It is during a drive on a moped amongst the internal streets of the village of Pai, northern Thailand, that in one of the side streets I come across Chew Xin Jai, a totally vegan restaurant.
It is drizzling down in this summer afternoon, and hunger is striking me, so I park the scooter, I get out of the raincoat, I take off my shoes, as required in the welcome sign, and I enter the restaurant – which more than a restaurant seems a mix between a dwelling and a temple. I approach the buffet counter, where I am welcomed by a row of inviting steel trays that hold a series of warm dishes having an excellent look.
Four girls sitting at the table next to the bar are singing a chant in Chinese language, in unison, reading the text in large notebooks opened on the desk of. One of them leaves the group to come and serve me, speaking in a broken Thai. She fills my dish with brown rice and I make my choice, pointing my finger to a pumpkin stew and to a green curry tofu and baby eggplants.
I sit down, I order ginger tea from a list of teas and natural smoothies, and I start eating, looking around me from time to time. The ambient is nothing but relaxed.
On the walls are several paintings that frame inscriptions in Chinese calligraphy; at the center of the place is a stone fountain that makes water circulates continuously, its sound is mixing with the chants of the four girls. A human sized statue in fine wood of the goddess Kuan Yin stands on a wood pedestal behind me. At its back, past a teak door in Chinese motifs, there is a room that houses a temple and an effigy of a Buddha that sports strong Chinese features.
The girl brings me the tea and goes back to sit among her friends, contributing to the chant that continues unabated. I taste the food, spiced to perfection, and accompanied by the impressive sound of the water flowing from the fountain; in a picture hanging on the hight of the wall at the side, a group of colorful carps swim in a pond where large lotus flowers grow, and seem to be watching me.
I love this kind of situation, and I linger longer for no apparent reason after finishing the meal, just o appreciate this little corner of serenity in hyper tourist town of Pai.
Chew Xin Jai is a spacious, clean and charming restaurant that is well worth a visit. Plus, it seems to be the only 100% vegan restaurant in town.
Choice of food is either a quality buffet with lots of dishes complete with mock meat, as you would expect, or an extensive a-la-carte menu with plenty of choice.
The buffet is great, I advise to come early for maximum freshness of food. The buffet ends at 5pm (or when the food runs out), after which you are left with the dishes in the menu. Complimentary water is available, as well as a table with a number of bowls containing various condiments, all worth a try, though some pretty spicy.
Chew Xin Jai is pretty inexpensive and accepts cash only.
This restaurant is located in the road that runs between the post office and 7/11 street and the large Pai Police station building. If you grab a free Pai map from the bus station or other establishment, it is labeled as ‘pure vegetarian food’. They have a yellow sign reading ‘vegetarian’ on the corner of both sides of the street, pointing the direction of the restaurant, plus you cannot miss the Chinese temple-styled facade.
Chew Xin Jai
222 Moo 4, Wiang Tai, Pai
085 7173628 – 080 8604178
Open Monday to Sunday 8am to 7pm
For trips and things to do in Pai, read: