My top 10 vegan and vegetarian places in Bangkok

It was my birthday this month, and instead of going out drinking and partying on the dance floor, I asked a few friends to join me for a civilised meal at my favorite vegan restaurant in Bangkok. I suppose I’m officially grown up!

This was my birthday meal at Veganerie

For a Buddhist country, Thailand can be surprisingly difficult for vegetarians and vegans. Luckily there is a word that encapsulates the vegan diet – jay/jeh – derived from Jainism, but this goes even further than veganism by omitting garlic and onions. Jay restaurants tend to compensate for the lack of flavour by using lots of oil and salty, mock meats. It isn’t necessarily healthy, but it’s nice to eat every once in a while.

Depending on my mood, I’m either a vegetarian or pescatarian. Eating fish while living in Thailand makes things much easier. I don’t worry about the fish or oyster sauce in my food, and I can indulge in my favourite Thai dish, gaeng som, a thick tangy soup that usually comes with either fish or prawns. My partner isn’t vegetarian, but he limits his meat-eating to when he’s eating away from home.

Gaeng Som – NOT vegan friendly!

When cooking at home, we mostly go vegan. Meals tend to revolve about beans and fresh vegetables, with some quinoa or brown rice thrown in for bulk. Even our baking and dessert-making tends to revolve around vegan recipes.

When we’re eating out, we tend to go to vegetarian places that are also vegan friendly. Most of the ones in malls are of the jay variety – serving typical Thai dishes cooked without meat, or with mock meat. But there are other vegetarian restaurants catering to the large Thai Indian community, and to the middle class/expat vegan crowd.

My top 10 vegan and vegetarian places in Bangkok

Here are my favourite spots, four of which are in food courts, and six of which are restaurants. Listed by price, low to high.

Vegetarian/vegan stalls at food courts:

Terminal 21, Asok

Terminal 21 has to be my favourite mall – each floor is themed on a different city, so you have a Tokyo floor, and a London floor for example. I end up there quite often for the food court. There are so many options and the meals cost around 30-50 THB. I usually head straight for the the vegetarian stall where I can get brown rice with two servings of veggies or curry for just 33THB. I then go and sit by the window and take in the amazing view.

MBK, Siam

I hardly go to MBK; I don’t really like the vibe and run-down feel, but I do occasionally go to the food court on the 6th floor. There’s a vegetarian stall there that sells all sorts of noodles, vegetables and curries. You can get seriously full on just 50THB.

Emquartier, Phrom Phong

This is the food court I frequent the most since it’s in my neighborhood. It’s bright, lively, and the vegetarian stall has noodles, which some other veggie stalls don’t have. Brown rice and two sides costs just 80THB, while a bowl of noodles costs about the same. Emporium on the other side of the street has the same vegetarian stall in their food court, so we go there as well sometimes.

Central World, Siam

I never knew Central World had a food court until about last year. It’s hidden behind the food hall on the 7th floor. There’s a vegetarian stall there that has more options than other food courts, and things are mostly made fresh to order. It’s slightly pricier with dishes costing upwards of 80 THB.

Vegetarian/vegan standalone restaurants

Punjab Sweets, Pahurat

We go to the Chinatown/Pahurat end of town on occasion to stock up on almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. When we’re there, we always stop by Punjab Sweets. In addition to the mouth-watering sweets they serve, they also have Indian street snacks like pani puri and chaat. Their dosas are also very good, and very affordable at less than 200 THB.
Chaat!

Thamna Hometaurant, Samsen Road

This was one of the first restaurants we ate at on our first trip to Bangkok seven years ago. It’s a tiny little place, and feels so cozy (the ‘hometaurant’ description is very apt), and the food and fresh juices are just so good.

May Veggie Home, Asok (vegan only)

This place is conveniently near Benjakitti park, so if I’ve been there for outdoor yoga, or a jog, I tend to stop by for a healthy vegan meal. They have typical Thai dishes, including delicious curries and soups, as well as vegan sushi and burgers. I usually pay around 250 THB.

Saras, Phrom Phong

Saras is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving the large Thai-Indian community around Sukhumvit. It has food from all the different regions of India, plus Indian-style Chinese food, which is apparently something quite specific. We tend to share a large thali and a starter. Each day they have about 6 different thalis, and these change according to the day of the week. That means they have 42 thalis to try out!! Saras is a bit more expensive than other Indian restaurants nearby, but the quality is worth it. We usually pay around 350 THB each.

