Tag: travel

Best Vegan Backpack Ever!

(READ TO THE END TO GET YOUR 10% DISCOUNT!)

I’m not a girlie girl. I don’t like purses or clutches or anything that feels fussy. I like cross-body bags and backpacks, but the cross-body bags I was wearing started hurting my shoulder, so it was time to return to backpacks.

I have a very practical one from REI I like a lot, but it’s a little too casual for every occasion, so before I left for our first Vegan Paris / Alsace group trip in December 2018, I started shopping for a vegan leather backpack that was stylish as well as functional and ethical. I couldn’t find anything I liked and didn’t want to risk paying for something online that would be expensive to ship back. Alas, I ventured to Europe with my cotton backpack and figured I’d keep looking another time. (I hate shopping.)

One of the features of our Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip is a vegan / food walking tour in the Marais region of Paris, and as our lovely guide told us about the history, walked us around, and pointed out various relevant sites, she casually called our attention to a vegan leather bag shop as we walked past it. Well, far be it from vegans to pass up such a shop, so we all doubled back to see if it was open. It was closed. As we pressed our faces against the glass peering into the minimalist shop, the owner sat at his desk peering back probably wondering who this hoard of nosey Americans were. He was kind enough (and lucky enough) to open his doors for us, and it was heaven…especially for me.

This isn’t simply a vegan leather bag shop. It is a family-owned shop that specializes in one brilliant product: an animal-free, ethically made BACKPACK that comes in 3 different sizes and 10+ different colors. I couldn’t believe it. The vegan gods had smiled upon me. The bag is stylish, functional, and designed for security. (The zipper closure is hidden when closed so pickpockets can’t pick!) It’s even won awards for this design!

Truly, everything I wanted in a backpack is in this bag. It’s very stylish, very comfortable (it fits like a vest so the weight is equally distributed all over the back), lightweight, waterproof, and large enough to fit a laptop (and I got the small size!). They’re also unisex! They’re not cheap, but that’s the point: this is an ethical bag made from an environmentally friendly material that’s meant to LAST!!

The most difficult part was choosing a color. I picked a neutral dark gray color, and 4 other of our travelers bought their own: in taupe, black, teal, and mustard. 

When we returned to Paris for our 2019 Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip, we made sure a visit to Arsayo was built into our walking tour, and this time we got to see their new line of cork bags (which is what they’re focusing on now since the material is more environmentally friendly than the synthetic leather). 

NOW YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN with a 10% discount by visiting Arsayo.com and entering joyfulvegan as the coupon code! 

Our travelers in 2019 fell in love with them as well and can’t wait to use them as advocacy tools — gifting the bags to friends and family to demonstrate how you can be fashionable AND ethical!

Which is YOUR favorite color?

Vegan Travel: Vietnam

Rich in history, sophisticated cuisine, stunning scenery, pulsating cities,  fascinating culture, Vietnam is consistently rated one of the top best countries to visit, and today I take you on a journey to this beautiful place. Today’s focus is food (plant-based, of course), animal protection, nature, and culture. I let you know what animal and conservation organizations to visit and support, what to avoid in terms of animal cruelty and exploitation, and how to make the most of your trip ? whether you go on your own or as part of a CPG Vegan Trip.

Rescued Bears in Vietnam: A Dream Visit!

You have heard me talk many times about Animals Asia and the work they do to protect bears bred, trapped, imprisoned, exploited by the bear bile industry. Bears are bred or taken from the wild and confined in cages no bigger than their bodies — or in huge shipping containers that are divided into individual windowless compartments. A catheter is inserted into their gall bladder (without anesthesia), and their bile is drained from their bodies and used in traditional Chinese medicine. (Animals Asia works to end the dog meat trade in Vietnam and China). 

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On our recent CPG Vegan Trip to Vietnam (and we’re running another in 2019), we had the honor of visiting Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary, managed by the incredible Tuan Bendixsen and a dedicated staff, is spread over more than 27 beautiful acres at the edge of a nationally protected park, and everything they do is to stimulate the bears’ natural behaviors. There are pools, trees, and various structures that help with the rehabilitation of the bears and cubs.

Having been confiscated from wildlife traders and poachers, both adults and cubs are not only anxious and angry when they arrive, but they often suffer from ailments such as gall bladder damage, broken teeth from biting on bars, and other body conditions ranging from emaciation to obesity from being kept immobile and being fed a poor and inappropriate diet. They also suffer from PTSD and other psychological trauma.

The good news is that living among other rescued bears in a quiet, safe environment, they heal.  

The sanctuary has surgical facilities that are equipped to give the rescued bears the best possible chance of recovery, and we were given the opportunity to see one of the bears in surgery having a sore tooth extracted. 

