Plant-based food in plastic bags - green travel tips and flops from Chiang Mai
WE NEEDED VACATION! THAILAND IS NOT FAR AWAY FROM HOMEY (AT LEAST FOR A FEW MORE WEEKS!) HONG KONG, AND REMEMBERING OUR FUN EXPERIENCES FROM BANGKOK EARLIER THIS SUMMER, WE TRAVELLED BACK. ONCE AGAIN, WE BRING A HEALTHY DOSE OF SELF-JUDGEMENT AS TRAVELLERS AS WELL AS FEW GREEN TIPS. THIS TIME: CHIANG MAI!
(WOMB’s green score: 3/5)
The flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai is short, but there is no public transportation in Chiang Mai that could have brought us to our accommodation, so we cab-ed (for 10 minutes, but still!).
We have seen busses around, but the most popular way to get around the city are scooters and cars. There are also small tuk-tuk-taxis, which do not run on big car engines, so they would definitely be a more eco-friendly choice. However, (we said it once, we'll say it again) Chiang Mai's old city is very walkable! So ditch your ballerinas, and put on some walking shoes and start wandering around the city with beautiful temples, friendly people and delicious street-food! Oh, speaking of…
(WOMB’s green score: 3/5)
We were surprised by how many local, street-food stalls offer plant-based options, without even having to explain too much! A tricky thing for us became butter, as we could see that some of the veggies we ordered were generously sprinkled with butter in the end, before we even got to react.
Plant-based eateries are on the rise in Chiang Mai too - what a joy! As we write this, we are actually sitting and enjoying a large Americano with delicious, skimmed coconut milk in Goodsouls, located in the northern part of Chiang Mai's old city. Other worthy mentions include Free Bird Café - an eatery supporting Burmese refugees (more about Free Bird later since the place is also home to Chiang Mai's first zero-waste / bulk store!) and Food 4 Thought, which is not a fully vegan and vegetarian place, every dish on the menu is presented as vegan, and meat is an add-on option. We found it interesting that they would advocate for the vegan option as their point of departure, and the atmosphere of the place is so beautiful that we just could not not write about it!
During our past escapades in Thailand, we have, admittedly, forgotten to bring our roll-bag to put delicacies from the street stalls in. This did not happen in Chiang Mai, and we were proudly walking around with our grab 'n go bag. Many places disappointed us though, as all the cut fruit was already pre-packaged in plastic bags, and the sellers did not want to cut new for us, just to serve it to us in our own bag. One lady did take the cantaloupe out of the plastic bag, put the fruit into our roll-bag and put the plastic bag aside, which looked very much like she was going to reuse it. At least we choose to believe so... [In your mind, dear reader, please insert the "dunno" emoji.]
(WOMB’s green score: 4/5)
We are quite proud of ourselves here! We did not shop much, and the items we have purchased were: a singing bowl which came wrapped in a piece of old newspaper, a small glass bottle of coconut oil with a metal lid, a small notebook (locally made, decorated with a special print, but wrapped in plastic, hence the minus on our green score), and a locally-made of all-natural ingredients bug-spray in a plastic bottle which is small enough for us to take on plane and reuse once we get back to Hong Kong.
We were surprised by the selection of locally made goods: accessories, clothes, homeware. We met one vendor at a night market; she was selling cotton clothes, and we asked whether she was making them herself (hoping she would say yes, and we could write about it on the blog, and everybody would be happy). She smiled at us and said "Ha, of course not! Do you know how much work it is? My whole family is involved!"
We definitely accepted that answer and almost bought one of her kimonos, but then we thought of the limited space in our backpacks and... had to walk away.
As mentioned before, Free Bird Café is home to My Best Life Chiang Mai - a zero waste social enterprise. If you need a reusable straw, bamboo toothbrush or package-free soap, My Best Life is the place to go. ASAP.
War on Waste
(WOMB’s green score: 4/5)
We are NOT hating or shaming, but the fact that we only encountered recycling bins on tourist tracks, is thought-provoking. Street food markets create a lot of both organic and plastic waste, and yet recycling facilities were nowhere near (hence the minus in our green score; the plastic package we unwillingly got, we could not even recycle).
Most of the eateries we went to (maybe because we regularly visited vegan, "conscious" places) offered free water, and if you brought your own bottle, you could easily refill it. Even our hostel had a refill station, so it was not at all necessary to buy bottled water. Plastic straws are still widely used, but many street-food vendors actually wrap your food in bamboo leaves! That is a great alternative to styrofoam, plastic, or whatever else synthetic packaging there is.
When going to restaurants try having a look at how different drinks are packaged! In Cat House Chiang Mai, we saw that the coconuts were wrapped in plastic! Hence, we chose a yummy, house-brewed kombucha in a glass bottle. Easy swap, but one really has to have the plastic-alert on at all times!
Conscious travel sum-up
We have learned from past experiences! This time we remembered to bring a reusable straw as well as our roll-bag. We chose eateries with water refill stations and remembered to actually use them (believe us, when your mind is on holiday, it can be a challenge)!
WOMB’s overall green score this time is 14/20, which is still not perfect, but... we've never aimed for perfection!
We love businesses that try to give back to the community and help less privileged people in our society. Which is why we loved the SPA parlours in Chiang Mai that hire female ex-inmates, like THIS ONE! The masseuses are ex-convicts who (with a stained criminal record) would most likely have difficulties finding a job otherwise.