back with another video update! Some people have been telling me recently they enjoyed the way I didn’t sugarcoat anything, so I guess this one goes out to you my dear friends! Watch me lose my mojo just a little bit as I cut my bicycle tour short in order to arrive in Bangkok on time for some business. I’m also getting ready to leave South East Asia after nearly two years and not getting a whole lot of sleep in the process. I was mostly very tired, and potentially a little hormonal, hence the tears.
Bangkok is possibly the city I commuted through the most those past two years, yet I haven’t really talked about it here. I love Bangkok. And it was obvious from the first few times I went that it was a very vegan-friendly city – just search for the little red on yellow “jay” flag at the entrance of cafeteria-style Buddhist eateries. These are convenient and cheap and sometimes delicious, but their emphasis isn’t on health and great ingredients – most of the time you’ll find MSG-laden overcooked slop. What really started exciting me those past months however, as well as all the fantastic rooftop bars in Bangkok, is the sheer quantity of hip, health-minded and vegan friendly or even vegan-only eateries that offer a slightly more upscale dining experience and deliver an extensive and exciting range of cuisine putting forth quality organic ingredients and innovative cooking styles.
While budget travel is generally my daily reality, I still have an appreciation for well-designed spaces and beautiful interiors. I do come from a fine arts and design background, after all. So when I found myself in a position to review Maduzi Hotel in Bangkok, a wonderful hotel that combines finesse, elegance and excellent design, I jumped on the opportunity to experience one last taste of luxury on the tail end of a whirlwind two year South East Asian adventure and visit one of the best hotels in Bangkok. I thought I deserved it! Here is the lowdown on this little gem.
Remember Myst, the 90s computer game set in a beautiful fantasy world where you could get lost in the different “ages” and discover all sorts of magical stuff for hours on end? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you that I have found the island of Myst: it is in Bangkok, Thailand, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in what is dubbed “The Green Lungs of Bangkok”. Not only that, but it also has an enchanted tree house where I got to spend a few days – an eco-friendly project exquisitely crafted out of sustainable and reclaimed materials amidst the jungle, a mere seven or eight km away from the downtown core of Bangkok.
I am back with a cycling video again today, and picking things up where I last left them. Please come with me as I cycle from Koh Phangan to Bangkok and encounter a few technical difficulties! Things were not as exciting as I would have hoped as the landscape quickly got boring – palm oil plantations lining most of the road and no wildlife whatsoever… I still made the best of it though and had a blast! You can watch part one here, part two right over here, and my whole YouTube channel right here. Make sure you subscribe not to miss an update! 🙂
Koh Phangan swallowed me whole with its beautiful vistas, beaches, people, food and everything that comes with it. I was coming for one week and I stayed for one month. And I would have stayed longer, I tell you. You can read the story of how I fell in love with the place last year right here. For now though, let’s talk about the food!
Making a swift exit from Koh Phangan’s full moon party via longtail boat made me feel a little bit like the James Bond of all party pooper. And I liked it. #noregret
That is because I had a date with the divine at a yoga resort aptly called The Sanctuary, a health and wellbeing haven hidden in a gorgeous secluded cove a mere five minute boat ride (yet feeling like miles away) from the debauchery of the full moon party.There are some places you’d rather not tell anyone about. Places that feel sacred and unspoiled where a handful of people in the know, those who are vibrating on the same level, go to nurture their mind, body and soul. The Sanctuary is most definitely one of those.
1. THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS IS TOUCHING ME BEYOND WORDS AND HAS 100% RESTORED MY FAITH IN HUMANITY
I have not had to pay for accommodation in over a month and food has been provided for me along the way on several occasions. Whether it be friendly and generous Couchsurfing or Warmshowers hosts, friends met during or before the trip or people at private houses, police and gas stations or temples where I have clumsily asked permission to pitch my tent, the response has always been overwhelmingly positive. I am just blown away by the generosity of everyone that has crossed my path so far. Although I know this isn’t the reason why they are doing it, I cannot wait for the day I can pay it forward when I am in a situation to do so.
