The weird thing about being vegan is everyone else’s reaction. After three years of veganism in Thailand, it’s been an interesting journey into a subculture that I’d otherwise be pretty ignorant about. Prior to our decision, we considered ourselves fairly balanced and healthy, but afterwards, we see ourselves as lifelong students always expanding our knowledge about nutrition, food, and diet.

Breakfast at Annie’s in Lampang, 2022

We’ve been living in Lampang, a small city in Northern Thailand for about a year and a half now. And for veganism, it’s been surprisingly great. When we were in Rayong, on the Eastern Seaboard, closer to Bangkok, it was nonexistent and bleak, but thankfully, I was able to cook at home. These days, I don’t have the time, but there are many Thai vegetarian restaurants here, especially considering the town’s size and population.

In Chiang Mai, for instance, there are a lot of vegan options and restaurants. In fact, it’s considered the top vegan city in the world or one of the top depending on the source. Working and living a mere hour and a half away has been a real boon and pleasure for us.

Smoothie bowl from Goodsouls in Chiang Mai, 2022

But the strange thing about being vegan, I could not have anticipated, has been other people’s reactions towards us. For Thais, it’s not a big deal, most likely because it’s a lifestyle traditionally tied to Buddhism or Guanyin. Most vegetarian restaurants here are located near temples. And I use vegetarian and vegan interchangeably in Thailand because if a Thai restaurant is vegetarian, it’s vegan by default because Thai cooking does not include dairy products.

At work, however, where I work with both expats and Thais, it’s a little different. First of all, I don’t announce that I’m vegan. I’m very careful not to influence my students and whenever I’m asked why by the kids, I tell them for it’s for my health. I’m not on a crusade, although it would be easy to do so because I feel fairly educated, passionate, and I care about others. But, I bring my own meals and keep to myself.

When there are special events or holidays, I’m generally ignored. I don’t expect special treatment, but for this year’s Christmas staff party, I left because there was nothing for me to eat. We had just spent a long day ice skating with the kids and I was hungry. The past couple of times there was a special event, I was once offered a salad, which was nice, but also laughable, as in, there are so many things I can eat, so I passed to bring something that was more substantial. And the other time, the cook panicked and I said, it’s okay, don’t worry about me.

Yeah, we’ve gone to Goodsoul’s a lot… their Philly Cheesesteak is auh-mazing.

Now, Christmas party or not, I don’t care. I shamed the school into providing food for us because last year, it was a potluck, but this year, there was no time or energy for such things. The kicker though was in order to receive a gift from the raffle, you had to show up, and since I didn’t, well, let’s just say the Christmas spirit is dimly lit in some corners of the world.

I’m reminded of a couple of things. One, when we discovered that one of our students (this was at another school) was Muslim, so he couldn’t partake in the (ham and sausage) pizza party. He said never mind with a smile. And two, when a colleague from last year brought hummus to the party and that thoughtfulness touched my heart. I know, so dramatic, but no, I’m just a sensitive soul. Kindness counts.

You might think, “Why Lani, you should have brought your own food to share, and showed everyone how delicious vegan food can be”, to which I’d reply, “go take a flying leap”. (See: crusade and no time or energy)

Most folks are close-minded when it comes to food, me included. My husband made an astute observation, when it comes to meat, if you didn’t grow up with it, you’re less likely to try it. I was always squeamish about seafood, organ meats, and chicken feet. But let’s face it, it’s all about the sauce and seasonings because to eat meat plain is incredibly bland.

Meat Me in Mexico burger from I’m Your Vegan, Chiang Mai, 2022

Recently, one of our longtime friends apologized for ordering seafood at a restaurant after he remembered we were vegan. Another one, when he’s with us, orders vegetarian. Both are sweet and conscientious, but it’s not necessary. We grew up eating meat and it’s all around us. Interestingly, one of the top reasons why vegans quit is due to the social pressure.

So in some ways, it’s easier for us to be vegan in Thailand where we’re surrounded by unfamiliar food and a language barrier. But if you think about it, much of our social interactions center around food. “Let’s have brunch, coffee, lunch, or dinner.” “See you at the party!” Even if you meet up for a spin around the museum or a walk in the park, it’s natural to then grab a bite to eat. Friends can feel put off by our diet, which is fascinating, as if we have a handicap, and what if we did? Sometimes, we consider telling folks that we’re vegan for religious reasons…

Because vegans receive a freight-load of hate and hostility. We’re the butt of many jokes. You’ll never see an article on “why I started smoking or drinking again”, but there are plenty of “why I quit veganism” stories running around vying for your attention. We’ve chosen to not include certain things in our diet and that makes us stupid and evil? Maybe it’s the guilt? Of course, there are vegans who are aggressive about it, but they appear to be a small faction. Trust me, there are fanatical meat-eaters, too.

Despite the challenges, they aren’t so for my husband and I. We’re used to being outsiders, left-handed, American expats, creatives who have learned to push through adversity, and quite frankly, are strengthened by it. I love being vegan, and I’m happy with my dynamic and robust relationship with food and my body.

Black sesame pancakes from Goodsouls. Yummy for my tummy.


// Why do you eat fake meat? Like burgers?

We grew up in a culture that eats meat. It’s only natural to want or crave familiar foods from holidays or home-cooked meals.

And despite popular belief, these plant-based meats are not less healthier for you than the real thing because they are processed.

// Where do you get your protein?

