As I said in my last post Chiang Mai is hard to leave but leave I did because Laos is right across the boarder and I just needed to keep on adventuring. I know that I'll be back sooner rather than later though so I'm not feeling too sad. One place that kept me sticking around for so long was Blue Diamond Breakfast Club. For an omni spot their vegan options are plentiful and more varied than I've seen in some vegan establishments. The pancakes are the real draw and after a bit of a wobble with a gluten free apple pancake that was a little on the gummy side I hit the jackpot with the chocolate pancake.
Breakfast items really are Blue Diamond's strong point, hence the name, and this couldn't be more obvious than right here with their vegan croissant choices. Choices people! You can go for the full on white flour, high fat croissant or dial it back with a wholewheat version. You know me, I'm not one for dialling it back, and I ate the proper version almost daily.
Muffins and other sweet treats were my main reason for visiting this relaxed spot over and over and I found myself using this self serve area on so many occasions that myself, the plastic bags and the tape dispenser are practically bff's. The choc chip and blueberry muffins are my strongest recommendations whilst Nick prefers the cinnamon rolls.
We hit this place up for dinner on a couple of occasions and both the Avocado Tempeh Salad and the Pad See Ew (what did I tell you last time!) are great choices although my tempeh was a little bitter on one occasion. The fresh juices are another of the club's specialities and the orange is a boring sounding but delicious choice.
Blue Diamond is also pretty close to the Women's Massage Centre where you can get a traditional Thai or foot massage by ex-prisoners from the women's prison.
I personally do not love a massage; okay, truth time, I hate them. Do not try to convince me otherwise, I've tried enough of them to know. Despite my issues with massages I went ahead and tried again because I do seriously love the concept of this place and I wanted to support it. I would also like to be one of those normal people who finds massages relaxing but nope! I would encourage anyone to visit this place. If you must incarcerate people it is so necessary to teach them new skills and to help them to find jobs at the end.
Ice Love You was somewhere that I was so goddamned excited about. Vegan ice cream right here in Thailand? Yes please. We took a highly amusing (sometimes you just have to find situations funny to deal with them y'know) songthaew journey beyond the old city walls and out towards the sprawling university campus and were excited to spot this adorable place on a side street off of Suthep Road.
We'd read that all of the ice creams but one were vegan but to double check that the cookies were a-ok so we asked questions and were happy with our order of three scoops and a roti with two scoops. Who goes to an vegan ice cream spot for the first time in months and only dips in a toe? Not me!
I won't be showing you a picture of our bloody delicious trio of scoops in adorable bunny shaped bowls though because I think that this place has a long way to go when it comes to understanding what veganism is. As soon as we'd finished eating an Aussie vegan came in with some friends and asked the exact same questions as we did but her vegan alarm was set of when she was told that all but one of the ice creams (the cheese one) were vegan because she'd heard of something called Milo, one of the flavours available, and pointed out that Milo contains milk and asked further questions. "Does it have real Milo in it?", the answer? "Yes, Milo". The convo continued and she didn't order that flavour but we'd already eaten it which I was beginning to get super irritated about. Back in the UK when I got told by a local ice cream spot that the Guinness sorbet was vegan I know that it wasn't and was able to point it out to the owners but here, with an ingredient I've never heard of, it's more difficult to be so on-top of things. There are definite language barriers involved in travelling but on top of those there are cultural barriers too. Here, for example, I work pretty hard to avoid causing anyone to loose face, smiling when you know someones trying to give you a terrible deal for example, so I left without saying anything. But I felt super mad. Ugh. I can't say for sure whether that ice cream had actual Milo in it because the words yes and vegan were repeated over and over confusing the Aussie vegan just as much as it was confusing me but I do now know that Milo is a malted drink that contains milk products so I'll let you make up your own minds. I am satisfied that the other two scoops we ordered and that the Roti with Matcha and Mango Sticky Rice ice creams were vegan so I intend to look on the bright side and remember that this was freaking delicious.
I specified vegan all the way through the ordering process (as did the Aussie!) and this definitely can be made 100% milk free. The mango sticky rice ice cream was a real joy and I adored the puffy roti. The whole thing was excellent and one of the most ridiculous things I've had the pleasure of eating since Veganerie.
After this roller coaster of an afternoon I wanted to hide somewhere air conditioned so we took a short and thankfully uneventful songthaew ride to local mall Central Airport Plaza to see if the food court held any hidden gems that we could add to Happy Cow. The mall's Food Pavillion is on the top floor and there was a nameless but all vegan Jay food stall right there waiting for us to sample their cheap eats. You'll be able to spot it because it's covered in yellow and red Jay flags! We ordered the Pad See Ew because we always order the Pad See Ew and it was one of the best we've had. Mock meat, tofu, plenty of veggies, delicious.
We also gave these super fresh summer rolls a whirl and we enjoyed them almost as much.
I wouldn't made the trip out there just to eat here or anything but it's a great option if you're in or near the mall already.
Freebird Cafe is somewhere I ended up visiting for the first time quite late on in my stay in Chiang Mai, not for lack of trying I just kept on forgetting that they shut at 5 and thinking that I'd have dinner there. Doh! The all veggie Freebird Cafe is just one part of Thai Freedom House, a not-for-profit language and arts community centre dedicated to helping refugees from Burma and members of other Thai minority groups. Inside the cafe there's a charity shop where they sell, among other things, donated clothes that are too big or too revealing for the refugees for whom they were intended. Jackpot! I scored this bright, bold flowery tee which is so light that I hardly feel like I'm wearing anything, and a gorgeous acid green dress that's cut too low to wear anywhere but at the beach here but that will be totally appropriate in the US of A or Europe.
Determined not to miss out again I dragged Nick there for opening time on this occasion which meant one thing, pancakes, and boy were we glad we finally made it.
The pancakes, served with golden syrup and fresh fruit, were gorgeous, light and super puffy. They kept me full for ages. I also tried one of their smoothies which had apple, lime and mint and reminded me of a non-alcoholic Mojito. So refreshing, just as the menu said it would be. I didn't try Nick's pineapple, apple, banana and ginger smoothie because uncooked pineapple makes my mouth itch but he assured me it was delicious and that he'd order it again.
On our second visit I had the Green Tea Leaf Salad in mind because everyone had told me that I just had to try it. I'm not really one to order a salad so when I spotted that there was a new Green Tea Leaf Fried Rice dish on the menu I opted for that instead. Nick went with Pad Thai and we got some Musroom and Vegetable Spring Rolls to share.
The Pad Thai was a little unusual as there was no chilli or sugar in sight but the garlic soy sauce and the lime that accompanied it made a tasty dish nonetheless. My fried rice dish was full of bold flavours and fun textures from the pickled tea leaves themselves to the crunch of the fried soy beans and onward to the generous helping of black pepper. This was hot, hot, hot and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
I totally couldn't resist dessert when I saw that there was a Raw Key Lime Pie on the menu and I loved that it was served super cold so that it was like a creamy ice cream to begin with and then, as it thawed, it softened into a delightful avocado lime pie with an almost mousse like texture.
Raw desserts can be super hit or miss for me but this one was totally spot on and might just pip the matcha brownie from Amrita Garden to the post for the title of best dessert in Chiang Mai. Definitely a winner. Freebird is a total must-visit if you're in the city but do go when you have time to spare as the service is super relaxed. If you'd like to help Freebird by doing more than just eating and shopping you can take donations of gently used clothes there or volunteer to be an English teacher in their learning centre, more info here. Oh and if you didn't already read part one of my Chiang Mai series here it is.