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 crafted out of sustainable and reclaimed materials amidst the jungle, a mere seven or eight km away from the downtown core of Bangkok.
Bangkok is possibly the city I commuted through the most during my time in Asia, yet I haven’t really talked about it much. I love Bangkok. And I love how vegan Bangkok is – 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, 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.
As it’s the biggest city in Northern Thailand, finding the best hostels Chiang Mai has to offer might be an overwhelming task because of the endless choices out there.
Tucked in the backpacking wonderland of Thailand, the mountainous city of Chiang Mai is a no-brainer spot if you want to experience the fusion of traditional and contemporary the country has to offer. Chiang Mai never runs out of hole-in-the-wall eats, excellent markets, beautiful temples, and local activities like cooking classes that will further acquaint you with Thailand’s way of life. Despite all the modern changes it welcomes, Chiang Mai has always been a piece of serenity in Thailand. Not to mention that it has an affordable cost of living that makes it all the more enticing for any type of traveller, especially the digital nomads.
One reason I was so keen to return to Chiang Mai is the vegan food.
What’s so great about Chiang Mai vegan food is the selection on offer. There are vegan and vegetarian restaurants elsewhere in Thailand, but they generally are your standard “Jay” (a Buddhist form of veganism) lunch buffet and are not always amazing. Sometimes they are. But I didn’t visit any of those whilst in Chiang Mai, because they can be found everywhere else. Instead I went for the organic farm to table, Japanese macrobiotic, healthy salad bar concepts and all the different and original options in-between, because they truly are what make Vegan Chiang Mai so special.
Koh Phangan swallowed me whole yet again with its beautiful vistas, beaches, yoga, food and everything that comes with it. This was my fourth time on the island and it was as good as ever. You can read the story of how I fell in love with the place here. For now though, let’s talk vegan Koh Phangan! (And right this way if you want to read about the best beaches of Koh Phangan).
I knew Ashtanga was going to be a challenge. I knew because I had already tried and failed not that long ago, at a time where I wasn’t mentally prepared. One thing you may not know about me, if you aren’t so close to me or haven’t been a reader of many years, is that the last three years were the most difficult of my life. A heartbreak lead me first to great heights, with a powerful adrenaline rush that propelled me from Kuala Lumpur to Berlin by bicycle on almost a single breath. But arriving in Berlin was an entirely different story. I fell from high up into the depth of a depression, something I hadn’t before experienced and that I have been a little shy of discussing here.
Siem Reap could rub you the wrong way if you tackle it from a certain angle. Much like Khao San Road in Bangkok, it’s easy to wound up exactly in the wrong place of the city (let’s hypothetically call this place Pub Street) and wonder what could have possibly gone wrong in such a quaint, culturally-rich, and spiritual part of the world. I did it, several people have done it, has Lonely Planet told us to do it? We’ve all got our reasons as to why we ended up in the most touristy and dare I say backpacker-damaged part of Cambodia whilst on the hunt for some vegan Siem Reap snacks.
There is a lot I have missed about Southeast Asia since I was last here – sunshine, fruit that tastes like sunshine, a focus on space as opposed to time, tuk-tuks, negotiable prices, … There is less I currently miss about Berlin – except for one thing. My recycling bin. Traveling as a vegan is becoming a relatively straightforward thing to do, but integrating all my conscious habits from back home is a different story. Especially in Southeast Asia, where they really really REALLY love their plastic packaging, and recycling facilities are currently as mythical as unicorns… So when I rocked up at luxury boutique hotel and ethical resort Jaya House Siem Reap, I was excited not just at the anticipation of a comfy beds, access to the best temples in Siem Reap, and good coffee (fine, I miss these a little bit too), but to find out what a hotel with the ambition to be 100% plastic free is like.
Spending time in KL after backpacking through the rest of South East Asia is comparatively expensive. Of course, nothing compares to Singapore, but food, accommodation and entertainment in the Malaysian capital are likely to leave a dent in your wallet if you are not careful. That is precisely what started to happen to me. I intended to spend only a few days in KL with a friend to try some vegan restaurants before moving on – but life had different plans for me and I found myself stranded in Kuala Lumpur for nearly three weeks with a rather empty bank account. I had to be crafty and come up with ways to make my stay cheaper. Turns out, it’s absolutely doable to stay in KL on the cheap! And turns out also, there’s a vibrant gay scene in Kuala Lumpur! Here are a few things I discovered.
First there was the idea that I was perhaps going to hate India. Then there was the planning to cram as much of the best places to visit in India into ten days to decide whether or not I liked it. Following that was the realization that, if I was going to decide if I liked India, a manic 10 day tour of Varanasi, Delhi, the whole of Rajasthan and Mumbai was possibly not going to be the thing to convince me. And finally there was the cancellation of all flights or plans to do any form of adventure activities in Goa and the sitting down in the Goan sand with the smug look of an expert procrastinator.