Whatever country we come from, as a vegan, we generally don’t make our lives very easy. Moving to China, however, is a good way to make our lives just that much harder. And moving to the countryside in China… Well, that’s just like shooting yourself in the foot and then trying to run a marathon on it. Alone.
So, hopefully you’re prepared for the challenge!
This will be a two-part post on survival in Yangshuo, concentrating firstly on the practical aspects, and moving onto the mental aspects in Part 2.
Knowing your Limits –
The first thing you have to do is address and know your limits. Ask yourself the questions; How strict am I going to be? Is cross-contamination an issue? What to do if nothing is available? Chicken/fish broth, how do I feel about that? Etc.
They’re your limits and they’re personal. Only you can know how far you can push yourself under difficult circumstances.
Then, you have to be realistic. You may have to adapt these from your current lifestyle. Something you wouldn’t dream of eating in your home country suddenly seems not so bad when it’s the only thing you’ve been able to find all day. Also, unless you have adequate Chinese skills, the chances that something will be cooked in chicken broth, or fried in the same pan as whatever other meat the last person just ordered, are very high. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this if you’re wanting to eat out – apart from visiting the international places (see below).
Cooking isn’t a massive thing in China, so kitchens and equipment are limited. It’s great for everyone else who’s happy about the cheap street food and no need to cook – but not so great for those who actually want to know what they’re eating.
With this in mind, you should also take into consideration how long you’re in Yangshuo for. If you’re here for a week or so, eating out in international restaurants may be a bit pricey but not too bad – but if you’re setting up camp for the next few months, you’ll probably want to make sure you can get a place you can cook in.
Where to eat? –
Below is a list of international places located in the centre of town that would be happy to serve up some tasty 100% vegan dishes. There is also one or two listings on the Happy Cow app.
Ganga Impression – Indian
The Lounge – Western
The Brew – German/Western
The Supermarket –
If you don’t speak or read Chinese, you’re going to be 99% lost in the local supermarket. If you can bring a Chinese speaker with you for your first couple of times, you’re in luck! They’ll be able to tell you a few staple things you can buy and then live off. Most items, however, do not have an English translation. Google Translate provides an app through the camera to read Chinese, however, how accurate this is is anyone’s guess, as there are a lot of mixed reviews around.
On the other hand, for staples such as rice, seeds and nuts, supermarkets can be a haven – that’s if you can recognise nuts and seeds by sight without reading the name, or are happy just having a go at anything.
There are also street markets every few meters in Yangshuo meaning that fruit and vegetables are in abundance. Cheap fruit and veg. includes bananas, apples, mango, aubergine (egg plant) and tomatoes. Make sure to stock up every day on what you need, since fruit goes off crazy quickly in Yangshuo!
A great tip is to bring a whole load of food from your home country, such as packets of Cous Cous or other staples that you think you will miss and can give you that nutrition kick you need. Chocolate and biscuits are also a must, but that goes without saying.
Something you may wish to invest in is some nutritional powder that you can bring round to keep your levels up. A great one is Huel made from pea proteins and is a nutritionally complete meal replacement. Great for when you’re travelling and don’t know when you’ll get your next meal.
Learning Chinese –
If you’re going to be in China for an extended period of time, this is an absolute must. Even if it’s just the basics to get yourself understood. You may also want to make sure you can read some key characters, especially useful for looking at ingredients in the supermarket. If you don’t manage to learn anything in time, here are two super simple but key phrases you’ll need for Chinese cuisine:
Wo bu chi rou – I don’t eat meat
Wo chi shucai – I eat vegetables
Another good idea is to bring round a translation card with you.
Staying Healthy & Activities –
There are lots of activities you can get into around the area to help you to stay fit and healthy, both in body and mind. There are Tai Chi schools in the area, as well as a detox place for meditation and Enzyme Cleanses. You can also go for runs and bike rides surrounded by the calm serenity of the mountains.
Ultimately, the most important thing to look out for is your health – especially if you’re going to be here long term. You have to be realistic and listen to your body. Make sure you are getting the right nutrients in the correct quantities, and if you are struggling it is ok if you slip up now and again. It may take time, but it is definitely do-able, and once you’ve overcome being vegan in China, you can do it anywhere!