Sunday, 31 July 2016

Vegan food in Bangkok

This is the first in a series of posts I'm going to be writing based on where to find vegan food in Thailand whilst I'm travelling here for the month. Obviously I am only one person so I can't run from one end of the city to another trying every dish at every restaurant but I am trying my best to get around and eat all the delicious vegan food thailand has to offer!

I started my trip in Bangkok, the first day, I hailed down a tuk tuk and asked them to take me near to Khao San road, which is one of the main tourist attractions in the city by night, I knew the restaurant I was after was near there somewhere. Unfortunately, I didn't read the map properly so I ended up not finding it that day, instead I stopped at a restaurant called Pad Thai, near to Khao San road, its not a very big restaurant but its easy to find, with the words "Pad Thai" written in bold outside. Of course, I searched the menu and found an array of vegetarian foods which can easily be made vegan when taking out the egg or fish sauce (obviously fish sauce isn't actually vegetarian, but thanks to pescetarians who call themselves vegetarians, everyone gets confused and thinks it is, ugh). All of the classics, vegetable pad thai, with or without tofu, vegetable fried rice, green curry etc. I went for the paid thai and asked them to remove the egg. It was actually the first pad thai of my trip and it was a really good one! I recommend going there if you ever need a quick bite. Its important to remember that even when menu's don't list egg as an ingredient in the fried rice or pad thai, its generally in there. Its the standard way to make it. Don't be like me and order fried rice and freak out when it comes with egg in! Which is what I did last year, lesson learned.

Anyway, after exploring the markets all day, I tried again that night to find the restaurant I was after, and I found it! It was incredible, I am actually so in love with it that I might return to Bangkok earlier than planned just to go there again.

Ethos



Located in a quiet backstreet away from the chaotic Khao San road. As you enter you take off your shoes and you can choose to sit at a standard table or on the low floor tables with cushions, the menu has a wide variety, ranging from thai, western, indonesion and more. Pretty much all of the food is vegan or adaptable to be vegan, they have soy milk shakes, and my personal favourite, coconut shakes! All kinds of flavours, I went for the chocolate coconut shake which was probably the best chocolate shake I've ever had. One of the coolest things about this restaurant is that they have nutritional information underneath, something which is important and really nice to see.

Another amazing thing on the menu was the tempeh burger, with salad, and homemade vegan dressing. The tempeh burger came in a wholegrain bun and it was loaded with salad and sauce. Its super delicious.


For dessert they have the thai delacay mango with sticky rice served with coconut cream, or a range of vegan pancakes also served with coconut cream. Which brings us to breakfast..


I had the mango with sticky rice for dessert and was absolutely stuffed. I ended up returning the next morning for breakfast to try out the wholegrain vegan pancakes, with so many flavours to choose from it was hard to decide! They had strawberry sauce, blueberry sauce, banana, and the one I went for, apple and cinnamon, which was a little sickly but so so good.

Another restaurant I tried out was May Kaidee's Vegetarian Restaurant and cooking school. Which is just up the road from Ethos! The staff were really nice and the food was great too. I tried a starter this time, I had the nori rolls which were served with a peanut dipping sauce and a cashew sauce, they were great when dipped in the sauce, but alone they were quite dry, but pretty flavourful. 


For mains I had the mixed veg fried rice, which was one of the best I've had, they use brown rice instead of white which makes a nice change! They also add cashews and sesame seeds to their fried rice, its full of flavour, I recommend the fried rice for sure. Another thing about May Kaidee's is that there's actually 3 of them in Bangkok, the one I went to which was located near to Ethos was Tanao Road.

