Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia

For many, the Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre is the highlight of their visit to Malaysia. Situated on the edge of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the centre was established in 1964 in order to rescue orphaned and abandoned young orangutans and to teach them how to look after themselves, with the aim of one day releasing them back into the wild.

Visitors are given the rare opportunity to explore the world of the orangutan and see them in a semi-natural environment. Follow trails through the jungle and creep along boarded canopy bridges to spot some of the other animals that live in the forest reserve such as long-tailed macaques.

There are only four orangutan sanctuaries in the entire world and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is probably the best known, with up to 700 visitors each day. So far the centre has rescued more than a hundred orangutans, 20 of which have successfully returned to the wild.

The best time to visit the rehabilitation centre is during feeding times, which take place at 10am and 3pm. The orangutans are vegetarian and are especially fond of bananas and sugar cane, sharing their meal with the long-tailed macaques.

It often rains in the forest reserve, so it is a good idea to wear a poncho. Pack plenty of insect repellant to ward off the unwelcome attention of mosquitoes and other insects and take a bottle or two of water as it can be rather hot and humid.

The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a good place to find out more about the lovable orangutans. Souvenirs such as postcards, soft toys and hats are available in the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. It is possible to spend the night at the centre and accommodation ranges from cheap and cheerful dorm rooms to large suites with spectacular views.

The easiest way to see Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre is to book a tour. Tours often include a visit to the Proboscis Monkey Reserve and nearby Taman Hiburan Jalil ALip, which is a recreation park where visitors can see crocodiles and deer.  

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand
Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, located approximately 862 kilometres south of Bangkok. Often referred to as the pearl of the Andaman, or the pearl of the south, Phuket is an island of limestone cliffs, white beaches, tranquil broad bays and tropical in-land forests, which make it one of Thailand’s most popular islands and provinces.

Phuket is easy to get to as there are frequent flights to and from Bangkok airport as well as direct flights to many other Asia and European airports. There are also regular buses and trains from around the country and Phuket can be reached by boat from many of the surrounding islands.

As well an the enormous main island, Phuket Province contains 39 other small islands, all perfect for exploring, whether via a snorkelling or scuba diving trip or a boat tour. Located just 25 kilometres from Phuket City, Ko Nakha Noi is a popular destination for a boat trip, as are Ko Si-re, Ko Lon, Ko Bon, Ko He and Ko Mai Thon, which is famous for its unique and very beautiful colourful coral.

Also known as Coral Island, Kho Hae is located to the Southeast of Phuket Island. Reachable in just 15 minutes by speedboat from Chalong Bay, this beautiful island is a great destination for a day trip, or visitors can choose to stay overnight at the resort.

Another popular day trip is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which is located near the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall. This is an amazing opportunity to meet the Gibbons in their natural environment and there is a visitor centre manned by Western volunteers and English speaking Thai staff who will tell you all about the project.

If you are interested in the island’s wildlife, elephant trekking is a good way to support the remaining domesticated elephants of Thailand and offers a new way to explore the jungle. The Phuket Zoo has an interesting collection of animals, whilst Phuket Submarine takes visitors on daily tours of the underwater world.

Both Khao Rang (Phuket Hill) and Laem Promthep are great places to see the sunset and get an idea of the island’s size and beauty. Whilst in Phuket, pay a visit to the Khao Phra Thaew Forest Reserve, which protects a stunning area of lush rainforest.

Many visitors to Phuket like to plan their trip to coincide with one of the area’s vibrant festivals. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held for 10 days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which usually occurs in October. This is the time when local residents, especially those of Chinese ancestry, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet in order to cleanse their spirit and make merit. The festival features self-mortification rituals such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs, as well as much singing and dancing and of course delicious vegetarian food.Another long awaited festival is the Phuket Gay Pride Festival, which takes place in February and the Siam World Cup Windsurfing Championships on Ao Bang Thao are held in January.

If you are in the area between November and February, head to the pretty beach of Hat Mai Khao on the northwest coast. Here you will discover sea turtles laying their eggs, but be careful not to disturb them as the turtles are now quite rare.

