If you didn't know this part of Chiang Mai, it is unlikely that you would come upon the Bodhi Tree Cafe sitting in the shadow of Wat Pha Khao - the serene Buddhist temple that doesn't seem to be on the usual tourist trail.
It's wonderfully rejuvenating to eat here - and surprisingly quiet considering that it is located in the middle of the Old City of Chiang Mai. At the same time, it is also true that on no side are the roads large enough to accommodate cars. The stray motorbike occasionally make its way past the cafe, but for the most part, you will only see bicycles or people on foot - but few of these still, it must be said.
Everyone should make an effort to eat at the Bodhi Tree Cafe, but for the avid plant-eater, it would be a particular pity to miss this spot. There are more than a few meat-free restaurants to rave about in Chiang Mai, but the Bodhi Tree Cafe is a stand alone eatery, in my eyes.
Full flavoured homemade condiments at the Bodhi Tree Cafe
This simple little cafe provides some of the 'cleanest' vegan and vegetarian food in Chiang Mai. The owner, Lotus, is one of those ladies that really believes in what she serves in her cafe. She believes strongly in the connection between our diet, and our wider experience and interaction with the planet. And this shows in the way that she runs this peaceful oasis.
Staff go to particular pains to ensure the freshness of the food and are regulars at Chiang Mai's organic markets. There is also an emphasis here on 'living food' - which is one of the biggest draws of the Bodhi Tree Cafe. This is one of the few restaurants in Chiang Mai where Raw Vegans can really feel looked after.
There is a raw menu that shows a lot more insight into the Raw Vegan way of eating than many restaurants do and this is demonstrated by the presence of filling raw smoothies, astoundingly delicious raw dressings, raw mains and even sometimes some delightful raw desserts on their menu.
The cooked food can't go unremarked upon though. The vegan mushroom soup, in particular, is a soothing pleasure for days when you might be a little low on energy. They also have a selection of traditional Thai dishes in vegetarian manifestations and some of the salads are influenced by the cuisine of neighbouring countries - take for example the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad a popular dish in the north, which is located so close to the Burmese border.
Like, Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant at Wat Suan Dok this is a restaurant that embraces what is known here as 'slow food'. Yes, it takes a while. But most of the food is made from whole ingredients with lots of care and consideration and they proudly don't use additives and MSG. Understandably, introducing flavour naturally takes a little more work. It is worth it though. The food feels better for you - and you feel better after it.
There's no rush here anyway, and it is easy to sit and talk and escape the Thai climate in the shade of the cafe. There are also fans provided for you, and while you may sit on chairs at normal tables, the floor seating with cushions and low tables is far more true to the feel of this place.
It must be said that the prices are a little more than what you would pay for standard local food here in Chiang Mai. At the same time, the portions here are larger than usual, and the food is naturally flavoured, and of a freshness that you can't find easily elsewhere.
Aside from the food, the Bodhi Tree Cafe also tends to be a hub for discovering natural and holistic gatherings in Chiang Mai and is often the venue for these events. The Bodhi Tree cafe Facebook page is an excellent place to look for notifications about upcoming events.