That was all I managed in the short time I was in Bangkok, but I hope to try out a few more places when I go back at the end of the month, and one of them will definitely be Veganerie. If you're ever in Bangkok definitely hit up Ethos and get the vegan pancakes, or you'll live to regret it! Even if you're not vegan, I recommend eating as much vegan food in Thailand as possible, its absolutely delicious and there's surprisinly so much variety, you just have to look for it, but that's what google's for!
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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

From the elephants perspective | SAY NO TO ELEPHANT TREKKING

I remember when I was young, elephants were always so fascinating to me. My parents took me to zoos, and I enjoyed seeing the elephants, they were my favourite animal to see there. I didn't know about elephants being rode until I saw films where they were riding elephants. I thought it would be really cool to ride an elephant, how would I have known any better as a young child?

Fast forward 10 years, and I now strive to raise awareness for the cruelties involved in elephant rides. People feel that when they travel to SE Asia, riding an elephant is part of the experience, its something they "have" to do. Elephants are beautiful, strong, intelligent, emotional creatures. They are family orientated and have strong bonds with their young, they travel in herds and are very protective over each other. They sound a lot like humans, we are protective over our families and have strong bonds with our young, so imagine how you'd feel, if one day your baby was torn away from you, and you never saw her again..

Today was a great day, me and my family went for a long walk through the jungle, I watched my baby Seline playing with her cousin George. I love seeing the children getting on so well and having fun, they are so precious. Me and my sister Belinda always make sure they are safe, we stay with them at all times, we wouldn't want them getting hurt, oh, even thinking about my baby Seline getting hurt brings a tear to my eye. My baby is my world.. Hold on, what is that noise? I can hear footsteps.. it sounds like, is that.. humans? why are they in my home? what do they want? I can't find Seline! Seline! where are you baby! come to me Seline, I'm right here! .. I can hear you Seline! why are you crying, oh no! my baby! O.. OUCH! What is that sharp stabbing pain in my side? I.. I.. I'm falling asl..

Mummy, mummy where are you! I'm scared! These strange humans are taking me away, they are hurting me mummy, I don't like it, mummy I need you, they are really hurting me, they have tied my feet together, they are dragging me through mud, I'm frightened. Where am I? I don't like this, I can't move, why is there bamboo surrounding me so tightly? Am I going to die? OUCH, what is that? I'm.. I'm being beaten with a sharp object, it really hurts, its cutting my skin, I'm bleeding! Oh someone help me please, mummy please help me! Where are you?

This beating has been happening for so long, how long has it been? hours? days? I don't know, I'm exhausted, I'm bleeding, everything hurts, I am so hungry, I need water.. I wish my mummy was here, how long am I going to survive? I can't do this for much longer.. I just.. I want to die.

Today I was in the street, and strange humans kept coming near me, they wanted to take photos. I didn't like it, I didn't like the flash photography, it hurt my eyes. My feet were so sore from the concrete floors, I was so hungry.. I'm so tired, I wonder how my mummy is. I miss my mummy and my family, I'm so alone. I don't like the humans, they aren't nice to me like my mummy is, they hurt me, and they force me to work when I haven't had enough rest, its not fair.

I was in a truck for hours today, it was dark, I was alone and I didn't have much food. It looks like I've been moved to a new job, finally, I see other elephants! Maybe they know where my mummy is, maybe they can help me get back to her. Hello! I'm Seline, do you know where my mummy is? can you help me find her? please help me find my mummy!

You will never see your mummy again kid, this is it. This is our destiny, the humans will make you work until you drop dead. There's no going back, I'm sorry Seline, you just have to put on a fake smile and make the humans happy, or they'll hurt you, and I'm sure you've already been hurt enough, all you've gotta do is let them tie the bench to you, and then 2 humans will sit in there and you walk them through the jungle, its tough work, kid. The straps sometimes rub, can you see the scars on my back? I think I have fresh wounds, I can feel the blood seaping. You'll probably get sick, and its going to be really hard, but you have to do it, or they will hurt you real bad. I want you to stay strong for me Seline, you're still young, you still have your sight. I lost my sight when my mahout stabbed me in the eye for not obeying orders, he asked me to get down low to secure the bench, but I didn't, so he stabbed me. I should've known better.

Oh no.. I'm.. I'm here forever, there's nothing I can do now. All I wanted was to be with my mummy, I guess its time to let go now, goodbye mummy, I love you so much, you will always be in my heart. I miss you. 