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It has been my dream for 15 years to go and see the work of this amazing organization. As part of the CPG Trip to Vietnam, we were able to visit this sanctuary (and you can do so if you join us on a future trip!). 

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I hope you can join us on our next visit. If you can’t, please consider supporting Animals Asia (and follow their work via their mailing list and on social media). 

Walking History in Hanoi (Vegan Vietnam)

On CPG Vegan Trips, we go out of our way to work with the hotels and chefs on special awesome menus for us but also to give our group our own space away from meat-filled buffets. Providing them with recipes and showing what they make that’s already vegan, we’re treated to a feast wherever we go. The Metropole is no exception and even made vegan croissants just for us!

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After breakfast, we immersed ourselves in some of Vietnam’s history. True to his nature, Ho Chi Minh did not want pomp and circumstance surrounding his death and wanted his body cremated, but alas it was preserved after his passing in 1969 and is on display for public viewing. Macabre though it may sound, it was quite moving to witness veterans (of what Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War) attend and pay homage, and to see hundreds of school children visit the site.

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After viewing Ho Chi Minh’s body, we had our own guide to show us around the square where Ho Chi Minh (known as “Uncle Ho” to his people), first declared independence in 1954.

From there, we visited the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam built in 1076(!) Being an English history enthusiast, it’s amazing to think of what two completely different cultures were doing at the same time — England reeling from the invasion of the Norman conqueror (William) and Vietnam building their first university. We also arranged to have some musicians play music for us in one of the pagodas, which was lovely (short clip below).

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Before we visited the Hao Lo prison (nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs), we enjoyed a delicious lunch at KOTO, an organization that gives at-risk and underprivileged youth the opportunity to learn and thrive it their lives. KOTO is a hospitality training center and stands for “know one, teach one.” KOTO has trained over 700 students in their training centers.

At KOTO, I drank my first water sterilized by a steripen. We’ve done so much to not contribute to waste on this trip, but it’s always a challenge in a country whose drinking water isn’t potable, so alas, we have had to use some bottled water. HOWEVER, in addition to a large vat of filtered water we arrange to have on our buses for our travelers to fill their refillable water bottles with, Brighde brought along her steripen and gave me a demonstration. It uses UV rays to sterilize the bacteria in untreated water, and it’s used by backpackers and wilderness trekkers the world over. With a little trepidation, I drank up my glass of water and never had a belly ache. I’m sold.

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Our dinner on our first full day was incredible: a vegetarian restaurant called Nha Hang Chay that opened only a few months ago. The entrance is stunning, and each dish we were served was a work of art and equally stunning on the palate. I’m still dreaming of the little clouds of tofu and the hot pot, a Vietnamese staple, especially on chilly nights.

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We enjoyed a lovely walk back to our hotel on one of the main streets that is closed to cars and motor bikes on the weekends. For someone who’s not a huge city person — much less one that’s packed with cars, people, and chaos — I have to say I really love this city. I am, however, aware, that I probably wouldn’t say the same thing if we were visiting in the summer months, which are oppressively hot and humid, and we know how I feel about that!

Our Vegan Welcome Feast in Hanoi

With our CPG Vegan Trips group not arriving until evening, David, Seb and I had time to lunch at Minh Chay, a vegan restaurant restaurant with two locations). The food was absolutely delicious, but I was so hungry I didn’t even take any photos!

However, the best part about this lunch was that it was my first time trying Pho. Pho [pronounced fuh] is a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup made with animal-based broth, meat, and vegetables. It’s served with a plate of aromatic fresh herbs to add as you please, and you can also add garlic vinegar or chili paste for a little kick. In Vietnam, pho is served as a breakfast item, and traditional Vietnamese restaurants don’t serve it for lunch or dinner; however, in a less traditional or vegan restaurant, pho is on every menu.

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It may sound ridiculous that I’ve never tried pho, even though I love southeast Asian food, live in an area with an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants, and live in a city with the best vegan Vietnamese restaurant (Golden Lotus), but because I don’t tend to gravitate toward noodle dishes, I never had an interest in trying it. Well, those days are over! I can’t wait to find great pho options in restaurants near me in the San Francisco Bay area.

The other exciting thing about this lunch was that I learned my first Vietnamese phrase: “No cilantro.” Because you know. Ewwww. (And for fellow cilantro-haters, it’s không rau mùi.)

