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Touring Asia: How to Stay Vegan While in Asia
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Touring Asia: How to Stay Vegan While in Asia

There are many advantages to adopting a vegan lifestyle. It’s healthy and delicious, animals don’t have to be killed and if done right can improve your health and lead you to a more balanced diet.

It’s pretty easy to be a vegan when you live in the United States. Even many fast food restaurants have salad options that don’t involve meat or dairy. However, maintaining a vegan diet while you’re traveling abroad can be quite challenging. Different cultures enjoy different diets, so proper planning will be necessary to maintain your diet while you travel.

Vegan Travels in Asia

Eating vegan while traveling in Asia may not be as easy as you might expect. While it is true that rice and vegetables form a large part of the diet in China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, it is not common for people to adopt a purely vegan diet.

One of the reasons is economic. While South Korea and Japan are affluent countries, Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, and others are not. Those living in third-world nations may not have the luxury of being discriminate in their eating habits. It is perfectly possible to continue enjoying your vegan lifestyle, but not if you don’t plan ahead.

Traveling Vegan in Mongolia

Unless you are visiting Ulaanbaatar, think twice about traveling through Mongolia. Veganism does not exist in rural Mongolia; it is simply not practiced. Very few crops are grown in Mongolia. Their diet is centered around livestock: beef and lamb, goat and yak milk. There is not a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available, and virtually all of their cooking incorporates meat or meat products in some way.

Ulaanbaatar is a major city, however, and there are vegan options here. You can use happycow.com to help you locate vegan restaurants. If you plan on traveling outside of the capital, however, plan on bringing your own food.

Traveling Vegan in Japan

While there are some challenges to traveling in Japan on a vegan diet, it is much more hospitable than Mongolia. Japanese cuisine is much more suited to vegan tastes. The problem is that most Japanese people do not follow a strict vegan diet. Most Japanese restaurants use dashi (fish stock) liberally in much of their cooking, in the same

While there are some challenges to traveling in Japan on a vegan diet, it is much more hospitable than Mongolia. Japanese cuisine is much more suited to vegan tastes. The problem is that most Japanese people do not follow a strict vegan diet. Most Japanese restaurants use dashi (fish stock) liberally in much of their cooking, in the same way, American chefs might use chicken or beef stock.

While there are some vegan restaurants in major Japanese cities such as Tokyo, your best bet when traveling Japan is to cook for yourself. Fortunately, cooking vegan in Japan is very easy. Japanese supermarkets have a wide variety of vegetables, soy products and rice to cook from, and it’s even possible to make a vegan dashi at home and still experience the culinary treasures of Japan.

Traveling Vegan in Southeast Asia

There are too many countries in SE Asia to list them all. The local diet in Burma may be somewhat different from Cambodia or Thailand, but there are many things in common as well. Coconut milk is often used in place of regular milk, which is helpful. Vegetables will usually be easy to find. Learning to identify yourself as a vegetarian can help too because in some countries vegetarian and vegan mean the same thing.

Buddhism has a strong presence in many of these countries. Since many Buddhist monks practice veganism, you will often find that many locals follow a similar diet. Vegan diets are especially prevalent in Vietnam, thanks to Jainism. Other countries, such as Cambodia, enjoy meat more regularly. (If you are asked to attend a Cambodian wedding, don’t expect to eat anything.)

It is definitely possible to travel and see the world while maintaining your vegan lifestyle. However, it is important to remember that some countries will be easier to enjoy than others. Finally, since you are dealing with people who speak another language, there may be misunderstandings from time to time. Learn to accept this and keep on traveling.

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