Thailand is an odyssey for vegetarian cuisine. As we were volunteering at the Care for Dogs Foundation we spent quite a few days in Chiang Mai. There are so many night markets, local restaurants and street stalls that sell superb vegetarian food.
Our favourite restaurant was Taste from Heaven. This very popular eatery is located on a well known backpacker street, Ratmakka road. The restaurant boasts that it uses no MSG, no chemicals and no preservatives which are often present in Asian food. Taste from Heaven is open from 9am-10pm, serving scrumptious breakfasts, tasty lunches and huge dinners…and it’s all vegetarian or vegan! The menu is jam packed with moreish appetisers, rice and noodle dishes, curries, salads, smoothies and Thai desserts. They also do a few Western dishes like veggie burgers and sandwiches. My favourite dish was definitely Kao Soy. This egg noodle dish is made up of coconut milk, curry paste and powder, mushrooms, tofu and topped with crispy onions and noodles. You have to reserve a table for evening service as it does get super busy.
On the journey back from the Care for Dogs rescue shelter, I spotted a bustling market from the back of the moped. This was the Chang Puak Gate night market. There are so many different street food stalls here. You could get every flavour of fruit smoothie, stuffed roti pancakes, fried insects, steamed corn and eventually I found a stall dedicated to vegetarian food. We ate here a number of times but my favourite dish was tofu Phad Thai which was delicious washed down with a fresh coconut. You can watch the busy chef cooking right in front of you.
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is a giant pop up market sprawling down three main roads through Chiang Mai historic centre; Th Chang Khlan, Th Tha Phae and Th Loi Kroh. Tucked away in a busy food court I found a brilliant little stall cooking Thai noodles wrapped in egg. The chef was making a portion every 30 seconds! It was so cheap and tasty.
If you are interested in elephant conservation, then make time to head to the Elephant Nature Park. This is a rescue and rehabilitation centre for mistreated elephants from the tourist or logging industry. It frustrates me how backpackers are still taking part in elephant trekking in South East Asia. There are so many reasons why this “activity” should be stopped however I am here to talk about food! If you do visit the park then you will be treated to an excellent 100% vegetarian buffet at lunchtime, which is included in your park entrance fee. In the morning you can feed the elephants that are free to roam the park and then learn about each elephant’s backstory. At lunchtime, all the visitors must wait for the bell to ring at 1.30pm for the buffet to begin. There is so much choice! Curries, different rice dishes, variety of noodles, Thai soups, fried tofu, fresh salads and fried vegetables. It was all so delicious that we even went back for seconds!
What better way to end the day then bathing a beautiful elephant free from exploitation.
Chiang Mai is a great place with lots to see and do. The cuisine is excellent with plenty of options for vegetarians. The city has a chilled out vibe with the lush Thai countryside only a few minutes drive out of the city centre. If you are interested in animal rescue, then spend some time volunteering at Care for Dogs. They really appreciate the work volunteers do. This includes walking the dogs in the morning and also just giving them some love and attention.