Cat House

Image of the restaurant sign outside the Cat House, Chiang Mai
Cat House Restaurant Sign

Cat House Restaurant, Chiang Mai:

  • Burmese Tea Leaf Salad,
  • Price: 90 baht
  • Score: 7/10
  • January 4th, 2017

Cat House is a great restaurant on the East of the Moat that offers really great food.

The Cat House menu is a fusion of Thai and Western foods. As well as traditional curries you can get things like a Laab Sandwich or Wrap. They have great quesadillas and burritos too, as well as breakfast foods like pancakes or muesli. They also have sweet potato, pumpkin or zucchini fries! Everything can be made vegetarian or vegan but they also serve meat for any non-vegan friends. Don’t forget to check out their cake selection too. They have vegan cookies, vegan brownies and also homemade bread. Their smoothies and lassi’s are good, as well as Kombucha and herbal iced tea’s. 

Although not a Burmese restaurant, Cat House does an incredible Burmese tea leaf salad.

Image of Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, brown rice, cucumber and cutlery at the Cat House Chiang Mai
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad at the Cat House, Chiang Mai

It’s always a difficult choice for me between the Tea Leaf Salad and their Hummus and Falafel dish, which is also a favourite there, usually found on their specials board.

The Tea Leaf Salad is made from fermented tea leaves, toasted nuts, beans, fresh cabbage, carrots and tomatoes. Thanks to the fermented tea leaves it has a tangy kick to it and is really tasty. The salad itself is pretty filling but combined with Cat House’s dense black rice it’s a hearty dish.

That being said, this time that I went, the black rice portion was a little smaller and seemed to have a little coconut milk mixed in. Another reason for a slightly lower rating this time was because my friend and I did find the salad pretty greasy on this particular day. I’ve never had that before though. It definitely wasn’t as good as usual but I am willing to put that down to one bad day as I’ve been there plenty of times before and absolutely loved it.

The Tea Leaf Salad cost 90 baht. At a Burmese street stall you may pay around 30 baht but this is usually for a smaller portion of tea leaf salad and no extras. For such a filling meal this is a really good price. In fact, most of the prices on the menu are really reasonable, more so than other popular cafe’s around Chiang Mai.

The Cat House is open all day, from 7am – 10pm, which makes it a great place to go in the evenings. I wouldn’t say Cat House is the best environment to work in, it’s definitely designed to be more of a restaurant to socialise with friends in than a work spot, but there are power outlets and decent tables.

Image of the restaurant seating area, tables and chairs at Cat House, Chiang Mai
Indoor Seating area with tables and chairs inside Cat House

The staff at Cat House cafe do have a little reputation for not being the most friendly or welcoming. The owner Jacky is very bubbly but it’s rare that she is there. Jacky takes on staff from Burma and helps them learn Thai and English, as well as teaching them management skills, cooking and mentorship. Even if a smile is lacking, it’s still a great place to spend your money, and with great food.

As a final side note, a friend of mine made the mistake of ordering the ‘Brown Rice Porridge with coconut milk, raisins, banana or mango’ thinking that it would be sweet. It’s actually salty! Aside from that it’s a pretty yummy, warming bowl of rice porridge but definitely doesn’t satisfy a sweet tooth!

Food 4 Thought

Image of a coffee cup and the writing bay's cafe
Food 4 Thought is also known as Bay’s Cafe

Food 4 Thought, Chiang Mai:

  • Hummus Wrap
  • Price: 139 baht
  • Score: 9/10
  • December 3rd 2016

Food 4 Thought has a really good reputation in Chiang Mai, for healthy, tasty food, great coffee and a lovely relaxed garden setting. It’s a little out of the old city but well worth a visit.

I’ve been to Food 4 Thought so many times, and I struggle to order anything other than their signature wraps. I know I should try more of their menu as it all sounds really good, but their wraps and salads are the greatest standouts for me.

I ordered a Hummus wrap, and my friend had the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad wrap (These are my usual top picks).

Image of two plates with a Hummus wrap and Burmese Tea Leaf salad wrap with a side of sauerkraut
Incredible wraps at F4T – Hummus and Burmese Tea Leaf salad wrap with a side of sauerkraut

As you can see, the wraps are stuffed with ingredients and are really hearty and satisfying. The hummus wrap comes with an additional side of hummus and sauerkraut. The wrap itself is stuffed with grilled veggies. The veggies often change depending on what’s available but it always tastes amazing. I do like that the veggies are still warm inside the wrap.