I nearly quit everything to go home two months ago. And when I say nearly, I mean that I actually purchased a flight from Bangkok to Montreal and I was two days away from boarding the plane when I came to my senses and aborted this crazy plan. I was about to give up my current life I’ve worked so hard for, my dreams of becoming location independent and this blog I have put all this work into but has given me more than I could imagine in return. I just could not sit on my own with my pain in this crappy hotel room in the middle of Thailand any longer. I was lost. Becoming a solo traveler was not something I had ever anticipated or wished for… and obviously neither was letting go of my ten year relationship. Thus went my brutal return from a magical six weeks in India, leaving an empty shell of me.
I revisited Koh Tao with absolutely no intention to create a vegan food guide for the blog. I was there to wrap up and try to come to terms with the remainder of a ten year relationship. Hell in paradise you could say. How ironic. But as a result of a broken heart, I ended up stuffing my face with all of the food and then some (mind you though – I ate mostly Oreo’s). So I thought I might as well put my hard work to use and write about the food I ingested.
I’m very much a budget traveler, and this is what I strive to promote here on this blog. But sometimes family members come for a visit and, well, what better excuse is there to splurge on a little luxury – especially when they are the ones paying? (insert evil laughter) That being said, high end accommodations can be a tremendous value for money in South East Asia and so I thought I would share with you my recent experience staying at the U Sukhumvit Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.
Yangon is not a particularly cheap or convenient city for a quick visa run from Thailand, but if you’re looking for a single-entry Thai tourist visa and have the time to spare, you can combine your embassy visit with a trip to one of the most interesting countries in South East Asia.
Mark Weins covers a lot of the details in this post from 2011, but some of the details have changed so I thought there was worth in sharing my experience.
After having spent over a month in the vegan food mecca that is Chiang Mai, Pai felt a little restrictive food-wise. I was however ecstatic to swap the pollution and traffic hubbub for the crisp mountain air after suffering from bad allergies and a sore throat seemingly exacerbated by tuk tuk smog for most of our time in Chiang Mai.
There are many places in South East Asia that have become synonymous with the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle – ditching the regular nine-to-five to work remotely or bootstrap a new business from a warmer climate, with a much lower cost of living and even better quality of life. We visited Chiang Mai last year and loved the city for its culture and easy way of life, and it always stayed in the back of our minds that if there was one place in Asia we’d be happy to put down some roots and live, this was the it.
One reason we were so keen to return to Chiang Mai is the food. We visited about a year ago and, for some weird reason, didn’t take full advantage of the variety of vegan options. This time around, however, we made it our mission to visit as many restaurants as we could, taste the rainbow, and present you with a comprehensive guide.
In long-term travel, things sometimes don’t go according to plan. And that’s fine: if you have the luxury of time, you should also have the openness of mind to assess that a destination is not right for you and do something about it. And that is how I am typing this on an impromptu flight to Chiang Mai three weeks after settling down in Ao Nang for what was supposed to be the duration of Richard’s divemaster training – 6 to 8 weeks. This is our first massive change of plan and I think we were a little slow at dealing with it, which resulted in us spending over two weeks in a place that, in hindsight, I was not all that into.
One year ago today, on January 1st 2014 at 8am, we locked the door of our flat in Montreal for the last time, leaving behind an empty shell of what was our life of the previous seven years, and dropped the key through the mail slot. As it resonated loudly in the dark empty box, I felt an excitingly familiar feeling in my stomach: we were homeless, the unknown awaited us. It was amazing to ring in the New Year in such a drastic, life changing, exciting way, and the feeling hasn’t left me since.
One thing anyone who is even mildly technology dependant should do before travelling anywhere for an extended period of time is to have their smart phone unlocked. Having 3G in South East Asia (in fact in any foreign country!) opens up so many possibilities. All of a sudden you are not dependant on tuktuk drivers telling you that your hotel is miles away, you can look up this nice hotel you just stumbled upon on Tripadvisor to see what other people thought of it and you can pretty much just hop on a scooter and go get lost anywhere, knowing that your trusty GPS will always bring you back home at the end of the day. 3G in South East Asia is extremely cheap and surprisingly very fast and reliable in most places.
