Figuring out how to get from Bacolod to Iloilo City was pretty easy. I took the ferry over today. I used GrabTaxi to go from 6th Street in Bacolod to the ferry terminal.
The taxi cost 68 pesos. I imagine there is a way to do it via jeepney for much less. Depending on where you are staying in the city, it may also be walkable.
I planned to take the 15:45 ferry to Iloilo City and I used Ocean Jet because their schedule and pricing was all online. I arrived at about 15:20, bought a air-con/tourist class ticket for 200 pesos. The ride took about an hour. The aircon room below was really cold so as long as it’s not the middle of the day in the summer, I’d just sit up in the open-air area next time.
When you get off the ferry, you’ll see a million taxi dudes. I don’t know if they are all terrible or not, but I just walked past them and out the gate. If you are going to the Iloilo City proper, you could probably walk, but the pollution and traffic aren’t very fun. I took a trike for 50 pesos to the Robinson’s which also houses the hotel I stayed at.
I stayed at the Go Hotels Iloilo which is attached to a Robinson’s mall and has a Starbucks right next door. I chose it for the location. It was comfortable enough. It’s a non-smoking hotel, but my room had a faint smokey smell to it.
People often wonder how I could possibly ever survive here in Chiang Mai as a vegan. Considering I’ve been here well over 10 years and I still haven’t died, I think I’m doing fairly well. There is veggie food all around you, and I’m not just talking the salad shops that have sprung up in the last 2 years or. There are tons of veggie spots in town. On Suthep road alone, there are 3 lined up in a row each doing their own thing and there are 3 more down back roads within 5 minute walking distance from the first 3.
**Tip: Keep an eye out for the yellow vegetarian flags.
There are 2 main types of veggie eats in Thailand and while they both avoid meat entirely, there are a some important differences.
Jeh versus Mung
มังสวิรัติ [mung sa wi rut] comes from the Sanskrit mamsa, which means “meat” and virat which means “without.” So this is essentially an acceptable translation of “vegetarian.” As with in English, some people may or may not eat eggs and/or dairy. เจ [jeh] comes from the Chinese word 齋 (jai1/jaai1) which is also the source for the equivalent words in Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.
If you happen to be reading this in October, then you are in luck, my friend. That’s the easiest time of year to eat vegan in Thailand. This is when the Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ) happens. During that time almost everybody gets on the jeh train for a bit. Some people eat jeh for the entire month, the entire 10 day festival, and most franchise restaurants (Black Canyon, MK, etc) offer at least one jeh option, but some actually have a full jeh menu during the festival. The only downside is that a lot of regular jeh restaurants don’t really do anything special during this time except get a lot more crowded than usual and in some cases raise their prices. Yay for jeh.
As far as the food goes, the main difference between Jeh and Mung is that real Jeh forbids eating food with really strong flavours and/or smells as it is believed that each one does harm to different parts of the body. This includes stuff like chives, garlic, parsley, and onions.
So what does all this mean for you? Real Jeh food will always be vegan. But, you need to be careful as some jeh places will have 1 or 2 Mung options which may contain egg. And even though jeh avoids really strong flavours, it can still taste pretty awesome. They often make all kinds of fake vegan meats to help ease the suffering of all those poor meat eaters who torture themselves by abstaining from me for a meal, a day or the entire vegetarian festival.
What are my choices?
Jeh – Technically vegan, but watch out for those handful of places that will have one or 2 dishes with egg. Jeh spots will almost always have one or more yellow flags posted both inside and out. The flag will either say เจ , the Chinese character the word is based on or both. They often use a Chinese-y font so sometimes the word เจ looks a bit like the number “17”.
Mung(sawirat) – Vegetarian w/eggs. As far as things eaten with rice, dairy is pretty rare, but pastries and other sweets sold at Mung places may contain butter, cream and/or milk.
What do I do if I can’t find a jeh place?
Some regular restaurants may attempt to accommodate you or at least make you think they are doing so.
Watch out for:
Vegetable dishes at regular spots will always contain oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is dark, oily and gummy. And it comes from oysters! If you don’t want it in there, you gotta say so. You’ll know if it’s not in there, because they will probably only have used soy sauce and vegetable oil. So it may be bland, but vegan.
Solution: ไม่ใส่น้ำ–มัน–หอย (mai sai nam-man-hoi) – Don’t put in oyster sauce.
Fish sauce is another standard ingredient in a lot of (almost all!) Thai dishes.
Solution: ไม่ใส่น้ำ–ปลา (mai sai nam-plaa)
Soup broth – At non-jeh places, even if they say there isn’t any meat in it, it will still have meat stock so skip the soup.
Dishes that usually Contain Egg: ข้าวผัด – fried rice (khaao pad) ผัดไทย – pad thai ผัดซีอิ๊ว – pad see-yu
*ผัด (pad) = stir-fried/sauteed
Solution: ไม่ใส่ไข่ (mai sai kai)
Even if you ask for something jeh, they don’t always really know what that means so you are better off making it as clear as possible.