Baby elephants are torn away from their mothers in the wild, tethered and dragged to a small crate made out of bamboo, where they are kept for days sometimes even weeks. They are deprived of food and water and they are aggressively shouted at. They are frightened, they cry out and they try hard to escape the tiny confined crate, but they cannot escape, they have ropes tied around their back and front legs in order to stretch them, causing pain. They are also stabbed and burned, and beaten with bull hooks. This is known as the phajaan (elephant crushing), a Thai tradition. The mahouts put the elephants through this torture until they have had their spirits broken, and will no longer fight back, they lose the will to live. They become so exhausted and so afraid, that they give up and obey the orders given, to avoid being harmed.

The elephants are then sold into tourism, this includes: elephant trekking, street begging, painting and circuses. The elephants are treated no better in these circumstances, there will still be food deprivation and use of bull hooks, they are forced to perform unnatural behaviours, which can be dangerous for them. Elephant tourism is dangerous for elephants and humans alike, there have been multiple stories in the news about tourists being killed in elephant trekking "accidents" but think about the stories that don't make it to the news. Unfortunately, there are some places that call themselves sanctuaries, but they still make the elephants perform unnaturally. Things to look out for are bull hooks, or any kind of tools that might be used in secret.
 
However, there are some real sanctuaries which really do care for the elephants and make sure they are free and well looked after. My recommendation is Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. There are lots of volunteering opportunities there, and it is home to not just elephants, but cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and more. When you spend a week, or even a day with these beautiful creatures you will have fun, learn so much, and you'll make new friends. It is a much better experience than any of the other elephant tourist attractions, which don't last long, and you don't really get to know the elephants like you would at ENP. 

My time at ENP was life changing. I am returning there next week and I couldn't be more excited. Keep an eye out for updates on my instagram and for new posts.

Me and Kabu, an elephant rescued from illegal logging.
 For more information on The Phajaan and ENP: 
Elephant Crushing Video
Thailand Elephants
Lek Chailert (founder of ENP) follow her page for ENP updates
ENP official facebook page

If you have any questions about my experience at ENP, feel free to comment below or send me an email.

Make ethical choices!
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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Why solo travel was the best and worst thing I've ever done

This is probably one of hundreds of blog posts on the internet about solo travel, but everyone has different experiences and I want to put mine out there.


 When I embarked on my adventure to Thailand last year, I had no idea that my life was about to be changed. (dun dun dunn)

But seriously. I was about to spend 3 weeks in a foreign country that I'd never been to, without any of my friends or family. I hadn't even been on a plane before, so this was a huge deal. Everyone at home thought I was crazy, they seemed scared. Why? You're not going? Its like they had put themselves in my shoes and the idea of what I was doing terrified them, but I wasn't scared. I was optimistic, I was excited. I couldn't wait to get out there and explore, the idea of getting lost in a beautiful country made me excited. I'd heard so much about Thai culture and how kind and friendly they are, and I'd researched solo travel extensively, I was smart about it, earlier that year I discovered World of Wanderlust. I was so inspired by Brooke, and it made me even more determined.

When I landed in my stop over, Hong Kong. I had a huge freak out, as I said before, I'd never been on a plane, so I'd never been to an aiport. I didn't know where to go, what to do, or who to ask. This is embarrassing for me to tell but it was either me being silly, or it wasn't very well sign posted. I was so confused that instead of going to where I needed to be for my next flight, I went through immigration, without realising (hahaha it just makes me laugh now, what a loser). I just saw loads of people headed that way so I followed. When I realised, which was after I'd been given an arrival form, I tried to explain I wasn't sure where I was supposed to go, but the man ended up getting impatient and just pointed me towards the other side, that's when it all started.. I cried, and panicked, and I couldn't breathe, I was terrified and I had no idea what I was doing. The thing that made the situation worse was everyone that walked past, saw that I was in distress and completely ignored me, they just stared. The whole thing was a disaster and I just wanted to go home. Eventually a lady stopped and helped me find out where I needed to be, I got to the departure lounge and still had 2 hours until my flight, so I sat down, completely exhausted, fed up and hungry.