Food and Drink in Thailand

Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand

Thai food: colourful, inexpensive, full of flavour, often spicy and always available – you just can’t beat it. There are five flavours which make up every Thai meal – hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Thai people are very passionate about their food, and love nothing more than sitting down to a huge meal with family or friends. Usually, several dishes will be ordered at one time for people to share. Most visitors quickly become hooked on trying the hundreds of Thai dishes, which can be anything from extremely spicy vegetable salads, rich curries or incredibly sweet deserts.

Although each dish is different there are certain ingredients that are essential for Thai cuisine. Almost all dishes contain nam pla, a pungent and strong tasting fish sauce as well as shrimp paste, a combination of ground shrimp and salt. Most Thai dishes contain a range of chilies and spices as well as curry pastes, soy sauce, dried shrimp, Thai pepper, and roasted chili paste.

Vegetarian food can be found if you know what to ask for. If you tell a waitress you are vegetarian (mung-sawirat), they will usually be able to suggest vegetarian dishes. Fish and seafood is easy to find.

Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes which should not be missed.

Breakfast is very different to what is served in western countries and can take a little getting used to. There are two main breakfast dishes, Jok, a kind of rice porridge with pieces of meat, ginger and herbs and Khao Tom, a Thai style rice soup.

In Thailand, main meals can be eaten at any time of the day and are often enjoyed 3, 4 or even 5 times a day.

Khao Pad literally means friend rice and is very popular. It is usually made with chicken, beef, shrimp or pork.

Pad Thai is pan fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg mixed with chicken, seafood, or tofu. Look out for carts selling this incredibly cheaply on Khaosan Road.

Tom yam is rather spicy and sour soup with meat. With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung with seafood. Eat this dish with rice to reduce the spiciness.
Tom kha gai is hot sweet soup with chicken and coconut milk.

Rad na is wide rice noodles in a thick gravy-like sauce with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood.

Khao pad naem is found in the Northeast and is fried rice with fermented sausage.

Pad see ew is noodles stir-fried with thick soi sauce, fish sauce and pork or chicken.

Gai Pad Khing is chicken stir-fried with sliced ginger.

Red curry or gaeng phet meaning ‘hot curry’, is made with large amounts of dried red chillies.

Green curry or gaeng khiew-waan, meaning green curry, is made with fresh green chillies and Thai basil, chicken or fish balls. This dish is spicy, rich and creamy.

Massaman curry is an Indian style curry which is not quite as spicy as the Thai alternatives, containing roasted dried spices, chicken and potato.

Pad pak ruam – stir fried vegetables, great a vegetarian option or side dish.

Som tam is a fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them. Som tam poo is made with salted black crab, Som tam Thai has peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara is from north eastern part of Thailand with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.

Larb are very spicy sour salads containing meat, onions, chillies, roasted rice powder and garnished with mint.

Yam is the name for any type of sour salad, such as those made with glass noodles.

There are a large selection of deserts available, all sweet and many involving banana or another fruit and coconut cream.

Kao niao ma muang is the world famous sticky rice and ripe mango.

Kao niao Durian is sticky rice and durian in coconut milk.

Gluay buad chee is banana in coconut milk.

Make sure you try Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea and Kah-Feh Yen – Thai Iced Coffee. Very sweet and creamy, they can be a good way to cool down.

Although beer is widely available, most Thais choose to drink whiskey, sharing a bottle between the group and adding water and ice.

Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu

Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu

Thailand does not really have a tradition of vegetarian cooking, and most dishes contain meat or fish. As a result, it can be a bit difficult for a veggie to fully appreciate the Thai cuisine, as most Thai vegetarian dishes are the meat versions with bits taken out. In central Bangkok, Suan Phlu (where the old immigration office was) offers a couple of restaurants that redress the balance.

Thailand does not really have a tradition of vegetarian cooking, and most dishes contain meat or fish. As a result, it can be a bit difficult for a veggie to fully appreciate the Thai cuisine, as most Thai vegetarian dishes are the meat versions with bits taken out. In central Bangkok, Suan Phlu (where the old immigration office was) offers a couple of restaurants that redress the balance.
 