By evening all of our travelers with our travelers had arrived and we met for welcome drinks, then headed off to our welcome dinner, which was a feast at Uu Dam Chay. Chay is the Vietnamese word that means “non-meat” or “meatless,” both as a noun and an adjective. Consuming chay food doesn’t refer to vegan dishes necessarily, but it means refraining from the acts of killing of animal lives for food or otherwise. Buddhists have long observed chay eating to adhere to the principles of non-violence or “ahimsa.” Most Asian countries are familiar with this term and will understand when you say “chay”; i.e.: you don’t want meat, dairy or fish in your dish (travel tip!).

On our way to dinner, we arranged for each of our travelers to enjoy a 45-minute cyclo tour of Hanoi. Along the way, we surprised them with champagne and vegan cheese and crackers while they were cycled through the frenetic streets of Hanoi. There’s no way to describe what appears to be mayhem on the crowded streets of Hanoi. Crossing the street seems like a suicide mission at first, with motorbikes, cars, cyclists, and cyclos coming in all directions. But once you surrender and trust, I found it to be very much like a chaotic but beautiful dance. I’m someone that tends to get stressed in situations where there is a lot if stimuli like loud noises, honking horns, and crowds of people, but there was something about Hanoi’s energy that didn’t bother me — dare I say…enjoyed!

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We arrived at the absolutely gorgeous multi-level restaurant, Uu Dam Chay. It has a vegetarian menu but they prepared vegan dishes for us. Our CPG Vegan Trip Welcome Feasts are the epitome of abundance and joy where our travelers have their first experience with everyone they will be spending time with over the next several days.

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After several hours of eating and drinking, we walked back to our hotel and rested for our next day’s adventure!

First Day in Hanoi (Better Than Bangkok)

Today was our first day in Hanoi and our last day on our own before the rest of our group gets here for our next, awesome, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious CPG VEGAN TRIP — this one to Northern Vietnam. The weather is cool, breezy, and sunny, which suits my California temperament. I confess…I can’t help comparing Hanoi to Bangkok, another southeast Asian city I recently visited, and (though it’s too soon and a bit unfair to make comparisons and draw conclusions), I already like Hanoi heaps more. We’re here during one of the short windows when the weather is mild and not oppressively humid, but I just like the feel and pace of this city a lot more. I was warned that it was noisier and more chaotic, but I’m finding the opposite to be true. Still, it’s still early in my trip.

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Crutch in hand, I made my way around the streets of Hanoi, including walking all around the lake! I’m so grateful, considering a week ago, I couldn’t even move without excruciating pain. Crossing the street in this city is an adventure in itself. You just walk. And trust that the gazillion motor bikes, cars, and buses will swerve around you. It works. See? I lived to tell my tale.

Seb, our friend (and partner in CPG Trips) lived in Hanoi for over 5 years, so he knows the city backwards and forwards. The first lunch we enjoyed on our first full day was at his Italian friend’s restaurant, where we gobbled up penne pasta with arrabbiata sauce; bruschetta with tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, onions and raisins; and marinara pizza! (Remember: marinara is the oldest type of pizza. In other words, the original pizza was vegan.)

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We’ll have our fill of local Vietnamese cuisine throughout the CPG Vegan Trip portion of our travels, so it was nice to partake in some traditional Italian food. The restaurant is called Mediterraneo, and I recommend it. Tell them I sent you — and mention Sebastien Ranger.

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From there, we ventured to the Women’s Museum. Many aspects of Vietnamese culture are patriarchal, but many are matriarchal and celebrate the strength, softness, beauty, and indispensability of women. My gimpy little self has nothing on the amazing  women who helped build, protect, and run this country.

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Afterwards, we took a nap to help us acclimate to the time zone difference and had some food in the Vietnamese restaurant in our Metropole hotel. Really the main things to ask when eating here just as in any Asian restaurant anywhere are for no fish sauce and no egg. (Be sure to ask about the batter of some fried tofu; sometimes they use egg.) We capped off our night with a drink at the beautiful Metropole cafe. The perfect way to end a fantastic day!

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I can’t wait to give our fellow travelers the trip of a lifetime. Have you been to Vietnam? What part, and again, I ask…where do you want to go on CPG Trips?

24 Hours of Travel from Home to Hanoi

For our journey to Vietnam, we redeemed tens of thousands of miles to enjoy business class from home to Hanoi. Having injured my knee just 10 days prior to leaving, I was very grateful for this, as I would otherwise not have had a very comfortable experience in economy. As it was, we had to fly out of San Jose to San Diego, from San Diego to Tokyo, and finally from Tokyo to Hanoi. A long journey for the fittest among us. With compromised mobility — not so fun.