Image of a wrap filled with grilled vegetables and hummus with an extra side pot of hummus and sauerkraut
Wrap stuffed with grilled veggies and hummus with an extra side of hummus and sauerkraut

The Burmese Tea leaf salad wrap is also a great option. Again, the wrap is packed with great tasting food. They’re probably the most filling options on the menu (in my opinion). Though a little more expensive than other restaurants, the food is high quality and money well spent. 

As the menu states, all of the food can be adapted for vegans, vegetarians or gluten-free, just ask your server. Most of the menu options you can also sub cheese for vegan cheese (at additional cost). 

Food 4 Thought is also known as Bay’s cafe. The owner, Bay is a friendly guy who has great taste in coffee. I’ve had the single origin coffee there and it was one of the best I’ve had in Chiang Mai. There’s also usually some great vegan cakes and brownies in the display counter (not on the menu) so don’t forget to check these out! (Though if you have a wrap you might struggle to find room for dessert).

The garden is a lovely place to relax, meet with friends for a lunch date, or bring along a laptop to work. The internet is one of the more reliable in Chiang Mai and there are plenty of plug sockets and fans around. There’s also some indoor seating too if you prefer that.

Image of large tables and chairs inside Food 4 Thought garden. Greenery and trees.
Relaxing environment at Food 4 Thought with plenty of seating and large tables outside and inside.

Vegan Heaven

Image of restaurant sign that reads Vegan Heaven, by Taste from Heaven
Vegan Heaven Restaurant Sign

Vegan Heaven, Chiang Mai:

  • Vegan BLT + Fresh Spring Rolls
  • Price: 105 baht + 75 baht
  • Score: 3/10
  • December 9th, 2016

Vegan Heaven had just opened on the day I went for dinner. There was quite a hype about it within the vegan community so a few friends and I thought we’d check it out. Unfortunately, it didn’t impress us very much.

Everything on the menu is vegan. They offer vegan Thai dishes and Western dishes such as the BLT which use vegan chicken, vegan bacon, and vegan cheese.

The menu looks pretty good, and my friends were especially excited about the Western food options. The BLT had been recommended to us so that’s what I went for. I paid extra for an avocado side. 

Image of plate with Vegan BLT sandwich and a side of avocado
Vegan BLT with Avocado at Vegan Heaven

As you can probably see from the picture, it was a lot of bread. In fact, it was mostly just bread and salad. I’m not sure what the vegan bacon was made from. It was a little salty and flavoursome but all in all, pretty disappointing. The fresh spring rolls were better, but it’s hard to go wrong with those.

Plate of six fresh spring rolls with dipping sauce and side salad
Fresh Spring Rolls at Vegan Heaven

I don’t usually like ‘‘fake meat’ so I wondered if I’d just made the wrong choice. However, my friend who has recently just become vegan, and still misses the taste of meat, ordered a chicken wrap. When it came it was small and expensive (around 140b).   

The hummus and salad wrap was better received but at 85b was also mostly salad with a little bit of hummus inside. We ordered some sushi rolls as a side dish and these were also small. A small piece of carrot and cucumber wrapped in a nori roll, with 2 pieces of pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi (75b).

I did wonder if perhaps just the Western food was disappointing and we should have stuck to Thai cuisine. But another friend left a plate of mushroom laab mostly uneaten. I tried some and it was very oily and bland.

It turns out that Vegan Heaven is an extension of another restaurant, Taste from Heaven, located in the old city. Had I have known this I may have reconsidered. Even though Taste from Heaven has a good rating on Trip Advisor and seems to be very popular, I was never very impressed and consider it to be an over-rated tourist trap.

Image of indoor and outdoor tables and chairs at Vegan Heaven
Indoor and Outdoor seating at Vegan Heaven

Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant

Image of the restaurant sign outside Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant in Chiang Mai
Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant Sign

Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai:

  • Cashew Nut Vegetable Stir Fry
  • Price: 120 baht
  • Score: 9/10
  • November 3rd, 2016

I made a dinner date with a friend of mine for Anchan Restaurant. She’d heard great things about it and it’s also one of few vegetarian restaurants open late around the Nimman area of Chiang Mai.

So yes, everything on their menu is vegetarian. It’s also organic and locally-sourced. The menu changes each week depending on which veggies they have available but the food is always incredible.

After a good workout at the gym, I was starving! I wanted something substantial so ordered the cashew nut veggie stir fry.

