Hey hey, Vegan Travellers!
We are no longer in South Korea. By the time Ross and I found ourselves once more heading into the great unknown of another country via aeroplane, we were ready for the change. Don’t get me wrong here, we met some great people in South Korea. We also saw some really cool things and tried some super interesting foods that I never would have sought out to try if I hadn’t been there. However, there is only so much one can take when it comes to weather so cold that one can feel the air freezing their very Seoul. (Sorry, I’m still not over it and I’m still not above throwing in a few really lazy puns.) Don’t worry, we left the very idea of cold itself behind when we boarded our Thai Airways flight.
Unsurprisingly, the Thai Airways vegan meal was quite good. It wasn’t just your standard rice and dry tasteless beans that is the usual suspect in the tinfoil dish. Sure, rice was included… But so was fruit and a roll and some really lovely vegetables and some seaweed wraps to put your rice in and roll up. Yum! As I said, I expected that we would get some pretty tasty food aboard Thai Airways. Ross had read that veganism is quite respected in Thailand and so far that definitely seems to be the case. The only complaint I had about the whole meal situation was that when they served up a cheesy vegetable hot-pocket looking deal as the snack before landing, they did not offer a vegan alternative at all. There were definitely other passangers on board the plane that could not eat cheese or like Ross and I choose not to eat cheese and yet there was no snack for them! It wasn’t even that they didn’t know! They told us that we couldn’t have it because it had cheese in it! No attempt was made to get us some peanuts or pretzels or anything. Now, I’m not very fussy so I didn’t really mind. I think it was more that they had us wash our hands with a wet towel and I got all excited for food. It didn’t matter too much, though. Luckily, we soon landed in Thailand! We followed the detailed instructions laid out by the host of the hostel we were staying in and soon found ourselves at U-Baan Guesthouse in the warm, warm, busy city of Bangkok.
Most backpackers we’ve met since getting here seem to use Bangkok as a sort of starting point for Thailand, a place to just pass through. Ross and I thought that we would treat Bangkok in very much the same way. We had heard that it was quite a loud, busy, city. Which it definitely is… Yet it is also an absolutely lovely city. It’s full of malls with unfathomable numbers of stores (like more than 2,000 to a mall), and full of such incredible vibrance. I can honestly say that I completely underestimated Bangkok as a city. If you take my advice and give yourself a few days to really explore, absorb, and admire everything from the markets to the temples, I highly recommend that you stay for a few days in U-Baan. The beds here are cheap, the dorms are small, and airconditioned. (Definitely a huge bonus when it’s like 89 degrees out on a good day) Aside from the facilities being nice, cheap, and well located, U-Baan is home to a sarcastic ray of sunshine by the name of Joy. Joy knows pretty much everything there is to know, and certainly everything you need to know, about being vegan in Bangkok. While not vegan herself, she understands what the diet consists of and is incredibly helpful in sorting out food for vegans. She even wrote down the Thai for “I am vegetarian (vegan)” for us after telling us that the statement in the vegan passport is way too long and that a busy Thai chef will probably not read it. Joy is also just super lovely in general and will make your first few days in Thailand bright, beautiful, welcoming, and full of amazing food.
Because it is much cheaper in Thailand to go out to eat then it would be to buy groceries and because Ross and I have yet to find somewhere that is cheap and has kitchen facilities, our whole first week in Thailand has been all about food; finding food, taking photos of food, eating food, talking about the food we just ate, talking about how much we want more food, etc. This is basically a dream for two people who love food and who love Thai food so much.
I’ll admit that I was very intimidated by Thai food at first. I had heard how spicy everything is here, and indeed experienced how spicy food here can be during our first meal. I ordered something from a vegetarian stall in a food court in one of the many malls here. I don’t speak any Thai (aside from, “Hello, I am vegetarian, I don’t speak Thai, thank you!”) so the entire interaction was just frantic pointing at food. I pointed to something which didn’t at all appear to be spicy, so I didn’t bother looking up how to ask if something is hot in my dictionary. I should have asked. Within five minutes my face looked like this. (If you look close, you can see that my lip is super swollen)
I had to take a break and go buy a mango smoothie (which are fortunately almost always just fruit, sugar, and ice here- score!) Since then, I have been building up my appetite and tolerance for spice. Just today, the chef at the vegetarian restaurant in the town we’re in told me that when I ordered a mild dish (still very spicy to a Westener) yesterday, they accidentally gave me spicy green curry instead. I had definitely felt the burn during this particular meal, but it wasn’t too much for me and I was so proud to find out it wasn’t mild. In fact, I didn’t just survive the spicy Thai meal, but I really enjoyed it. It may actually be my favourite dish now. Look how pretty it is!