Full Sentence: เอาข้าวผัดเจไม่ใส่ไข่ (ow kaaw pad jeh mai sai kai) – I’d like friend rice (jeh) without egg.
First thing you want to do is find out if they are willing to try to make you something jeh/mung. And just because they tell you they can, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to forget and give you something wish oyster sauce or fish sauce. Aside from being a tonal language, Thai also contains a whole lot more vowel sounds than English and when you say the vowels wrong, people probably won’t understand you. Be patient with them as you are the one who needs something from them and may not be able to
speak their language.
I remember this one time, a buddy of mine ordered a bottle of water and got a coconut, so watch out friends, watch out.
Just follow the yellow flag folks. The word เจ in Thai when written in the Chinese-y font below kinda looks like a 17.
Finding vegan food in Bacolod (or anywhere in the Philippines) is tough. No really, it’s a nightmare. Happy Cow says there are 3 places in Bacolod. I’ve been to 2 so far and they leave a lot to be desired. Like taste and vegetables.
The supermarket had entire aisles devoted to different types of treats: Wafers, puffs, chocolate drinks, etc. It was horrible.
Location: Bacolod, Philippines (3rd floor food court at Robinson’s Mall)
Date: Sunday, Oct 23rd, 2016
Food: Budget Meal (2 scoops of goop!)
Cost: 75 Pesos
Dish Rating: 4/10
The first time I went there, it was pretty quiet and there were only 3 options to choose from. I had the “budget meal” which comes with 2 items with rice. None of them looked terribly appetizing. The price was 85 pesos for everything below including the drink. I’m not entirely sure what it was. They called it juice. It was a little sweet, but pretty drinkable. I couldn’t identify it. Somewhere between iced tea and juice, maybe. Here’s what we’re dealing with:
As far as ingredients, it was mostly fake meat. I think the white one on top right was textured protein while the bottom one looked like tofu, but tasted more like a mushroom-based fake meats in a sweet and sour sauce. There were a few bits of vegetables, but that’s it. It was cold, so-so as far as flavour goes, but I devoured it quickly as it was the first vegan safe thing I found.
I ended up back at Veggie Bites again the next day in the hopes that there would be more choices on a weekday. Yesterday was a Sunday and I wondered if maybe that’s why there were only 3 choices. Today was slightly better. The staff again steered me towards the budget meal. I’m not sure if the wall menu is a total lie, but I don’t think they will cook you anything fresh. There were 5 different types of goop today and some spring rolls.
The budget meal was 85 + 16 for the 2 spring rolls.
Food: Budget Meal + 2 Spring rolls
Total Cost: 101
Dish Rating: 4/10
The spring rolls were cold, but tasted fine. I’m not entirely sure what was in them as I ate them in like 3 seconds, but I think there may have been some bits of potato. They did warm up the plate a bit this time.
I ended up with the same sweet and sour goop as yesterday as well as a green curry. They called it curry, but I think peanut sauce would be more accurate. The fake meat in that dish was definitely textured protein. There were some long beans in it, but still light on the veggies. It was edible, and it went down easy. You gotta take what you can get when travelling in the islands of meatopia.
Round 3: I’m back again!
Food: Budget Meal + 2 Spring rolls
Total Cost: 101
Dish Rating: 7.5/10
I finally scored this time. There was like 10 options including some massive eggplant-y things that were cut to look like fish.
This was by far the best meal I’ve had in Bacolod. The top left item was tofu with mouse-ear mushrooms in a very mild red sauce. It was kinda like sweet and sour, but much milder flavour than the other times I had a similar sauce. The middle one was mainly beansprouts and it was super good. The tofu-y looking stuff on the right was tiny tofu cubes mixed in with some other type of veggie protein. All 3 were really good.
This one was a bit tricky to find. The 888 mall is split so that it lays on 2 sides of a street. The stall is on the east side which is the older building. If you go up to the 2nd floor and head straight back and to the the right, you’ll find it. This place is actually vegetarian so if something might normally have dairy or egg in it, it’s best to ask to be sure.
They also had a “budget meal” which was 75 pesos for 2 items with rice. One of the items was pretty goopy and had some bitter gourd in it along with some textured protein. The other was a very Chinese-y stir-fry made up of almost entirely vegetables! It had Chinese celery, a tiny bit of bean sprouts and a lone piece of tofu seemed to have slipped in there as well.
The rice looks weird because it was red rice and pretty dried out. It tasted fine though. The Chinese celery based dish was pretty good, the goopy bitter gourd stuff was less so. The roll thing was really more of a tiny wrap. It wasn’t fried and it was full of vegetables. The only downside was that it was super sweet which I’m not a fan of.