Image of the vegan cashew nut stirfry from Anchan Restaurant in Chiang Mai
Cashew Nut Veggie Stir-fry with a plate of Brown Rice and Iced Ginger Tea

I used to think Anchan’s portion sizes were a little on the smaller side, but this definitely wasn’t. The stir fry was a mix of carrots, corn, green beans, tomato, bell pepper, spring onion, tofu, onion and garlic, and the best part was – there was tonnes of cashew nuts. More often than not in Chiang Mai I’ve had a cashew nut stir fry that comes with just a few cashews sprinkled on top. This meal probably had the most I’ve had in one dish.

I also thought there was a really good range of vegetables. Again, a lot of places tend to do a vegetable stir fry with just the same type of veg over and over. It was especially nice to have both red and yellow sweet bell pepper.  The main downside of this place is the prices are very high for Chiang Mai.  

I had a ginger and cinnamon iced too to go with my meal which had a really had a good kick to it! Lots of ginger.

Image of the seating area inside Anchan Restaurant, Chiang Mai with a chalk board on the wall showing weekly menu
Restaurant tables and chairs inside Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant. Chalk board with weekly menu written on.

Pink House Garden

Pink House Garden sign advertising Gluten Free cake, vegetarian food, coffee & cake and opening time
Pink House Garden Sign

Pink House Garden, Chiang Mai:

  • Tempeh Laab + Salad with Peanut Sauce
  • Price: 95b + 70b
  • Score: 6/10
  • November 26th, 2016

Pink House Garden is a relatively new, undiscovered veggie restaurant in Chiang Mai. Although I think it will soon become a popular spot thanks to its beautiful setting.

I visited Pink House Garden on a saturday afternoon with a friend. She happens to live nearby and didn’t even know it existed. Going light on the rice dishes that day we chose two salad style dishes.

Plate of Tempeh Laab with a plate of Salad and bowl of Peanut sauce with Cinnamon Iced Tea
Tempeh Laab, Salad with Peanut Sauce and Cinnamon Tea

The first was spicy minced tempeh salad. This is a vegetarian version of the traditional Thai Laab dish. Laab is usually made with minced pork but has strong flavours of mint and chili.

Laab is actually one of my favourite dishes in Thailand but I don’t often find a veggie alternative. I’ve had mushroom laab before but this tempeh dish was something new, and I loved it. It was flavoursome and the minced tempeh texture was great. It was definitely my favourite of the two dishes. It had minced tempeh, mint, red onion, carrot, and just a little bit of chili. 

The second was Salad with Peanut Sauce. The Salad was a little bland. Mostly lettuce with a little bit of sweet potato, carrot and bell pepper sprinkled on top. But the peanut sauce was really good. It was pretty thick but incredibly tasty. If the salad had just a little more variety to it this would have been a great choice. But as it is I would only recommend it as a side dish and not a main.

We were also given a constant refill of cinnamon tea, (complementary), as we chatted for a few hours.

I was excited to try their vegan cakes as I’d heard excellent things about them. When we went they only had a gluten-free (not vegan) chocolate cake or an avocado-lemon cake. We had the avocado cake and it was pretty good but it didn’t blow my mind. Maybe I’d built it up too much in my head! That being said, I have heard great things from a few friends and seen some good looking pictures so maybe I’ll give it another try.

A slice of gluten free chocolate cake and vegan avocado-lemon drizzle cake with a glass of herbal tea
Amazing Vegan and Gluten Free cakes

The food we had isn’t the best in Chiang Mai. It’s more so the setting and the atmosphere at Pink House Garden that makes it worth a visit. A lovely open garden area with tables and chairs, or cushions and low tables to sit around. My friend and I were the only two people there when we went so it was quiet and relaxing too.


Pink House is also open late (10pm) and I imagine it would be a lovely place to enjoy an evening with some friends. 

Stepping stones leading up to a low table with pillows and curtains surrounding
Beautiful seating area inside Pink House Garden
Image of trees and garden with tables and seats in the background
Pink House Garden

    

ImmAim Vegetarian Bike Cafe

Image of sign reading ImmAim Vegetarian Cafe @ santitham
ImmAim Vegetarian Cafe

ImmAim Vegetarian Cafe, Chiang Mai:

  • Fresh Herbal Spring Rolls + Broccoli Ginger Stir Fry
  • Price: 65 baht +  60 baht
  • Score: 7/10
  • November 10th, 2016

ImmAim is a welcoming little cafe in the heart of Santitham neighbourhood (Northwest of the old city). Their menu is all vegetarian with many vegan options and most, if not all, can be adapted for vegans.