Out of any possible travel destinations, I chose Koh Tao to do a work-a-thon, redesigning and migrating my blog and catching up on a backlog of blog posts from Laos. All the while Richard was completing his open water and advanced PADI diving certifications. But I wasn’t. I was sat on the balcony of our hotel room staring at a computer screen. I had chosen to do that. The crazy things you end up doing on long term travels.
We briefly backtracked towards Bangkok as we made our way to Khao Yai National Park and its adjacent town called Pak Chong. We had purchased a two and a half day tour and accomodation with GreenLeaf guesthouse and they offered free pickup from the bus station, which was great. The guesthouse was very basic but spacious and clean, however we did find a giant spider the size of a fist in the bathroom on the night we arrived, but hey, we were here to see critters after all, no? In fact I kinda threw a tantrum (or a strop, as Richard would call it), tried to get him to dispose of it for me, which he refused. I then had to go get one of the guys at the restaurant to come and do something about it for me, while Richard sat and gave me scornful looks and the guy giggled at us. This made us wonder how I would be coping with the critter encounters ahead of us…
We arrived in Bangkok at a time where the protests were at their all time low. I was very reluctant to come altogether, seeing as two children had died in bombing the previous day and it felt very unsafe to venture in. Fortunately, we had this map made by Richard Barrow depicting the main rally sites and areas to avoid and this, along with his Twitter account, allowed us to find a safe place to stay and to somewhat enjoy a slice of the city, albeit a very limited one. Our guesthouse was in Hua Lamphong and these photos were all taken in Chinatown. Hopefully tensions will have cooled down and we will be able to visit about more freely when we return in a few months.
Hi! A few weeks ago, we took a cooking class at The Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. The main reasons why we picked this specific school over all the other ones is because they offered the opportunity to veganized everything on the menu and because their farm is fully organic. We truly had an amazing day and met tons of other fun, food-loving travellers! I can’t recommend this day out enough if you happen to be in Chiang Mai.
It’s been nearly three weeks now since we were in Pai. It seems I have finally settled into a travel routine, and photo and video editing have not been on top of my priority list… I think that Pai itself had a lot to do with slowing my pace down and teaching me again how to do sweet nothing. In short, it was absolutely worth the bus ride from hell. I think Pai may appear a little raucous at first if you’re not 22 and in party mode, but walking 10 minutes just outside of the city, we found a little slice of paradise called Yawning Fields where we settled for a week.
In the course of the last week, we went around the Golden Triangle, the northernmost point of Thailand. We visited the towns of Mae Salong, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai by bus and sorngtaaou (pickup trucks) and took a longtail boat from Chiang Rai to Thaton. So much scenery in so little time, I’m glad I’m taking the time to document everything because my mind is already full to the brim with images of landscapes and faces I don’t want to forget. Thank god for the long bus rides, I guess!
We hopped on a bus from Bangkok towards Chiang Mai with a two-day stop over in Sukhothai. Our first land travel experience was an easy one with a first class ride equipped with a/c, toilet and a pretty baby blue and orange outfitted bus attendant feeding us biscuits and instant coffee.
Sukhothai was a great pit stop on route with its historical park containing ancient Khmer ruins (my first temples sighting!), a bustling night market (although still no durian in sight), slightly scary back-to-front tuk-tuk rides and a family-run guesthouse set amidst the dense forest inhabited by what seemed like hundreds of howling stray dogs and off-key roosters. I can definitely feel far from home now and it feels amazing! We stayed here 2 nights before setting off for Chiang Mai.
We had a wonderfully relaxing two weeks in England catching up with friends and family. A bit of a holiday from the holiday really! We spent the first four days at a couple of friends’ flat in North London who were gracious enough to let us use their sofa bed. We (and by “we” I mostly mean Richard…) paid them back by cooking them some food at night and taking them out to Wagamama on our last night. I have to say that I could very much see ourselves returning to the UK and living in London in a near future and it was great experiencing life there from an apartment rather than an hotel room. Thanks Tara and Will! We love you!