In my opinion Thailand must be one of the few countries who has it all: kind and friendly local people, white sand beaches, colorful culture, lush green jungles, mountains, dramatic landscapes and not to mention ALL THE FOOD!
This was my fifth trip to this amazing country and I had yet not covered the Northern part of Thailand at that time. I think that if you’re a first timer to Thailand, then you’ll probably head to the South for island hopping or just beach bum’ing at the Phuket peninsula, but I will probably recommend you to go to the North as the nature here is spectacular and you’ll get less turists and more the vibrant Thai vibe – or of course, you can do both. Its easy and cheap to travel around Thailand, and I can recommend combining Bangkok with Chiang Mai and Koh Samet or Koh Kood & Koh Chang. You can do this in 14-21 days and easy get the whole Thai package in one!
There is three ways of traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: by train (takes aprox. 11 hours), by bus (aprox: 13 hours) or you go by flight. Of course its faster by flight, but if you’re on a budget I will suggest to take the night train and kill to birds with one stone (hmm, that proverb though)!
Where to stay?
Once you’ll get there, I’ll recommend you to stay either in the Old Town of Chiang Mai where you’re are in the centre of it all or if you prefer a bit more cosy and quite then try Kaysorn Residence where I stayed. Kaysorn Residence is a little low-key eco guesthouse where you can have vegan breakfast, refill your water and join Beach-Clean Up campaigns all around Thailand. The host is a Thai woman married to a British man and she speaks perfectly English. So ask her for tour arrangements or if you have some questions in particular when you are there. The rooms are clean and neat and they have a little garden and lounge where you can sit and enjoy your coffee, beer og smoothie with a nice book. Its located ca. 2 km from the centre, but you can either rent bikes at the property or take the Thai tourist taxis which are easy and cheap. See availability and book here: Kaysorn Residence, Chiang Mai. Otherwise I would recommend: Green Tiger House which is located in the centre of Chiang Mai, and have a restaurant with only vegan and vegetarian options!! Unfortunately everything was booked when we search for availability, but we tried their restaurant and the food was YUM! Try their vegan breakfast of roasted potatoes, scrambles tofu with onions and a noodle soup. The scrambled tofu was the bomb!
Kaysorn Eco Residence
View overlooking Chiang Mai Old City from the terrace
Where to eat?
I found out that Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand, but the pace of life is much slower than bustling Bangkok and has a authentic Thai charm of its own. I also found out how easy it is to find vegan and vegan-friendly places around the city. And the flavors of the food is well-known, but still has its own touch of the Northern culture influenced by its two mighty neighbors: Lao and Burma. Whether you are craving a spicy Thai curry, healthy salad, raw sushi rolls, a falafel wrap, or a vegan cake – you’ll find it all in Chiang Mai.
Beside all of the tasty food options, you will also find a vibrant art scene, several markets, lana style guest houses and the biggest collection of temples in the whole South Eastern Asia. My favourite one was What Prah That Doi Suthep temple which is located on Suthep mountain and has a breathtaking view over Chiang Mai and the area around from the temple.
Street art at U.S Consulate General building
Doi Suthep Temple
BUT the most important is the food right? So where to eat i Chiang Mai? As I mentioned before, Chiang Mai is probably one of the easiest cities (in my opinion) to be/eat vegan as you’ll find several restaurants or food spots where they serve wholesome organic vegan dishes typical from a local family-owned farm nearby. I have listed mine 6 favorite vegan places:
This little low-key vegan restaurant is located in a lovely peaceful traditional teak house in the old city and offers delicious and nutritious microbiotic food, mostly made of organic local products and a looots of love! The outdoor seating area is quite low-key and the prices very reasonable. Even though that I’ve got recommended to try their vegan burger, I went for the tofu satay with spicy peanut dip and it was heavenly!
Location: 2/1 Samlan Road Soi 5, T prasing, Chiang Mai
Tofu satay with spicy peanut dip
Imm Aim Vegetarian & Bike Cafe
Imm Aim means ‘happiness in your heart’ and boy are they right! This lovely veggie joint serves a fusion of Thai, Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors all grown locally – from farm to table. With a diverse range of tasty dishes you’re unlikely to find such an interesting cross-cultural vegetarian blend of recipes all gathered under one menu. Even though its not all vegan, many of the vegetarian dishes can be veganized without any problems. The plates are generous, decently priced and colorfully presented with edible flowers. I went here twice as I couldn’t decide what to choose because everything on their menu looked so yum! Try their fresh summer rolls with a spicy mango dipping!