I live nearby so I work and eat there very often. Today I went for the Fresh Herbal Spring Rolls with a Pumpkin Dressing. This is sort of a light dish, great for sharing, or nice to order with another light meal as I did. So on top of that I also ordered the Broccoli and Ginger stir-fry as I was craving greens.

Image of herbal spring rolls on a plate with pumpkin dressing
Ok, so I dived right in and ate one before I remembered to take a picture – there are 8 rolls usually
Image of broccoli ginger stir-fry
Broccoli ginger stir-fry

 

The Herbal Spring Rolls are amazing. They are minty and fresh and the pumpkin dressing is really good. But it didn’t fill me up at all. I’ve never had the broccoli stir fry before so I thought I’d give it a try. I have to say that I thought it was a little light on broccoli and a little heavy on the ginger and pepper. But, I guess it’s intended as a healthy dish and so the taste reflects that. I’m not sure what sort of sauce it was in but it was pretty watery.

ImmAim is one of those places where I always feel like I ordered the wrong thing. They have so many good options I often see other people’s food arriving and wish I’d ordered that instead! I sort of did that today. I had a ravenous appetite. It was 4pm and I hadn’t eaten all day, yet I went for the light/healthy options. So, my feelings about both these dishes may have been different on a different day.

They can definitely deliver much better than this so I’ll be heading back there another time for sure. I would say that it’s still a little gem of a restaurant, I just picked the wrong options for me, so be careful! I did however have the banana mocha smoothie and it may possibly be the best smoothie I’ve had in a long time. That definitely hit the spot! The menu has smoothies, coffee, fresh juice and kombucha.

As a bike cafe, both the owner and the menu focuses on healthy options. They cook with little oil and even make a great healthy version of typical thai food such as Pad Thai. As it’s a little out of the old city too, I find the prices are much more reasonable and the portion sizes are good.

It’s a lovely relaxed place to sit and work or just hang out with friends. I often work there for a few hours and I see others doing the same. The owner, ‘O’ is so relaxed and welcoming. Despite my less than satisfied stomach on this particular day I do highly recommend this place. It’s well worth checking out.

 

Image of tables and chairs inside Immaim vegetarian restaurant
ImmAim seating area

True Coffee in Yangon

True Coffee Yangon

My first night in Yangon I happened to be staying around the corner from True Coffee.  I’ve been to a few of them in Thailand, but they aren’t my goto spot.  It seemed like it was a bit further down Nawaday street than where it was marked on Google Maps.  It also didn’t have any signs sticking out, so you won’t be able to see it until you are on right on top of it.

I had a regular sized iced americano.  It was 4,300 kyat which seemed mighty expensive for Myanmar.  it’s about 1300 mmk to a USD (Nov 2016) so that’s around $3.30 USD.

Wifi Speed: Decent (for Myanmar) 1.5 mbps / .4 mbps.  In reality, loading web pages was ok.  I downloaded the photos for this post and it took over 2 minutes to download a 2mb file.  Youtube was semi-watchable, but there were times I’d need to pause to let it load for a bit.

Seats: There were some lounge chairs in addition to the ones in the photo above.  It was pretty comfortable.

Outlets: There were a reasonable amount of outlets.  Each small seating area had a one plug outlet and the communal table had 2 outlets for 7 seats.  It’s fine if you are solo, but if a few people piled into one table, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.

True Coffee Yangon
Communal working table at True Coffee Yangon

 

Birds Nest Cafe

Image of Birds Nest restaurant sign
Birds Nest Restaurant Sign

Birds Nest Cafe, Chiang Mai:

  • Grilled Veggie Salad
  • Price: 120 baht
  • Score: 8/10
  • October 27th, 2016

I ended up eating at the Birds Nest Cafe today because the two other places along the way were closed. That’s not to say I don’t like Birds Nest, it was just further than I was hoping to walk in the heat.

I knew Birds Nest Cafe had veggie options and could probably make some vegan. As it turned out their menu is all vegetarian (but then has the option to add “free range organic chicken or pork” at an extra cost). So I guess they’re sort-of vegetarian. They also have a few vegan options.

I ordered their Grilled Veggie Salad. It doesn’t specify that it’s vegan on the menu but the ingredients listed were all vegan. I asked for no cheese just in case.

Plate with a bed of salad, red pepper, red onion, cashew nuts, tomato, green beans, grilled mushroom, and sesame seeds next to some cutlery and a glass of ginger tea
Grilled Veggie Salad at Birds Nest Cafe

The salad was a bed of leafy greens with red pepper, red onion, and grilled veggies, topped with cashew nuts and sesame seeds. The grilled vegetables are seasonal but I had tomato and green beans in mine. The veggies were actually pretty substantial. There was a lot of mushroom though and I’d have liked a few more different types of veg.