Directly opposite the old Immigration office you have UR Station. It probably looks a bit more like a burger bar than a full on veggie restaurant, but looks can certainly be deceiving, and they are in this case. UR Station offers pretty much everything you could ask for. Both Thai and Western cuisine are available, with particular reference to the latter.

The cakes and pastries are great – blueberry crumble, chocolate buns, cheese croissants… there’s not much you could want for, including versions without egg. Washed down with one of a splendid choice of coffees, they make a great treat.

The Thai cuisine is excellent, too. Fried rice with curry or basil, tofu soup, and rice noodles all come in at the 55-65 Baht range and give you a proper taste of what Thai cooking is all about. The hands down winner though are the sandwiches and croissants. They have an excellent range including veggie ham and cheese and veggie tuna, and they are, to die for. They are truly excellent, and at 65 Baht, killer value. If you are in the area, don’t miss them. Tel: 02-287-1635, 089-490-3111 (mobile).
 
If, however, you are more interested in having traditional Thai fare in more typical surroundings, go out of immigration, and turn right. Keep walking until you get to Soi 8 and go into the Soi. On your right you will find Banbaiplu.

The owner, a suspiciously Singaporean-looking gentleman, with the suspiciously Singaporean-sounding name of ‘Andy Lam’ runs this establishment, and claims to be Thai. He speaks really good Singlish, too (so you guess what’s going on!). Anyway, this is a place where they do wonders with Soya protein and turn it into veggie meat that actually tastes like meat. So much so that you might start asking questions… but it’s true – those big lumps of fried pork, that even look like fried pork, are actually veggie! Being so meat-like, you get a much better insight into the regular Thai meal here. Curries, soups – Andy’s got the works, and all at nice prices. One dish with rice costs only 25 Baht – the same price the locals pay for meat versions. This is something to write home about! Tel: 068-080-7255 (mobile).

Leave Andy’s, go back to the street and turn right, and you’ll soon notice that you have masses of fruit on sale either side of the street. Fresh, clean, and again, despite the presence of so many foreigners, this is not a tourist area and prices are what locals pay. Stock up and put some in your room back on Khao San. Keep walking, and on your right you will soon notice Bobaimai Bakery.
 
This is a dainty little cafe? – actually, it’s small. But the food is good. They have cakes and all the sweet niceties you would expect to sit alongside a nice, hot cappuccino. As their sign suggests – “all natural with no additives or preservatives”, so they are well worth a look. Go out of Bobaimai Bakery, turn right again, and you will come across a stall selling Dim Sum which is part of a bigger restaurant. Although this restaurant serves meat as well, the stall (which faces the road) is dedicated to veggie food. It’s just Dim Sum, but they do a good job, and it’s well worth going down there just for a taste.

To get to Suan Plu By take bus nrs. 22 , 62 or 67. Lumpini Station is the closest MRT station.

The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thai Food

The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
vegetarian_3

A beautiful asset to world travel is the chance to try exciting new foods. Of course, Thailand boasts a famous cuisine; healthy, full of exotic new flavours, intricately spiced. Any traveler worth his chopsticks will tell you it’s some of the best in the world.

But while most people can dive right in to local fare, tourists with dietary restrictions must weather a gamble each time they place an order. As a vegetarian, I’ve endured my share of food slip-ups. People who don’t know about the meat-free food movement often mistake my plea for, “no red meat – bring on the chicken,” or “I just really like vegetables – put some extra ones on top of the meat.”

Luckily, once you overcome small hurtles, Thailand is a vegetarian’s dream. Tasty local fruits and vegetables, delicious tofu, and thanks to Buddhism, some familiarity with meat-free cooking. Below is a guide for hungry vegetarians traveling in Thailand and ready to sample local fare:

Where to Get Food

To find the tastiest Thai food, get off the backpacker trail and go to where the Thais are eating. This can mean night markets, food stalls on the street, or food courts in tiny local malls. Guesthouse restaurants boast English menus and some comforts from home (baguette sandwiches, full American breakfasts). However, unless you pop into a vegetarian cafe, the meat-free options are usually slim. Markets are cheaper, fresher, and the food isn’t catered for western palettes (no diluted spices here!). Also, you can watch the cook prepare the dish before you, so it’s easy to indicate what you do and don’t want in your meal.

Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls.
 
If Thai tofu and fried eggs aren’t your style, pop into a local market (or any 7-Eleven) and load up on nuts and seeds to carry in your bag. Then, you can order lots of veggies at meals and on islands and beaches, guesthouses will offer barbecues with fresh fish. Vegetarians should load up on baked potatoes (a tasty rarity in Thailand), vegetables, rice and eggs. Also, most restaurants will keep their kitchen open during the barbecue, so there’s no harm in topping up your grilled veggies with a noodle or rice dish.
 
Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls
 
What to Say
 
“I don’t want meat” – “mai sai neua-sa”
 
“I don’t want fish” – “mai sai plah”
 
” – with tofu” – “sai tao-hoo”
 
“-with egg” – “sai kao”
 
“with vegetables” – “sai pak”
 
Some Favourite Vegetarian Dishes
 
phad thai -fried noodles, a basic Thai staple (note, to order without shrimp, simply ask for “phad thai jae”)
 
phad see ewe – wide, flat noodles, fried with egg and soy sauce
 
kao phad pak – vegetable fried rice
 
phad pak jae – simple fried vegetables in a mild sauce
 
phad kapow – spicy Thai basil fried with chilies
 
som tam jae – green papaya salad in a tangy, spicy peanut sauce
 
kai yad sai pak – an omelette with vegetables
 
yam kai dow – a tangy salad with boiled eggs, onion, and tomato
 
tom yam hedt – a spicy tomato-based soup made with mushrooms
 
tom khaa hed – coconut soup with mushrooms
 
phad priow waan pak – sweet and sour mixed vegetables
 
For Vegans
 
Vegans fare well in Thailand, because dairy is rarely used in Thai cuisine. Most creamy soups and sauces are cooked with healthy coconut milk. However, eggs are prevalent in main dishes like phad thai. Many Thai noodle dishes use egg for texture. Saying “mai sai kao” to the cook will ensure that your dish is egg-free. To play it safe, vegans should stick to rice dishes with vegetables and tofu.
 
Also, be wary of the soy milk sold in Thai convenience stores. Some brands use soy for the nutrients, but mix it with dairy milk for flavour. If you’re ordering a fruit smoothie or dessert in a restuarant, “mai sai nome” means “no milk.”
 
When looking for restaurants, keep an eye out for Buddhist eateries, which use zero animal products. The signs are bright yellow with bright red lettering, and you can judge by the dishes of other customers whether the vegan food looks tasty (trust us, it usually is).

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Confessions of a Coward: An Indian Adventure

confessions_of_a_coward

The book describes a nine month journey through India and Nepal, focusing on the interesting and often arresting characters encountered along the way. The book is unusual as it is written from a female point of view. The narrator is an inexperienced and nervous traveler, which makes a change of pace from accounts by the well-travelled and intrepid.

Touching on the humour Bill Bryson infuses his travel writing with and the narration of Paul Theroux, also perhaps reminiscent of the Cambodian novel Gecko Tales

If you want to know what India is really about I can thoroughly recommend this book. The authors budget of 10 dollars a day and interest in people means she saw so much. From eating true Indian vegetarian food, travelling hundreds of miles on buses and trains and staying at budget guest houses she saw a side of India that tourists never do. With boundless energy and an irrepressible sense of humour she shows how to cope with all that India can throw at you and how much it has to offer.

From a nervous traveller landing at Delhi to a confident seasoned backpacker leaving Goa, this is also a voyage of self discovery.

Don’t miss Poopi the monkey, the camel safari, the village cricket match and Nepal in winter.

Review by Michael Johns.

The book is available at www.lulu.com. Type in the book title or author in the search bar to locate it.

Veggie Delight

Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand

Travelling in Thailand can be tough if you’re a vegetarian. Your senses are constantly assaulted by the myriad of meats on sticks barbecued on every street corner and the scent of fried chicken fills the air as you wait patiently for a bus to whisk you away.