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Of course, I’m also doing everything I can to minimize the amount of waste I create as a traveler on this planet — and on this particular trip — so I of course brought my tea thermos, a small ceramic tea cup, a cloth napkin, my refillable water bottle, shampoo and conditioner, cloth hankies, as well as the travel blanket I bought years ago so I don’t have to rip open a plastic bag for the blanket (sometimes) provided on airplanes. David also brought his refillable water bottle, and to my delight and surprise, he also brought a refillable hot cup for tea or coffee on the go. (And we don’t check bags! All of this + more in our carry-on luggage.)

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The only compromise I’ll definitely have to make is occasionally drinking bottled water here in Vietnam since the water isn’t safe enough without risking a bacterial infection (and upset tummy). HOWEVER, as a CPG Vegan Trip, we’re doing what we can to support minimal waste, so we are providing everyone with water purification tablets and filtered water with which to refill bottles.

Of course, we had arranged for vegan meals with Japan Airlines on all the travel legs, but alas, when we got to San Diego, it was revealed that our vegan meals weren’t in the system. One thing I’ve learned in all the traveling I’ve done is that we will be fine no matter what. Decades ago, when I was a younger vegan and a younger human, I would plan for “food security” from point A to point B. Dare I say….overplanned.

I do think it’s prudent to make sure we have food with us so our journey is more pleasant (the way we make sure children have food so they don’t get hangry). When we remove the X factor of hunger, it means we’re better able to cope with the stress of traveling. But, I have also found that we can cobble together what we need wherever we are — including in airports and on airplanes.

So, even though we didn’t have our vegan meals on the flight from San Diego to Tokyo, they did have an a la carte section from which which picked some delicious options. There was a potato onion curry neither of us even tried, opting instead for the ramen noodles in a delicious with mushrooms and seitan!! (me) and udon noodles in broth with sea vegetables (David). And they made us a delicious salad dressing of the citrus and mustard variety. I had two servings of the noodles and three servings of the salad over the course of the 11-hour flight. They also had fruit and some rolls (oh yes, and wine and whisky), so we were absolutely fine.

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When we arrived in Tokyo, we had only 30 minutes in the business lounge but took advantage of the miso soup (which indicated there was no fish sauce in it) along with more salad. (Strangely, I was hungry throughout the entire journey and just kept eating, which was disconcerting considering the fact that I’ve been virtually immobile during the recovery of my knee injury and thus burning very few calories.) However, I was glad to have options everywhere we went.

On the 6-hour flight from Tokyo to Hanoi, we preferred the seats to those on the previous flight, but the food was mediocre at best. In fact, for this leg, they had the vegan meal for one of us and none of the a la carte options available, so we didn’t enjoy the food as much, but as we were getting weary of the travel at this point, the desire for sleep took precedence over the desire for food. (But of course, I didn’t sleep. I never do on planes. Caught up on lots of writing and reading.)

Unrelated to the food experience, this was the first time I’ve traveled with crutches and with the need for wheelchair assistance, and I’m very grateful for the support I was given from the second we arrived at the first airport until the moment our driver picked us up in Hanoi. I would never wish this need upon anyone, but it was helpful to experience first-hand what is a need for many.

And now, our adventure begins. We just ate our breakfast at the beautiful Sofitel Legend Metropole, where the rest of our group will meet us on Friday for 10 days of awesomeness. This is a CPG Vegan Trip after all! If you’d like to live vicariously through I can encourage you to follow #CPGTrips on Instagram and search for it on Facebook. We’ll be posting photos and videos throughout the trip.  

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Spend the Weekend with Me!

Back by popular demand: The Compassion in Action Conference! Register early to receive perks, including:

  • bring a friend for 50% off 
  • videos of all presentations
  • 30-minute conference call with speakers 
  • 20% discount to Millennium Restaurant 

The intention behind Compassion-in-Action is to connect like-minded people with each other and to give you the tools and resources you need to reflect your deepest values in your daily behavior so that we can create the compassionate world we all envision — for all animals, both human and non-human. 

Through lectures, Q&A sessions, and group work, we will address such topics as:

  • Powerful Ways to Advocate for Animals
  • How to Practice Self-Compassion
  • 10 Habits of Highly Effective Advocates
  • From Personal to Professional Advocacy
  • Choosing Unconditional Compassion
  • The Principles of Zero Waste 

By the end of this weekend together, not only will you have connected with dozens of incredible like-minded people and connected with your deepest, most authentic compassion, you will also have tools for living purposefully, boldly, passionately, and compassionately — in a way that is both effective and joyful.

Our presenters are the best, and I’ll be sharing more with you about them. In the meantime, I hope you will begin following Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste, Stephanie Redcross of Vegan Mainstream, and Ari Nessel of The Pollination Project. Register today!

     

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