In the early 1990s, I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz and had the chance to spend six months traveling in Asia. It was a life-changing experience for which I’m very grateful. However, the whole time I was traveling, I was so confused about what to eat! As a vegetarian, I didn’t want to eat fish sauce or little pieces of chopped up meat, but was spending time in countries where I didn’t speak the languages. I’m afraid that my sign language and attempts at local languages, especially the tonal ones like Thai, weren’t very good.
I kept wishing there was a travel guide to help me convey my vegetarianism. So I decided to write one. My first Vegetarian Asia: A Travel Guide came out in 1994 as a small paperback. It was a different world back then, when the internet was just starting. Research was a lot more difficult! I mostly inquired wrote to tourist offices and asked for information. Many of them didn’t know much about vegetarianism.
Early last year, I decided it was time for a new edition. I had been back to various Asian countries several times since my initial big trip. And with the internet, I could easily track down experts. I found dedicated vegetarians like Carl, the Veggie Circle blogger, who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. I was humbled that vegetarian leaders like Susianto Tseng, president of the Indonesia Vegan Society, and Duo Li, a professor who does research on the chemistry and nutrition of vegetarianism at Zhejiang University in China, would make time to answer the questions of a stranger from across the world.
I also met people online who are working directly with the plight of animals, like Kirsten Mitchell of Kirsten’s Zoo animal rescue in Hong Kong, and Kate Woolf, who has an ambitious plan to start an elephant sanctuary in Laos.
Now, after more than a year of researching, interviewing and a little bit of travel, I’m thrilled to report that I have e-published my updated Vegetarian Asia Travel Guide on Amazon. The new version is completely rewritten and updated, and now includes lots more information about vegetarianism in more than 20 Asian countries, how to find vegan food, asking for vegetarian food in different languages and a bit about the animal rights/animal welfare situation in each country. A print version should also be available before long.
I hope my efforts will prove useful for the many travelers who want to see the world while honoring their commitment to nonviolence and respect for animals.