Broccoli revolution, Thonglor (vegan only)

Broc Rev is a bit hit and miss with their vegan food, but I always end up going back for their broccoli quinoa charcoal burger. The place itself is very nice: plants cascading from a high ceiling, and with a lively atmosphere. We typically pay around 350 THB.

Veganerie Concept, Phrom Phong (vegan only)

This is the place I took my friends for my birthday. It’s located right behind Benjasiri park, so it’s a nice walk to get there, and it’s in a quiet spot with a really chilled vibe. They have dishes all brunchers would recognise: avocado toast, acai bowls, and vegan versions of fry-ups. For lunch and dinner, they have wraps, burgers, and yummy Buddha bowls with spiralised courgette. I usually follow up with a more indulgent vegan dessert or shake. With dessert, we usually pay around 450 THB.
A vegan mint choc chip shake

Other notable mentions:

  • Eat Thai @ Central Embassy vegetarian stall
  • Gateway Ekkamai food court vegetarian staff
  • Barefood Bangkok in Ekkamai for amazing vegan cheese
  • Honey Bear Bistro in Ekkamai – this is not a vegetarian place, but their Buddha bowls are vegan friendly
I hope that Bangkok becomes more vegan and vegetarian friendly; not just by opening more expensive vegan places, but by making healthy, vegetarian food an affordable option for everybody.

Using geoarbitrage to maximise value for money when shopping

If you’ve seen my cost of living breakdown and monthly reports, you’ll know that Bangkok can be a very affordable place to live. Basic expenses  – rent, transport, utilities and eating out – are a fraction of what I would pay back home in London.

But beyond these essential monthly costs (and the occasional massage), Thailand often doesn’t offer great value for money. This might be a surprise to those who come to Thailand for cheap shopping and expect bargains. Yes – those fake Adidas shoes may be cheap, but they’re not made to last, which means having to make a repeat purchase. That’s not a bargain at all, and is a huge disservice to the environment.

Over the past seven years living in Thailand, I’ve learned tips and tricks to make the most of my trips back home to the UK to save money on shopping. I suppose this is one way of using geoarbitrage to maximise value and minimise spending.

Using geoarbitrage for better value shopping

What I take on my trips back home to London

Before I make each trip, I usually fill my suitcase with little treats that I know my friends and family would like, and that represent good value and novelty. These include:

  • Mama noodles – creamy tom yum flavour (the BEST flavour)
  • Tao Kae Noi seaweed snacks – soooo good
  • Northern Thai coffee
  • Thai cooking sauces – these are much more authentic that those in UK supermarkets
  • Sheet masks – these cost much more in the UK than over here
Everyone loves these mama noodles

After I distribute these gifts, I’m usually left with an empty suitcase because I have enough clothes still in the UK to wear when I’m there. I proceed to fill that suitcase with items that I know are much cheaper in the UK, or represent better value for money. Since the UK pound has dropped against the baht in the past two years, my money also goes further!

What I bring back to Bangkok from the UK

Clothing

Markets in Thailand sell fantastic looking clothes for very little money. I myself was seduced by the cheap and on-trend clothes being sold in the various market stalls (it seems whatever appears on the catwalk is on Bangkok markets the following week).

After a couple of years of buying cheap garments and having them fall apart soon after, I learned to buy for quality and durability instead, which is often found in more recognisable brands. Unfortunately in Bangkok you pay a premium for this due to import taxes. Zara and Mango – which are not exactly known for their great quality either – are almost seen as premium brands in Thailand, and have price tags to match. Thankfully Uniqlo seems to deliver quality on a lower price price point, but I don’t like the fit of all their clothes.

Meanwhile, shops in London seem to be perpetually on sale. No matter the timing of my trip – around Christmas, spring, summer, or autumn, it seems there’s always a sale on. I buy little, I buy smart, and always with something in mind.

Shoes

Bangkok is not kind to shoes what with the dirt, rain, uneven pavements. I walk a lot, so my shoes get a lot of wear and tear. Again, Bangkok offers great looking shoes for a few quid, but I want to be kind to my feet. It’s important to me to find quality shoes that are breathable, comfortable, and supportive (since I’ve had problems with plantar fasciitis).

I’ve tried buying shoes from Bata, which are everywhere in Bangkok, but they don’t really last long. So when I’m in the UK I go back to what I’m familiar and comfortable with – Clarks, M&S, or Adidas shoes. And since there always seem to be a sale on, I’m much more likely to find comfortable, quality shoes for a much lower price in the UK.

