Lamai is a funny old place, a sort of humble little brother to the flash and raucous Chaweng. It’s an area of Samui where local Thais ply their various trades to tourists from a busy long street, but do so respectfully and with a smile on their faces. There are bars which struggle to fill up, yet are packed with local girls enticing men inside – situated right next to family friendly restaurants and thriving little sports bars.
Through all this, a beautiful beach sits just around the corner. It’s a mash-up of what a young lad in England might think of when they think of Thailand, and also what an older couple looking for a relaxing break might imagine.
It’s also surprisingly easy to eat vegan here. Our hotel, Visit Natural Detox Resort, encouraged our booking by advertising a vegan cafe on site. This cafe, Wild Tribe, is actually ‘flexitarian’ and serves meat, eggs and dairy – so I don’t think it can actually call itself vegan.
However, it’s still there and does serve nice vegan options. However, our favourite restaurant was a little shopfront staffed by two brothers and their mother, who cook anything to order from their menu. We explained that we only ate vegan and what that entailed and they cooked us up a wide array of meals all week – at an insanely cheap 70 baht each.
Elsewhere, there are two other great options we tried – Lamai Veggie which is a daytime cafe run by a sweet older lady who does a rotating set menu for just 80 baht per meal, and Funky Vege Cafe which is entirely vegan and serves delicious Thai curries as well as burgers all around 150 baht.
If you’re willing to walk about a bit, as each is separated by around 10-15 minutes of walking, all of these options are delicious. We also indulged frequently in fresh fruit shakes made for anything from 30 baht to 70 baht. So what did we think of each individual place?
Wild Tribe Cafe
Wild Tribe is like the trendy yoga parent who wears the latest fashion releases and always has perfect hair and makeup. It’s the upmarket place in Lamai, offering a range of vegan options from breakfasts such as overnight oats and sourdough toast through to smoothie bowls and burgers.
All of these meals are far more expensive than other options in Lamai, but you are paying for more westernised food. Unfortunately, the cafe markets itself as vegan yet has plenty of non-vegan options, which I don’t agree with. It’s fine to eat vegan at a non-vegan restaurant, but you can’t write ‘vegan cafe’ on a place that isn’t.
Ellen and I both enjoyed smoothie bowls from here that were totally delicious. At 220 baht each, however, I couldn’t help feeling like I could have had three meals from my thai friends in the village. Still, they were really, really good so perhaps the price is worth it. After all, compared to western food prices, it’s still cheap – but you do get spoiled on cheap prices in Thailand.
Unnamed street vendor
Two brothers and their mother run a little stall which is a short walk down from Lamai Muay Thai and Visit Natural Detox Resort – just past the first pharmacy on your left. Charlie, the man we’ve spoken to the most, is a lovely guy who lives between Thailand and Japan and has brought Japanese cooking to the island. They cook everything outside on two gas burners – offering both meat and veg options.
After a quick explanation of no egg, no milk and no fish sauce, the brothers whipped us up amazing meals that we kept coming back for every night. We’ve feasted on Tofu Pad Thai, (top image) Massamam Curry, Green Curry, Penang Curry and a delicious mango salad with tofu (pictured). Each and every option has been packed with flavour. And at 70 baht a meal and 50 baht for a mango sticky rice dessert, who can possibly resist?
Funky Vege Cafe
Funky Vege Cafe is on the main road that runs past Lamai, about 20 minutes away from our hotel. It’s a little cafe that is entirely vegan and serves a host of options. We made it here once after a long walk and I had the best Massamam Curry I’ve ever had (pictured below), with a break from tofu thanks to some of the meatiest mushrooms!
Ellen had a yellow curry with the same mushrooms in it and we both found our meals utterly satisfying. To drink Ellen had a ginger and carrot juice, while I had a mango and passionfruit smoothie that was more like a sorbet than a drink. It was, however, lush. All in all, one of the best meals we have had so far in Thailand and the final bill was less than 500 baht.
Open from 10.30am til 4pm, the window to actually get to this fabulous little cafe was difficult while we first adjusted to the jetlag and wanted to go see some sights. when we actually made it, we were suitably impressed. The cafe is run by a lovely older woman who explains her daily set menu to you. There are some soy meat products that are ready to eat and you can buy to add to your meal – Ellen and I tried them all, naturally.
The meals we had both days were fairly similar, probably owing to the fact we went Friday then Saturday and her day off is Sunday so would have had ingredients to use up – but the trays are so delicious it doesn’t even matter. 80 baht gets you a metal tray of food (though i could probably manage two trays). We also had a delicious caramel slice which had minimal ingredients that were all listed on the menu. All in all, just a fantastic place with a homely and welcoming feel.
In summary, Lamai has made eating vegan fairly easy. Between the higher budget restaurants that ply seafood and pizza, we’ve managed to make the most of Thai options with tofu as well as some lovely veggie-specific restaurants. And hey, some of the fruit is the best in the world! So, you could always just have mango smoothies at around 30-40 baht for breakfast – that’s what we did for at least three days! If you’re vegan in Koh Samui, Lamai has some great choices to try out.