Location: 7/3 Santirak Rd., (Near Santitham Temple), Chiang Mai
Fresh rolls with vegetables and edible flowers with dip
This little quirky food spot is 100% organic and 100% tasty! Their menu is not completely vegan, but they do an effort of highlight the vegan options and can veganize some dishes. The atmosphere here is very relaxed with a nice vibe. Very kind staff whos smiles and ask you if everything is okay. I went here twice and I would definitely recommend their vegan burger with avo salad!
Location: 5, Soi Ratchamanka 2, Chiang Mai
Veggie burger with avo salad
This low-key vegan-friendly restaurant has a nice selection of authentic vegan thaifood dishes and they also offers a weekly cooking-class, with the owner of the restaurant. I will definitely recommend you to try their vegan pad thai with tofu. Did you know that Pad Thai is Thailands national dish? Its one of my favorite dishes and this one is one of the best I ever had in Thailand! YUM! Another tasteful dish is their simple, but yet so flavorful stir-fried veggies, and of course the famous morning glory with fried garlic!
Location: 34 Prapokklao Road, Prahsing, Chiang Mai
Bodhi Tree Cafe
This little vegan-friendly food spot doesn’t look very much, but their food taste beyond amazing! Bodhi Tree is located in the heart of the Old City and I heard that they have opened another one outside the Old city, but I didn’t visit that one. The restaurant has a pleasant little rustic bamboo garden setting and a nice authentic vibe. The menu is fairly limited but has some interesting options on it including Thai and Western food and even a whole page of raw food which I was particularly impressed with. The green mango salad is delicious. Everything is organic and MSG-free. Some of their dishes contains eggs, but they can do it vegan if you ask.
Location: 13 Ratchadamnoen Road, Soi 4, Prasingh, Chiang Mai
Different delicious vegan dishes with Western and Thai food
I actuelle only had a raw cheesecake here and a coffee as I discovered this veggie spot after I had lunch, but I could smell and see the food at the other tables and it looked FANTASTIC! And of course my cake was delicious too! The places is not so fancy, but the owner, Alice, was so sweet and wonderful. She makes her own kombucha and offers vegan cooking classes once a week. I would definitely recommend this place for a lunch or a quick pit-stop for coffee and cake!
Location: 74/1 Loi Kroh Rd., Chiang Mai
Good to know when in Thailand
Being vegan in Thailand is easy. Fruit stands are at every corner, fresh markets are abundant, and the demand for organic products is growing. It is always possible to get vegan options in Thai restaurants, since their traditional cuisine is mostly composed of vegetables.
The only problem is what they cook with. They tend to use chicken broth, shrimp paste and fish sauce in most dishes, so be sure to speak up if you want to avoid these. The touristy food spots will know if you simply tell them that you are vegan, but it can be a little tricky if you’re in rural areas or at a streetfood vendor who doesn’t speak English. My best tip is to learn som few basic thai sentences and tell them on thai that you dont consume meat, eggs or diary products. You can also just copy paste my little vegan-dictionary and take it with you.
- Jay เจ: vegan
- Kin jay กินเจ: literally translates to “eat jay” and is easily understood by food vendors.
- Mangsawirat มังสวิรัติ: vegetarian
- mai kin nuua sat ไม่กินเนื้อสัตว์: I do not eat meat
- han/pom mai gin nam pla ฉันไม่กินน้ำปลา: I dont eat fish sauce
- chan/pom mai gin kai ฉันไม่กินไข่: I dont eat eggs
Alternatively, you can copy paste and print out the following:
Being vegan in Thailand is often deeply respected as there is a link to Buddhism embedded within the practice. Despite being a predominately Buddhist country, the majority of Thais are omnivores. Being vegan is often viewed as an elevated way to live. Stating you are vegan (again, yes you too vegetarians), is a more fruitful and a better received way to go about things rather than asking for something to be omitted, a.k.a. changing someone’s recipe or possibly viewed by some, the Thai way of doing things.
I hope that you enjoyed reading my vegan guide to Chiang Mai. If you have any questions regarding sightseeing, food or anything else in Chiang Mai, please leave a comment.
Love from Katia