I want to take a moment on this Memorial Day weekend to honor all of the courageous men and women who passed while fighting for our democracy. We owe them a debt of gratitude for the many freedoms we enjoy today, including the freedom to travel around the world.
This weekend is also the unofficial start of summer vacation season. If you're thinking about going/are going to Bangkok, Thailand or Phi Phi Islands, I hope my recent trip can help inspire your vegan travel plans. As always, these are my unsponsored, personal favorite vegan places to eat, sleep, shop, and visit.
My husband and I, along with a group of friends went to Bangkok for a wedding in April, which is actually one of the hottest and humid months to visit (March, April, May). We didn't really have a say on the date :) The best and peak months are from November to March. We'd missed the Thai New Year Songkran celebrations from April 13-15, by one day. It's a festive time in Bangkok when citizens of all ages take part in water "fights" to wash away one's sins and bad luck for the new year and reunite with family. I would love to experience the celebration one day.
US citizens do not need a visa to enter Thailand if you're going for less than 30 days. You can apply for a tourist visa if you're staying up to 90 days.
We found that using the Grab app was the most efficient and economical way to get around Bangkok. It's their version of Lyft/Uber. It's better because most Taxi/Tuk Tuk drivers don't speak English and many don't use meters, so you have to negotiate the fare beforehand. Also, you can pay with your saved credit card and not have to deal with cash/foreign money. We tested to see if there was a price difference between a Taxi and a Grab going the same route, and our friends who took a taxi were charged twice as much as our Grab ride, on multiple occasions.
Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
If you're going to Phi Phi "Pi-Pi" Islands from Bangkok, you will have to fly to Krabi or Phuket, drive to the pier, then take a 60-90 minute public ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don's Tonsai pier. The ferry only runs 2 or 3 times a day, so check their schedules and plan accordingly. You can also arrange for a private transfer with a tour company or your hotel, which was what we did because I didn't want to mess with the scheduling.
There are no civilian cars on the main island of Phi Phi Don. There are some motorbikes and bicycles. You get around the small island by walking or by longtail boat water taxis around the island. There are a few commercial vehicles on the island.
Where to Eat Vegan
Thailand has an abundance of vegetarian food due to its dominant Buddhist culture. However, vegan food isn't as prevalent because Thai cuisine utilizes fish sauce, shrimp paste, and egg. If you eat at a non-vegan place, like anywhere else, check how they cook the food and what they use for flavoring.
Veganerie is a 100% vegan restaurant chain in Bangkok. They have an extensive menu of classic Thai dishes, western favorites, and desserts! Everything we had below was delicious.
Pulled Mushroom Sandwich
Pulled Mushroom Waffles
Tom Yum soup
Matcha smoothie (so thick and creamy)
May Veggie Home is another must try 100% vegan Thai restaurants. We ate here twice! The also have an extensive Thai and western menu. Save room for pastries and coconut milk ice cream.
Fried Spring Rolls
Tofu Pad Thai
Pineapple Fried Rice
Yum-Woon-Sen: Blue pea glass noodle Thai salad with mushroom, watercress, cabbage, onion, tomato, shredded soy meat.
Passion Fruit coconut milk ice cream was so refreshing after walking around in the heat!
We stayed at the quaint Ariyasom Villa boutique hotel and got to enjoy the delicious vegan options at their vegetarian/seafood restaurant Na Aaroon. You can dine at the restaurant without staying at the hotel.
An all-you-can-eat a-la-carte breakfast is included with the stay. They have a Thai/Asian and western menu. I had my fill of tropical fruits for breakfast every day, papaya/pineapple/passion fruit :)
Veggie noodle soup for breakfast
Tofu green curry
Sweet and sour tofu
Bangkok is known for its street food but a lot of it is not vegan and frankly, kind of questionable. Your best bets are the fruit vendors and mango sticky rice!
Fresh-pressed pomagranite juice or passion fruit juice.
Mango sticky rice with sweet coconut milk is a must-try national dessert! You can buy it from a street vendor or at a fancy restaurant.