My salad came with a balsamic olive oil dressing but they also have a passion fruit dressing too. I think I poured too much oil on my salad so it was quite oily for me. But, I still really enjoyed it. I was really hot and really hungry. I wanted something light but filling and this did the trick and it tasted good.

The dish cost 120 baht which is pretty standard in Chiang Mai at the moment. It’s definitely more expensive than Thai food but Birds Nest tries to use organic vegetables as much as they can. Their food contains no preservatives, MSG or GMO and they try to support local farmers and stores. They also have a focus on homemade food (their bread, pita, bagels etc).

Birds Nest Cafe is a bit of a hippie cafe. You order and pay at the counter first. Then there are both tables and chairs to sit at, or Thai style mattresses to sit on the floor and eat at low tables. It can get a bit hot and sticky inside if it’s busy and others have claimed all the fans but usually there’s enough to go around. The wifi is pretty reliable too.

Comfortable tables and chairs in the downstairs area of Birds Nest cafe

How to get to Boracay from Iloilo City

Everything I read on the internet or was told by locals on how to get to Borcay from Iloilo City was wrong.

Ceres Bus:

First thing to note is that the Ceres bus no longer stops at Tagbak terminal (Oct 2016).  I repeat, if you want to take this bus, DO NOT GO TO TAGBAK TERMINAL.  You need to go to the New Ceres Terminal which is about 1km down the road.  If you want to sit around waiting for a van to fill up, you can go to the little shop across the street from Tagbak.  I took the bus.  It took over 7 hours which is much longer than I head read.  Had I known there was even a chance it would take that long, you’d never have gotten me on that bus.  The roads were under construction and there was a number of times where only one lane was open on the road and we’d have to wait 15-20 minutes for the lane to clear so we could proceed.

When you get to the New Ceres Bus Terminal, everything is pretty straightforward which is very different than the total chaos (and no signs) at Tagbak Terminal.  All the buses are in one row and each lane has a sign saying where it’s going.  You just get on the bus and someone will come to collect the far partway through the journey.  You’ll want to take the bus to Caticlan which is where the jetty port to Boracay is.  The bus drops you right at the jetty so there’s nothing to worry about there.

When you get off of the bus, it’s worth looking around for a minute as there are a number of ferry companies.  You’ll pay a base ticket fare of up to 100 pesos for the aircon boat and 25-30 for the open air (Oct 2016).  After that, you’ll need to pay a terminal fee of 100 php and an environmental fee of 75.  It’s worth noting that you’ll probably be able to get on a boat immediately, but it won’t leave until it’s got a few passengers on it already.  I messed up and took the air con ferry and they rushed me to the boat and then I sat there in the freezing cold for 25 minutes until it actually left.  Take the open air boat.  They are smaller, cheaper and fill up faster.  And if it sinks, you won’t be trapped down below….

Wifi on the bus never worked for me.  The aircon worked and it wasn’t too cold.  As far as buses go, it was fine.  The TV programs were actually pretty good.

When you get off the jetty, there is a line of trikes.  There is a sign with set prices, but I think it’s bullshit.  I paid 120 php to get to Station 2 which is about halfway up the island.  The traffic and roads are terrible so it took probably 25-30 minutes to get up there.  I tried to haggle the price down briefly, but it didn’t work.  I think locals pay 20 php each to take those rides on Boracay so we’re definitely getting ripped off, but after the 7+ hour bus ride I didn’t have any energy to fight it.  Getting to Borcay from Iloilo City was such a long miserable journey.

Where to stay in Boracay?

I stayed in a private room at the Jeepney Hostel and Kite Resort while my friends booked out a 4-bed dorm room at the Mad Monkey Hostel just down the street.  It was ok, but I don’t think I’d stay there again.

The hostel is located on the East side of the middle island in Station 2.  It’s about a 10 minute walk from the center of the beach party zone which is on the West side of the island.

It’s a hostel so I wasn’t expecting anything fancy, but I was a little bummed to find my room was practically inside the upstairs bar.  It didn’t end up being an issue while I was staying there, but I could see it being a problem in some situations.

I did a load a laundry through them and it cost 45 pesos for 1 kg (Oct 2016).

Here’s what the room looked like after some vegan slept in it:

Private room Jeepney Hostel Boracay
Private room at Jeepney Hostel in Boracay

Not much to report on the bathroom.  The water pressure was decent and there was hot water.

jeepney hostel bathroom boracay
The bathroom was fine