Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Thailand's Vegetarian Festival - Convenience Stores

Convenience stores have long been one of my favourite stops on my travels. I especially love seeing what they sell in different locations around the world; where in the UK there'd be an egg mayo sandwich next to a meat filled pasty in Japan there'll be onigiri filled with all kinds of interesting combinations from the very non-vegan fish eggs to the often vegan friendly ume plum paste sharing space with sweet pockets of inari tofu. On my first ever trip to Thailand this January I was excited to discover things like ketchup crisps (the crisps themselves are shaped like french fries and they come with a little packet of ketchup for dipping), seaweed snacks, plum candy and Jay labelled ready meals stocking the shelves of the convenience stores and it was actually Rika's blog post about this very subject, convenience stores gone vegan, that first alerted me to the awesomeness of Thailand's vegetarian festival. After more digging I found plenty of other things to get excited about, street food, body modification, parades, but the lure of a convenience store stocked with vegan snacks never left my mind.

7/Eleven became a frequent stop during mine and Nick's journeys around Bangkok and Phuket during the vegetarian festival, the familiar blast of air con providing a much needed break from the sometimes stifling humidity outside. Power aisles and shelves were stacked with red and yellow goodies and flags were prominently displayed helping to guide vegan travellers and festival goers alike towards suitable snacks, meals and treats.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Thailand's Vegetarian Festival: Phuket

As some of my interests lie firmly in the festivals, body modification and eating spectrums I feel like I have a unique take on the happenings at Phuket's vegetarian festival. Nick and I travelled down to Phuket from Bangkok via overnight train and bus which is a great way to get there if you have the time. It's cheaper than flying (unless you can plan a long way in advance), more fun, and you save money on accommodation by spending a night travelling. It's a win win!

I wrote more about the whats and whys of Thailand's vegetarian festival in last week's blog post about Bangkok's festivities but a quick explanation is that for ten days in the ninth lunar month on the Chinese calendar Thai Chinese people with Taoist beliefs abstain from animal products, sex, alcohol impure thoughts and more to honour the nine emperor gods. During this time cities across the country get seriously vegan friendly because the Jay way of eating almost exactly aligns with veganism.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Thailand's Vegetarian Festival: Bangkok

It's quite a jump from my last destination focussed post on Bosnia and Herzegovina to Thailand in more ways than one. After our Balkan adventures Nick and I travelled back through the UK sampling the delights of Brighton's Goemon Ramen and Colchester's The Den at 23 along the way. We spruced up the van and handed it back to it's rightful owner and then flew halfway around the globe to hit up the vegetarian festival with a quick layover in Helsinki where I enjoyed some of the most delicious (and expensive) cakes ever. I believe that I first read about Thailand's Vegetarian Festival on one of my favourite vegan travel blogs, Vegan Miam, about two years ago and then I heard more about it from Kip, Jess and Jules and it soon snowballed and became a must visit event in my mind. Once I get fixated on something I tend to try to make it happen ASAP so I was a little sad that I missed out on 2014's festivities but that was right around the time that Nick and I were in the midst of Very Serious Decision Making followed by packing, planning and organising for our new adventures. Wow, I kinda can't believe that was over a year ago now!

If you haven't heard of the Vegetarian Festival heres the lowdown: It's a Chinese Taoist festival otherwise known as the Nine Emperor Gods festival that takes place during the first nine days of the ninth lunar month on the Chinese calendar. The epicentre is in Phuket where it was first brought to Thailand 170 years ago by a group of travelling opera singers but there are large celebrations that are worth checking out all over the place. During the nine day festivities followers welcome and then see off the nine emperor gods staying pure throughout by eating Jay food (this translates to vegan), wearing white and abstaining from sex, alcohol, impure thoughts and more. As I'm not coming at this from a religious or spiritual perspective the festival piqued my interest because of the amount of vegan street stalls and convenience foods that pop up. Add to that the sheer number of food courts and chain restaurants that participate as well as the ritual body modifications (former body piercer here!) some of the participants inflict upon themselves and each other in the name of respect for the gods and you have the makings of something truly fascinating. Interested yet?