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  • Nanticha Ocharoenchai

One month in Chiang Mai as a vegan

One month in Chiang Mai. Many people asked whether I live here or work here but I never really know how to answer. Yes, I live here for the time being, as I wake up each morning clueless of where to go next in life. And yes, I work here, online and remotely, mostly in my room or in the lobby at POR Thapae Gate Hotel.

As an environmental storyteller, I’ve always wanted to move to the North: its lush mountains and pristine forests, its sweet people and slow pace. And I finally have. Still in between places from Bangkok, for now I am call POR Thapae Gate my homebase, allowing myself time to gradually transition and focusing on what I could day by day, while absorbing inspiration from Chiang Mai’s old town for both my work and my own life – sleeping, eating, reading, moving, being well, keeping sane, staying healthy, the most simple and truly important things in life.

Morning starts with yoga in my room and sometimes by the swimming pool, then a cold shower, then a cup of tea or coffee to begin my day. A few emails replied and some pages written, the stomach begins to rumble – all I’ve been waiting for since last night: breakfast.

Often, it can be quite hard to eat healthy or enjoyable while travelling if you don’t eat meat. Sometimes they’ll offer you four types of sausages cooked four different ways, but for the vegans, just stale toast and a single-serving plastic container of a bright pink sugary blob that they call jam. At POR, they make sure no one starves, whether carnivore, herbivore or omnivore.

I could devour their pumpkin muffins and homemade jams any morning and it would fill me up with a warm and cosy feeling inside. But an hour will pass and my stomach will rumble again and it’ll barely be noon. Fortunately, Chiang Mai has too long a list of vegan places to try out, though I only have 30 days or about 90 meals. At the beginning of every trip, I usually bookmark all the food places I want to try – here’s my list (see more on the POR Sustainable Travel map)!:

  • When my body calls for something light – or really, just some procrastination from work – I usually borrow the bike at POR and go for a quick ride to Khunkae’s Juice Bar for a bottle of green juice made of a couple gazillion plants that leave you feeling *fresh* or a colourful smoothie bowl. There, you can also get your daily dose of free good morning smiles.

  • Jay Mai Jumjay and Ming Kwan have got to be my most immediate go-to lunch – Thai and Shan vegan food ☑on a budget, ☑within cycling distance, ☑quick and easy, ☑warm and tasty, and ☑nice and homey.

  • On days I feel more like spending time elsewhere, I go to Free Bird Cafe or Akha Ama for their coffee and do some journaling.

  • Most evenings I bike to the Nong Buak Haad park to practise poi dancing or just people-watch, otherwise I also like to browse shops like The Lost Book Shop, Good Health Market or Love70s thrift store for many things I may or may not buy – buy only what you need (or really really want!), sometimes it just fun to see :-)

  • If I’m feeling a little escaping Chiang Mai for a while, I like to go to Hummus Chiang Mai for some falafel and hummus, of course. You get a 10% discount if you tell them you’re staying at POR!

My one month was mostly spent at POR Thapae Gate – as bedroom became studio and lobby turned living room, alone and in company – and wandering around Chiang Mai’s old town square. The variety of plants grown in front of homes and sprawling along the cracks and crevices of the ancient red brick walls of the old town, the sweet and kind hellos and welcomes you’re greeted with by virtually everyone – every day I take it all in, finding and rejuvenating my elements, and might I say, even my good faith in humanity from all the love and warmth the place and its people give. Good food, good friends, a good self, a good soul, a good health and a good home – it has truly been a good month.


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