Travelling as a vegetarian isn’t always the easiest thing. As I travel through Thailand, I have to be extra vigilant because some of the delicious looking things for sale on the side of the road might appear to be vegetarian at a first glance, but could very well contain ingredients such as fish sauce. I don’t want to get caught out eating something that I shouldn’t be eating, so I quite often have to avoid the street food and head to a restaurant where I can pick something vegetarian from the menu.
As soon as I arrived in the northern city of Chiang Mai, I was completely bowled over by the amount of vegetarian restaurants and cafes that line the streets. And even if you pop into a regular restaurant, there will still be lots of great veggie stuff on the menu that you can eat. All of these veggie options in Chiang Mai make travelling as a vegetarian so much easier, but the place where I had my lunch today really stood out from the crowd.
The Chiang Mai Vegetarian Centre from the outside.
The interior dining hall.
The Chiang Mai Vegetarian Centre is located south of the city walls, outside of the main tourist zone, so it’s very unlikely that if you were ambling around the city that you would stumble upon this great eating spot. It’s also lacking a sign in English outside, so unless you are seeking the place out as I was, you’re not gonna find it.
Inside the centre, you’ll find a central area where everyone is tucking into their food, the buffet style self service food options to your left, and other stalls selling vegetables, juices, and porridge, right around the hall. I had done my research about the centre, so I knew that the food was going to be cheap, but my jaw dropped to the floor when the cashier told me that the total cost of my meal (2 veggie dishes and rice) was 10 baht. What?! 10 baht is 20 pence, and I couldn’t pay someone to spit on me for 20 pence in London.
Anyone for porridge?
The veggie grub.
My 10 baht meal.
Even more astonishing than this, is that if you choose one dish with rice, you don’t have to pay anything at all! So there is absolutely no reason for anyone to go hungry in Chiang Mai. And even if I paid 10 baht a day for my lunch at the Chiang Mai Vegetarian Centre over the course of a month, the total cost would be 300 baht for a whole month’s worth of lunches. It’s no wonder that so many expats are attracted to the Chiang Mai quality of life.
After you’ve eaten your meal (which was totally delicious by the way), you have to head out into the garden and wash your own dishes. As I travel, I am so used to paying everyone to do things for me, whether that’s cook my food or wash my laundry, that it was actually very refreshing to feel like I was doing something for myself. And who could begrudge washing a couple of dishes when a meal comes in at 10 baht? Certainly not me.
Wash your dishes, ‘kay?
Attached to the main hall is a shop in which you can buy veggie stuff for cooking at home (at similarly cheap prices), a book shop (although all the books are in Thai), and even a few stalls selling clothes. Amazing. Find the Chiang Mai Vegetarian Centre for yourself at 14 Th Mahidol between the hours of 6am and 2pm on weekdays.