Underwear

Good underwear is so expensive in Thailand!! As soon as I’m in the UK I head back to M&S to restock. Enough said.

Tea

Is it any wonder that as a Brit I fill my suitcase with teabags? I grew up drinking PG Tips, and it’s just one of those creature comforts I love to indulge in. A box of 40 PG Tips teabags in Bangkok costs £4.50. For the same price, I can buy 240 bags in the UK. That’s less that 1p per tea bag, versus 11p in Bangkok! I also stock up on herbal teas like peppermint.

Chocolate and biscuits

Everyone needs some chocolate or biscuits to go with their tea, right? Give me Cadbury’s over fancy Belgium chocolate any day. They do have Cadbury’s here, but it doesn’t quite taste the same, and they sell tiny bars for 50p. Whereas I can go around Sainsbury’s and pick up four bars for £1.

Cheese

If I’ve bought any clothes in London, they’ll be stinky on their arrival in Bangkok because of all the cheese I’ve packed alongside. I looooove cheese, especially mature cheddar, stilton, camembert, and halloumi, all of which practically sell for peanuts in comparison to the mini fortune they cost Bangkok.

Chia seeds

I had no idea how much cheaper chia seeds could be in the UK until a friend asked me to bring some back from London. You can buy 2kg of chia seeds from Amazon for £8.99. The equivalent in Bangkok would cost £45!! I also used to buy things like sunflower seeds and flaxseed from the UK. But I’ve since found some amazing vendors in Chinatown that are the equivalent of Holland and Barrett and have good prices.

Makeup and Toiletries

I’m not big on makeup, but occasionally I’ll need to replace my Mac concealer, which I’ll do at the airport duty free. I do invest in skincare however, and for some reason basic face creams in Bangkok cost much more. So if I see a good deal on products I use from Soap & Glory, or Botanics, I’ll pick them up. I also bring all of my contact lens solution from the UK. I have gas permeable contact lenses, and finding the solution and cleaner for them in Bangkok is too much of a challenge.

Final thoughts

I realise that even after so many years abroad, I still crave the familiarity of recognisable foods and brands! It’s no wonder I miss home.

As I’m making the big move back to the UK this year, I won’t be needing these shopping hacks anymore. Instead I’ll be thinking of what I should be bringing back to the UK from Asia. I expect sheet masks and seaweed will be filling in the crevices of my suitcase.

How many packets of seaweed will fit in my suitcase??

Over to you – have you put shopping geoarbitrage to use? Have you found unexpectedly good deals or false bargains when shopping abroad?

 

I’m glad I chose passion over money – even if I’m poorer as a result

“Even dream jobs involve a ton of compromise and grunt work. Tedium. Dread. Anxiety. Moments of self-doubt. And cold feet. If I made career decisions based on how “passionate” I felt, then I’d probably be broke.”

On a dull and quiet afternoon at work, I came across this Medium article by Jessica Lexicus on the Dangerous Myths of Passion. The passage above jumped out at me. Yes! I thought – my dream job in social justice had started with immense passion and excitement. Yet here I was on yet another sunny Bangkok afternoon, stuck behind a computer, unmotivated, wondering if I was actually accomplishing anything.

I’ve been mulling over that passage ever since, wondering if I should have chosen a career that served me better financially. If I’m already feeling disenchanted and rather cynical about my field of work in my mid-thirties, would it have been any different working in a well-paid corporate job? I might have even saved enough to quit work and travel the world by now…  and so on and so on went my little monkey mind.

But after some time, I realised there’s no point for me – or anyone else for that matter- to feel doubt or regret about the life and career choices we made in the past. The most important step is to acknowledge and appreciate what we’ve learned from life so far, and to build on those lessons to craft the future we want.

Everyone’s path is different  

When I first discovered the world of financial independence, I came across the inspirational stories of so many people who had used their twenties to make good money and chart out their financial freedom. By their early thirties, they were free of the tyranny of salaried work, and could live out their passions on their own terms.

By comparison, I had also spent my twenties working hard and building a career. But I was focused on building a career in international development, with smaller non-profits that had low prospects for leading to a very-paid job. By pursuing this career abroad on Thai-level salaries, I was further derailing my prospects of buying a house in a desirable part of London, tending to a rooftop garden, and cuddling with puppies (which is how I often imagine my dream life).