Vegetarianism is definitely a lesson in tolerance, and I have learnt to turn a blind eye to the invasions of the meat loving society. Well, almost. Even more difficult, however, is finding decent veggie food, especially if you are on a budget. I spent my first six months in the Land of Smiles surviving mainly on pad Thai and boiled corn, not exactly a rich and varied diet.

But the truth is there are some excellent places for vegetarians to eat in Bangkok, if you know where to go. Here are some of my favourites:

May Kaidee, located 33 Samsen Road (Soi 1) and tucked away on 1117/1 Tanao Road, behind Burger King at the end of Khaosan Road is probably the most popular vegetarian restaurant in the area. Offering an incredibly diverse range of vegetarian Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes, this is a great place to meet friends. All the dishes are freshly prepared and cooked, with flavours combined to perfection.

The pumpkin soup is simply fantastic, especially with ground ginger on top, and the organic brown rice is healthy and delicious. Dishes are affordable at around 50 Baht each and cooking courses are also available. Open 9 a.m – 11 p.m. daily.

Situated at the end of Soi 2, just off Samsen Road, Cafe Corner is also a great place to unwind. Converted from a traditional Thai shop, the cafe opens right onto the street and has a unique Bohemian feel.

Unusual, uplifting music is played in the background whilst you tuck into baguettes, pancakes or vegetarian Thai food. The range of cocktails makes this the perfect place to gather in the evening as well.

All the vegetables used are organic and come from farms in Suphanburi, Ratchaburi and the cafe’s own garden.

Just a ten minute walk from Khaosan Road, the recently opened Tham-na Home Restaurant can be found at 169 Samsen Road. The restaurant offers deliciously healthy vegetarian and vegan food served in a light and stylishly decorated restaurant. The restaurant’s motto is; “Vegetarian food for meat lovers,” and is a real treat for anyone who appreciates good food. The menu is filled with international favourites such as Japanese dishes, Thai food, hearty breakfasts and fresh, organic salads. There are western staples such as roast potatoes, or you can try the fried lotus root for an exotic alternative. Highly recommended is the baguette with mozzarella cheese and tangy sesame mushrooms.

Tanao Road is becoming a haven for vegetarians and Ethos restaurant brings a slightly Bohemian and cozy feel to the area. The menu is full of vegan and vegetarian dishes featuring flavours from around the world. Customers get to choose between the western style dining tables or sitting on the floor on pretty patterned cushions. Gorgeous red lamps made from red paper hang over the tables and complete the scene.

The Thai vegetarian dishes are a vibrant blend of colours and textures, fresh, crisp vegetables and tasty tofu chunks. The restaurant also serves large portions of western food such as lasagna, falafel and comfort food such as apple crumble and custard. Ethos offers free wifi, making this a great place to spend an afternoon trying the incredible selection of teas and the rich and creamy fruit lassis.

The vegetarian section of Chatuchak Market is one of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets. Also known as Chamlong’s Restaurant after Bangkok’s former governor K. Chamlong, this area features a collection of over thirty stalls selling delicious Thai, Chinese and Western dishes. Each stall offers its own speciality and fake meats are used to create dishes such as “fish” curry in banana leaf and “chicken” skewers.

Best of all, these delicious dishes are incredibly cheap, ranging from 10-20 Baht each, so you can afford to try a whole range. Run by the Santi Asoke monks, food is served daily from 8 a.m. – 2p.m.

Finding Chamlong’s Restaurant can be tricky at first. Take the subway to Kamphaeng Phet (exit 1) and turn right. Walk for five minutes and follow an alleyway between bars to a large warehouse. You can also take bus no 3 from Banglampoo.

If it is authentic Indian food you crave, look no further than Soi Rambutree, opposite Khoasan Road. Here you will find quite a few eateries offering eastern promise, all with an extensive vegetarian selection.

As you can see, there is vegetarian food to suit every taste in Bangkok. Don’t forget to try the Thai speciality Pad see-u Pak (rice noodles with egg and broccoli). Whatever you choose, remember to say arroy maak (tastes very good) at the end of your meal.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!