When I finally got to Chiang Mai, I got a taxi to my B&B, checked into my room and cried like a baby. I messaged my friends and family to let them know I'd arrived and told them about the situation, which was a mistake, because then they worry, and that's not fair on them. After I'd calmed down I went out to find vegan food and I didn't know where to look, so I just went to sleep and hoped the rest of the trip would make up for a terrible start.

And it did! The first morning, the owner of the B&B gave me a packet of vegan cookies, and she knew that I was running late, so she gave me a lift to the ENP office, when I offered her money she refused. I knew then it was all going to be ok. My week of volunteering at ENP was incredible, I met some awesome people, I spent time with elephants, played with cats, dogs & watched water buffalo swarm the river. I went tubing down the river, I ate huge plates of delicious real, vegan Thai food. I stayed up at night with my new friends having real conversation because the wi-fi never worked, I encouraged people to try more vegan foods and cut down on animal products, I met the wonderful Lek who owns Elephant Nature Park, I fell in love with a dog named Memphis and this was just the first week.  It was phenomonal. I was living a dream. Then I went on a Contiki tour of the west islands, met even more amazing people, saw some beautiful things some people only dream of seeing. I realised how lucky I was. It was my first ever trip, and it opened my mind up so much that I have become more confident, I am self reliant, independent, and it even led me to get a job with Contiki. Some really great things happened, all because I chose to travel on my own. I can't imagine how different it would've been if I'd gone with a friend and did what they wanted to do. Instead of embark on my own adventures, face my fears, and push myself  to get myself out there.

There's a couple of things that haven't been so great, however. I feel a constant desire to be on the road, to be travelling. I am painfully unhappy when I'm at home, it doesn't even feel like a home. I feel like I need to get away from here, and I feel like every day I am here is a day wasted not doing something amazing. I returned from working for Contiki for 3 months and for the first 24 hours, if that, everyone seemed excited that I was back, people wanted to catch up and hang out, but that wore off so quickly and everyone went back to their usual day to day lives, and I realised how much its not for me. I am not cut out for a 9-5 job. I'm not cut out to be stuck in one place my whole life

I feel that people from my small town in England don't really understand, I've never met another person from here that is interested in living out of a backpack, or not washing their hair for days on end, because who cares if you have shitty hair when you're spending the day exploring a beautiful city? or sharing a room with 7 strangers from different parts of the world, with great stories to tell. To me, these things sound amazing, I love the idea of living out of a backpack, falling asleep in one country and waking up in another on a sleeper train. I can't imagine myself being "normal" I just want to go, and keep on going. In some ways I guess its great to think like that, but it can have bad effects on mental health, you know the feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and immediately want to go on another one, imagine feeling like that all the time, constantly. That's how I feel. I know that I'm being completely irrational, I know I don't have to go to an exotic country to fulfil my need to explore, I can just go somewhere closer to home, or even in my own country. Before I'd been to Thailand, the only place I'd been was France, when I was a baby! I grew up around kids that were lucky enough to be able to go on family holidays every summer, and I always wondered what it would be like. I feel like I am ready to take on the world now, one country at a time. I'm excited to go travelling again starting next week and see where it takes me.

I've met so many wonderful people in the past year, I've met people who have also just started solo travel, and people who are experienced solo travellers, and they've all inspired me in one way or another. I've been given some great tips and advice and I've gained friends from different corners of the globe, I feel so lucky to have that. Solo travel brings you so much greatness, but it changes you, you will outgrow people, and you may even find that you find it easier to make friends with strangers in a dorm, than with people from your hometown, that's just me anyway.

I know that there's people who will relate to this, and I know there's people that this may give that extra push to begin their solo travel adventures. Either way, I hope that it has been useful.

Thanks for reading!
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