If you're feeling adventurous, try the spiky looking durian fruit. You'll be able to smell it miles away. It's an acquired taste, so you may really love it or really hate it. I personally love it because I grew up eating them. Just don't bring them into hotels because they are banned!
If you want a dinner/tour/show experience, I'd recommend the Loy Nava River Cruise along the Chao Phraya River. It's good for a small group or a couple. They have a vegan tasting menu with 20 items (excluding alcohol)! My husband and I did the 6-8 PM cruise so that we could watch the sunset along the river. I would recommend pre-paying for it online so that you get a reserved table at the front of the boat. It was a relaxed dinner with a live musician and occasional traditional Thai dancers performing onboard. The cool evening breeze, sunset, food, and sites along the river were delightful.
There are many dinner cruises available on larger, more modern boats, but we preferred the charm of dining on an open-air traditional rice barge.
I have to mention that Mazzaro Boutique and Restaurant has the best deep fried oyster mushrooms we've ever had! Even better than San Francisco's famed Millenium restaurant. The mushrooms are so light and crispy, and paired well with the sweet/sour dipping sauce. This is a Thai/Italian fine-omni restaurant with a warm/cozy ambiance.
Their mango and sticky rice is good as well. It tastes the same as the street vendor's IMO but costs 4x as much.
Lastly, I really enjoyed the food and ambiance of Broccoli Revolution at the posh Central Embassy shopping center. Quinoa Burger with charcoal buns
Phi Phi Islands
On the main and only inhabitable island of Koh Phi Phi Don, we found one vegetarian restaurant, Dow Vegetarian Restaurant. It has a extensive Thai and western menu, but vegan options aren't marked so you'll have to ask.
There were probably 10 menu pages, front and back!
I love som tam, Thai green papaya salad, but can't order them at a non-vegan restaurant because they use fish sauce. So I always order it whenever I see it on a vegan menu.
This beats all the massaman curry I've had in the United States! It's so creamy.
For dessert, walk to the Thailand Natural Coconut Ice Cream cart for coconut milk ice cream with all the different toppings you'd like.
Plain coconut ice cream with sprinkles in a coconut shell.
Phi Phi Islands or Ko Phi Phi is a small archipelago of six islands known for their pristine turquoise water and beaches (especially Maya Bay), but sadly, some parts of the islands are littered with plastic and trash from unresponsible-tourism. There is now a small entrance fee to the island to help clean up the waste.
I was happy to discover an eco-friendly resort on the secluded northern end of Phi Phi Don. Zeavola is an award-winning green hotel for their energy conservation, environmental protection, and community programs.
They also have a delicious tropical fruit bar included in the breakfast buffet :P
Speaking of fruits, our "Citrus" crossbody bag is the perfect hands-free tropical travel companion!
I also love that they use bamboo straws instead of plastic straws!
They also have a decent selection of vegan options, like this pad thai, at their beachfront restaurant, Tacada.
Veggie drunken noodles and amazing fried spring rolls with a spectacular view of the Andaman Sea.
Where to Visit
Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya
Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya
I highly recommend getting an authentic Thai massage at Wat Pho, where they teach at the Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School. It's a different experience than any other types of massages because they focus on pressure points and it's done fully clothed in a shared space.
Also check out Bangkok's wholesale flower and fruits/vegetable market. It's amazing to watch how vendors make thousands of flower garlands/leis.
My favorite place to visit when it got too hot in the afternoon was the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. They had some great art exhibitions!
There was an exhibition of art made from recycled materials.
Installation by Thai artist Vasan Sitthiket
There are artsy local boutiques with handmade products and art galleries in the center. It's a great place to buy unique souvenirs/gifts. There's also a handful of mega-malls within walking distance of each other if you need some retail therapy.
There's so much that we didn't get to do in Bangkok in two weeks, so we'll save them for next time! I would love to hear about your Bangkok trip or recommendations in the comments or message me.
Happy vegan travels!