But I realized most of us who finally discover financial independence probably kick ourselves about our earlier choices. Maybe you also discovered it a little bit too late and have racked up huge commercial debt. Or maybe you’ve succumbed to lifestyle inflation, and wonder how you’ll manage to pare back your family expenses.

Looking at financial rockstars who’ve built up a sky-high net worth can feel disempowering when you feel so far behind. But comparison won’t get us anywhere – rather we should learn from these rockstars and start implementing advice and tactics that make sense for our own lives. It would be worse to just get stuck in a cycle of despair and regret and fail to take any action at all.

Why I’m glad I chose passion over money

I think that the question of whether you should choose either passion or money can be a false dichotomy. I’m sure that the founders of Google followed their passion, and are definitely being paid handsomely for it now. There is no correct answer as to whether you should choose money, or passion, or both, nor any correct order in which to pursue them. Passion is also not synonymous with career – you can indulge in a whole range of passions that have nothing to do with work.

In my case, however, choosing my field of work was a conscious choice to follow my passion and reject money, as I hadn’t yet honed a healthy money mindset. I’m definitely poorer for making career choices I have, but I definitely would have been worse off if I had succumbed to consumerism, credit card debt, and whole host of other destructive money habits. A person making £200,000/year is poorer than me if they’re spending £200,001/year.

Instead of wasting time mulling over what could have been, I decided to turn it on its head and instead seek some gratitude for the choices I’ve made so far. Here’s what I came up with:

My work has given me an appreciation of money

I realize that by pursuing a career revolving around humanitarianism and social justice, I’ve always had a keen understanding of my own relative privilege and the value of money. By earning little and somewhat inconsistently (at least before my current job), I’ve learned how to live on less. This means that I can make necessary adjustments and embrace a level of discomfort more easily than others who may need to start tightening their belts. I realise that while I really need to work on earning more, my values and experience have given me a framework that is conducive to financial independence.

I’m already partly living the dream

Although I am mostly stuck behind a desk Monday to Friday, I often use the numerous Thai public holidays and my annual paid leave for trips abroad, plus I sometimes have work trips in the region. Over the past years, I’ve managed to visit most countries in South-East and East Asia. Being able to frequently travel to diverse countries has been an incredible privilege and a benefit of living in Thailand, even if I occasionally feel resentful for having to show up for a 9-5 job. Living and travelling in South-East Asia is a dream for others, so sometimes I need to recognize how lucky I am to have lived in a fascinating country and explore others.

I recently came across this timely reminder from the sadly departed Anthony Bourdain:

“To be fortunate enough to be able to visit Thailand, to eat in Thailand, is a deep dive into a rich, many textured, very old culture containing flavors and colors that go far beyond the familiar spectrum. Given our limited time on this earth, and the sheer magnificence, the near limitless variety of sensory experiences readily available, you don’t want to miss ANY of it.”

I get paid to learn and try to make the world a better place

Catch me on a bad day and I will come across as a cynical curmudgeon, railing against the failure of progressive activists to create change. But the path towards economic, social and ecological justice is a long, hard slog. Despite getting frequently frustrated about it, I’ve also developed an appreciation and admiration of the people who keep at it.

I’ve also learned so much through my work. Apart from when I have to stare at budgets and reports, an important part of my work is to keep up to date on what’s happening in the world (which supports my Guardian addiction). I’ve also had the privilege to learn directly from people and communities on the ground trying to forge change – and this knowledge and experience is far more valuable than anything I could learn from reading books or newspapers.

Ok my job is kinda awesome, but I’m quitting

Writing the above has made me realise I do have my dream job, and that I’m lucky I ended up here. But even this dream job comes with office politics, repetition and a feeling of being stuck.  While I have lots of autonomy in terms of what I do in a work day, I have less autonomy over my time and location – I feel I have to be in the office during regular hours – and that daily frustration builds up. What’s more, this job is on the other side of the world from my friends and family back home, who I’m missing more and more (the main downside of living abroad).

I realise no job will ever be perfect forever, because I’ll continue to evolve as a person, and my needs will change. Social justice will continue to be hugely important me, but I’m also aware that I can pursue this passion outside of a profession as well.

I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in my career so far, but I’m also open to stepping away from it to explore new horizons. I don’t know what kind of job/work awaits me when I come back to the UK later this year, and (apart from when I’m totally freaking out about it) I’m kind of excited about the possibilities.

Over to you: Did you choose passion over money? Or are you pursuing another route? Sound off in the comments below!

Why I'm glad I chose passion over money