"Thailand has been well on the traveler’s map ever since Sean Connery as James Bond was filmed on this country’s strikingly beautiful beaches in “Dr. No” – and there is good reason for it! Siam (as Thailand was called before) has it all: friendly people, an ancient culture rooted in Buddhist traditions, amazing geography and absolutely delicious food! Experience it all on VegNews Food Lover’s Tour of Thailand with VegVoyages adventure where you’ll see the “highlights”, explore places well off-the-beaten-path and get a real insight into the people, country, culture and customs of this legendary Southeast Asian kingdom!
You’ll get to experience all this and more during one of the country’s most interesting and tasty festivals – Thailand’s annual Vegetarian Festival, or Tesagan Kin Jae as it is locally called. Although the roots of this festival can be traced back to the early Chinese community of traders, miners and merchants who settled in Thailand, the festivities here have taken on their own very unique form.
The religious observances around this truly fascinating (as well as delicious) festival begin on the 1st day of the 9th lunar month of the year when Thai-Chinese forego meat and animal by-products, along with observing other rituals, for at least 9 days, with ceremonies and celebrations surrounding the festival lasting up to 11 days. For vegetarians, this is a festival not to be missed! Although Thailand is known for its food all year round, the Kin Jae Festival offers vegans something really special. Vegan Noodles, curries, spicy salads, tropical fruits and Asian style Vegan sweets are found everywhere. Food stalls, local eateries and specially set up markets and restaurants dish out a bounty of Thai and Chinese culinary vegan delicacies – all while flying the yellow “veggie” flag with “Jae”, or “vegetarian”, written boldly on its face in red.
And it’s not just about the food – though we’ll eat plenty of it! It’s also about learning, exploring and discovering. In Thai society there is a concept known as “sanuk”, or “enjoyment/fun”. This is a concept we’ll take to heart during our journey together, whether it’s vegan cooking classes, participating in local ceremonies, Thai language and cultural lessons, tai chi, island hopping, exploring vibrant bazaars, or enjoying delicious home cooked meals, stories, music and dance with local families – we’ll enjoy it all in the tradition of “sanuk”. New cultures, religions, customs, traditions, cuisines, new friends and having fun is what the VegNews Food Lover’s Tour of Thailand with VegVoyages adventure is all about!"
DAY 1 Bangkok
Sawasdee! Welcome to Bangkok – or Krung Thep as the locals call it! Krung Thep means “City of Angels” and like another “City of Angels” – LA, California, you’ll notice that Bangkok shares many of the same attributes like skyscrapers, freeways and traffic. However, once you get past that – wandering its backstreets, byways and historical lanes – you’ll find a rich and vibrant city full of history and culture! Our adventure starts in the morning with orientation meeting where you’ll have a chance to get to know your fellow travelers as we discuss the adventure ahead before sitting down for lunch. After lunch, we’ll head out by foot and boat exploring the heart of the old city visiting serene temples, bustling markets and the Chao Phraya River – the lifeline of the Thai people as much of the country’s history has been based along it. As the sun sets over Krung Thep, we’ll settle down at our longtime friend’s place for a tasty dinner of local vegan delicacies. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 2 Bangkok
The majority of Thais love their meats and surprisingly, given their Buddhist heritage, are not vegetarian. In fact, the Kin Jay (vegetarian) Festival is actually Chinese in origin. When Chinese immigrants came to Thailand, they brought their traditions and festivals with them. Over time, the Thais have adopted this festival into one of their own. Though it’s still Thai Chinese (Thais of Chinese ancestry) who celebrate the festival with the most fervor, many other Thais also join in. On one level, it’s a spiritual festival full of rituals. On another, it’s a great time to be vegan as the variety of vegan food available is astonishing – if not downright overwhelming! Traveling by canal boat, vans and foot, we’ll explore Krung Thep’s historical back alleys, bazaars, temples, vegan scene and side streets before meeting up with the city’s foremost vegetarian pioneer in the evening for a cultural culinary experience where we’ll learn how to make a tasty vegan Thai feast! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 3 Mae Klong – Traditional Thai Home
Starting with Tai Chi lessons on the rooftop, we’ll then settle down for a hearty vegan breakfast before saying goodbye to the capital and heading out for the banks of the mighty Mae Klong River! From the Chao Phraya, we head south by local train and ferry traveling well off the beaten track. Located a short distance from the Gulf of Thailand, our home for the next three days will be in a lovely historical villa located on the edge of the river’s calm flowing waters. Here, we’ll focus on learning about Thai culture and way of life along the country’s many canals. Arriving in the afternoon, we’ll have a mouthwatering curry tasting session for lunch. After our late lunch, you’ll have time to relax, read a book by the riverside, or simply take a nap listening to the sounds of the water. As the sun sets over the Mae Klong, we’ll settled down for tonight’s cultural culinary experience where we’ll learn to make fresh spring rolls and spicy Thai salads. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 4 Mae Klong – Traditional Thai Home
In the morning, we’ll be guests of a local children’s home where we’ll be serving up a tasty vegan lunch for the kids and they’ll have a chance to practice their English. Then, we’ll make our way to the railway market where we’ll explore the bazaar’s maze-like aisles before the train arrives. Since it truly is a “railway market” in every sense, we’ll watch the arriving train pass thru the bazaar within inches of the stalls as awnings and umbrellas give way. Later, we’ll set out on longtail boats to explore Mae Klong’s canals and colorful floating market. Joining a local family of musicians at their home in the evening, we’ll learn about Thai musical instruments as well as listen in on a jam session before sitting down with the family for a delicious home-cooked vegan meal. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 5 Mae Klong – Traditional Thai Home