It can be challenging to get everything you need and this applies to omnivores, as well. Protein is rarely a problem, but things like B12 or Omega 3s are. It requires a little research on alternatives and or taking supplements. It’s like any diet, really. Many women over the age of 50, for example, take calcium supplements.

// Don’t you think of veganism as an extreme diet?

Raising and feeding an animal, then cutting and cleaning for consumption might be considered extreme, but we’ve been raised to believe this is normal. You could look at veganism as an elimination diet. Many people choose to not eat certain foods. Is this normal?

// Why are you vegan?

For my health. In Thailand, meat and dairy are often not handled in sanitary ways. (and I suspect that this is a more worldwide phenomenon) Food poisoning is common here. But the longer I’m on the diet, the more I appreciate the other benefits, too.

Do you know any vegans?

17 replies on “The weird thing about being vegan

  1. I know you, Lani. I think my niece is vegan. As you can tell, we rarely entertain at our house so I can’t be sure. Thankfully when I go out for brunch with friends, there are almost always several vegan options.
    My son made Ful medames for dinner tonight. It was absolutely delicious. Who could ask for more?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s nice that restaurants have vegan options nowadays. I had to look up Ful mendames as I’ve never heard of it before. Thanks for the new recipe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In the US, much meat consumption anymore is just commercially motivated… it’s cheap to produce on a large scale, and consequently profitable to someone. The unfortunate consequences are both ethical and nutritional. So when food-sources become unrecognizable, I think it’s fair to insist that we better understand them.
    I’m certainly not a vegan. But I think the practice brings up some salient arguments for why we should all carefully consider the animal proteins in their own diets.

    And the food all looks delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, I certainly don’t expect the world to become vegan. I like that some Thais practice a vegan diet, like once or twice a week. Or that there’s a yearly vegetarian festival here.

      It would be nice if folks didn’t see veganism as a threat, but as a new way of evolving into more sustainable and conscious way of consuming.

      And OMG, a hell-yes to recognizing the commercial motivation of the meat industry. I recently learned that the reason why it’s cheap in the US is because the govt provides subsidies.

      And thanks! The food was wonderful, xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some of my best friends are vegan, and most are vegetarian. You are so right in how we are taught to consider certain things like eating meat as ‘normal’. It was so freeing to me when I gave up meat, as frankly, I never liked it and could only consume it when doused in sauces or spices. I still use diary, but I definitely think that vegan or vegetarian food is much more interesting than meat dishes, and to me at least, much tastier. In this day and age, I really think that at formal social events food should reflect the dietary preferences of employees. It is just the right thing to do, besides it being the kind thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful remarks, and I’m glad to hear that you’re not eating meat! I really do feel it’s the way of the future for a sustainable and more humane planet. Once lab grown meat feels more ‘Star Trek’ to people rather than frightening, it will be difficult to justify raising an animal to kill it for food.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The food in your first two photos looks delicious! Asia is a great place for a variety of fruit and veggies. Alas, some cuisines have little to offer after you take out the meat.

    I’m not a vegan, but I understand why it’s a good choice.

    I’m guessing at a couple of reasons you might encounter negative reactions. Some people might feel that they’re being judged for eating meat (even though you’re not judging them.) Another reason: not wanting to bother preparing options for one’s guests. I notice, though, that weddings and such always offer a vegetarian option these days. Progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nicki. Yes, we forget that life doesn’t revolve around us and it’s easy to take things personally. I certainly fall into that mindset time and time again.

      Good point about certain cuisines — Asian dishes have a tendency to lean more towards vegetarianism/veganism, but you’d be surprised by how much that’s changed. It’s okay though, there’s still a religious component that’s there.


  5. Interesting post. Especially the mention of fake meat. I have never eaten meat and therefore actually find the texture and sometimes the smell of fake meats stomach churning. My wife grew up eating meat then stopped when we married, so sometimes buys fake bacon, chicken slices etc. She has to cook and eat them when I am out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did I know that you’ve never eaten meat? That sounds like an interesting childhood story!

      Yes, the fake meat thing is strange to say, and yet, I’ve gotten used to it. I think because Thais use it so much in vegetarian cooking. Often it is soy or mushroom based.

      And I’m glad you and the wife have reached a compromise 😉


      1. Soy/tofu I like. Quorn, however, is horrible.

        I don’t recall the details, or much of my childhood at all, but a combination of food intolerances and clueless parents meant I pretty much lived on raw vegetables until my teens. It took years of patience on the part of my wife to broaden my palate. Nowadays, provided it is veggie I will try anything. I draw the line at courgettes though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re so funny. Although, food intolerances must have been frustrating. I’ve definitely become less fussy, than when I was a child, and veganism has helped me broaden my palate. Hope you are well, D! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. No one in my family is vegan or even vegetarian. Myself I’ve simply eaten less meat over the past 25 yrs. Some of it is cost and while other is sheer laziness. I eat at home a fistful of meat per dish, about only 3-4 times / month.

    I just find it’s easiest on my digestive system. When we vacationed in Europe last time, Iate meat almost every consecutive day which later, found it hard on my system: I became constipated. I wanted to try meat dishes seldom served in Canadian big city restaurants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The reason why you find it easier on your digestive system is because meats take longer for your body to digest, so that makes sense. You’re also probably more in-tune with your body and how it feels. I think folks know when they feel bloated or constipated, but chose to ignore it because they don’t really want to eliminate any foods from their diets. But as I said earlier, I see veganism as a diet that has opened possibilities rather than the opposite. Thanks, Jean for stopping by. Hope you are well xo

      Liked by 1 person

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