This is a guest post written by Leila Dorari from Sydney, Australia. If you would like to write a guest post for Expat and the City, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being vegan for me is more than just food – it’s a way of life; a principle I decided to respect ever since I witnessed the killing of livestock on my family’s ranch. Unfortunately, having a vegan lifestyle is not widely known in some parts of the world and often you’ll have trouble finding appropriate restaurants and settings.
That’s when I decided to use my vacation days and try ecotourism. I was always attracted to Thailand and since I heard it was perfect for vegans and self-exploration, I bought my plane ticket and headed straight there with little info about what to expect. If you’re a fellow vegan and planning to do the same, here are some tips on what to expect and how to prepare for green travel in Thailand.
Prepare to walk a lot
Thailand is full of raw nature and national parks, and has more than 50 km of hiking trails; so get ready for some serious walking. Pack your most comfortable hiking shoes and an extra pair of socks since your feet will sweat a lot. Avoid going barefoot, since that earned me a couple of blisters on the first day. Also, if you’re not a very experienced hiker or not in the best shape, you can choose some of the less challenging trails.
Some of the best places to start are the Kho Yai or Khao Sok national parks, where you can participate in organised hikes led by rangers. Both parks are home to wildlife such as leopards and monkeys.
It’s easy to be vegan in Thailand
Thailand is the best place I’ve travelled to so far and perfect for vegans. Fruit stands are on every corner. Restaurants serve vegan food too (but keep an eye out for whether they use fish sauce or eggs).
Don’t worry, you won’t have much trouble explaining to the locals that you’re vegan since Thais have a word for it – ‘jay’ – and have been practicing veganism for centuries. I mostly ate fruits; not because I couldn’t manage in the restaurants but because with such a variety and the low prices, it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity on the nutrients.
Choose your accommodation smartly
Being in Thailand for the first time can be overwhelming. The culture and people are unlike those in western society and you may have to bust some myths.
My advice to you is to take it slow. Start by choosing your accommodation before the trip via booking platform like booking.com or 1000 Trees. The best first experience you’ll have of Thailand is the one you go through well-rested. This was advice given to me, so I’m gladly passing it onto you.
Thailand is not for those who have lack of patience or are always in a hurry. The type of travel is “lazy slow”, but it possesses a kind of serenity which many western countries could sure use. I had trouble adapting to this slower pace in the beginning, but after a while I just went with the flow.
Thais are good-natured and warm people, and you’ll fall in love with their kindness and smiles. I liked chatting with vendors, and getting the feel of their culture and way of life. So, just relax and enjoy the positives.
Thailand has a lot to offer
Thailand is increasingly developing its ecotourism – especially with its tours and tourist programmes. You can go and spend the night in tribal villages, visit some of the 150 national parks, ride on cruise ships, or participate in festivals.
Besides hiking, sightseeing of temples, elephant rides in Chiang Mai and the Ayutthaya river cruise, I visited the Vegetarian Festival on Phuket Island. This was a colourful experience and excited my senses with firecrackers and music everywhere.
This nine-day festival is 200 years old and is about purification. You should bring something white to wear for the festival since it’s customary. You’ll not only show respect for the locals but also be an active participant. Here you can try a variety of Thai cuisine as well as different flavours that you might not have a chance to taste otherwise.
Although it’s becoming a more popular destination for eco-tourists, Thailand is still fairly new at the green scene. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the tours and programmes, but that you should be patient and not have high expectations. Even so, you’re in for a great adventure and vegan culinary delights.
Have you experienced green travel in Thailand before? Comment below with some of your tips!
About the Author
Leila Dorari is an entrepreneur, freelance writer and Earth explorer from Sydney, Australia. Currently, she is spreading the word on the amazing places in South-East Asia that are well worth paying a visit. In her spare time you can find her hiking with her four-legged furry friend.