Today we’ll join a wildlife rescue center where we’ll lend a hand toward their daily activities. An important sanctuary, shelter and rehab, the center offers a clinic, refuge and home for previously abused and exploited animals. The center’s patients, residents and friends include everything from gibbons to macaques, bears to langurs, civets to hornbills, and even elephants. As the colors of the day turn to night over the Mae Klong, we’ll enjoy a tasty riverside vegan BBQ complete with drinks and traditional Thai classical dance! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6 Nakhon Pathom
Meeting on the banks of the mighty Mae Klong, we board our van head up river to Nakhon Pathom. Our first stop: a unique local community that strictly follows the original precepts of Buddhism, so the village is happily 100% vegetarian! As guests of this self-sustaining vegetarian village, we’ll learn about their way of life and join them for lunch. From the village, we’ll make our way to an all women Buddhist monastery that also happens to be one of the very few monasteries in Thailand that are vegetarian. Here, we’ll meet with the resident Bhikkhunis who will share with us their journey to becoming Theravada monastics. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a tasty vegan dinner before boarding our overnight train for the south! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 7 Baan Naam Khem – Traditional Thai Villas near the Andaman Sea
Waking up onboard the train in Southern Thailand, we’ll meet our vans and make our way through some stunning scenery of limestone cliffs, lush rainforests and rubber plantations on our way to the tranquil picturesque coast of the Andaman Sea. For the next two days we’ll be staying just outside a quaint village in traditional Thai bungalows set around a serene garden a short walk from the beach. After six busy days on our adventure, it’s time to relax and rejuvenate and enjoy life in the tropics – and what a better way to do that than with a traditional Thai massage. Then, we’ll catch sunset over the Andaman Sea while enjoying a traditional Thai vegan BBQ. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 8 Baan Naam Khem – Traditional Thai Villas near the Andaman Sea
The Kin Jay Festival is actually celebrated throughout the country. One of the most auspicious of Thai-Chinese holidays, with Thai-Chinese making up 14% of the population (the percentage of those with mixed Thai Chinese ancestry is much higher), and the fact that many other Thais participate in it as well, means that throughout Thailand the festival is celebrated. So during our journey be on the lookout for the vegetarian yellow flags as we continue off-the-beaten-track celebrating the Tesagan Kin Jay! Today we’ll make our way into town to witness the different ceremonies associated with the Kin Jay Festival in rural Thailand. Settling back at our bungalows, you’ll have free time to take a swim in the sea, stroll along the beach, or just chill before we meet for our Thai dessert making class! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 9 Baan Naam Khem – Traditional Thai Villas near the Andaman Sea
Today, we’ll journey to the epicenter of the Kin Jay Festival in Thailand – the island of Phuket, where we’ll explore the historical lanes and back alleys of the old-town- learning about the rich cultural heritage of the community from which the festival took its roots. In the evening, we’ll meet up with one of the island’s best chefs who’ll teach us how to make a truly delectable local fusion vegan meal. Phuket’s unique cuisine owes its great taste to the mix of different cultures that have called the area home for centuries. The fusion of Thai, Malay and Chinese recipes is what makes the island’s cuisine not only unique, but as you’ll experience tonight – downright tasty! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 10 Phuket
Today, we’ll journey to the epicenter of the Kin Jay Festival in Thailand – the island of Phuket, where we’ll explore the historical lanes and back alleys of the old-town- learning about the rich cultural heritage of the community from which the festival took its roots, including joining one of the island’s best chefs for a tasty vegan lunch of delectable local island delicacies! Phuket’s unique cuisine owes its great taste to the mix of different cultures that have called the area home for centuries. The fusion of Thai, Malay and Chinese recipes is what makes the island’s cuisine not only unique, but as you’ll experience today is downright tasty!
Throughout its history, Phuket has been a port of call for ships that would use it as a safe harbor during long journeys. These ships would later come for the island’s resources and trade. One of the island’s resources that caught the eye of merchants (and invaders) was tin. Tin would become one of the most instrumental factors in Phuket’s development in the 19th century attracting thousands of Chinese who settled and worked the mines. These immigrants brought with them their traditions and beliefs, including the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, which would later lead to what is commonly called the Vegetarian Festival. In the morning, we’ll enjoy another rejuvenating massages to get us ready for the late night closing ceremony. After the massage, you’ll have time free to explore the charming Phuket town at your own pace. We’ll meet up in the evening and set out to the epicenter of the vegetarian festival for the closing ceremonies where the Gods are bid farewell to as they return to heaven – so be ready for an unforgettable night as the celebrations are truly epic! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 11 Phuket
In the morning, after a late breakfast (since we’ll be up until late the night before at the closing ceremonies) we’ll enjoy a rejuvenating traditional massage. After the massage, you’ll have time free to explore charming Phuket town at your own pace. We’ll meet up in the early evening for our farewell party where we’ll enjoy a colorful evening of live music, refreshing sundowners, vegan snacks and a tasty Thai feast for dinner. So make sure you bring your party shirt, dancing shoes (flip-flops are okay) and definitely your appetite and thirst! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 12 Phuket to Bangkok
Bidding farewell to Phuket, after a hearty vegan breakfast, we’ll head to the airport to catch our flight back to the big city. Our adventure ends in Bangkok upon arrival at the airport. Khawp khun maak (thank you very much)! (Breakfast)