Tibet as a vegetarian: tips!

Tibet as a vegetarian, the peace-loving country lies high in the Himalayas. In Tibet, you see Buddhism everywhere: in the many temples, monasteries or just on the streets. Pilgrims come from all over the country, walking for days, often hundreds of miles stretching and kneeling on the ground to worship the faith. But also when you speak with the Tibetan you feel the faith and goodness. ‘Do good, be good, also to fellow human beings and stay pure and with yourself,’ is the essence of their life.

Written by Lisanne Sas

We can learn a lot from them and even China’ s oppression they approach in a positive way. Tibet is a country you will take to your heart after your trip, not to mention the spectacular nature! Mirror-blue lakes with yaks, immense mountains, gorges and, of course, Mount Everest. But what is it really like to travel through Tibet as a vegetarian? Experienced traveler and avid vegetarian Lisanne tells.

tibet as a vegetarian

Tibet is actually part of China

Officially, Tibet is not a country and a region of greater China, although Tibetans think so. If you think of China that you can make it as extreme as you want in terms of food (also read: Traveling through China as a vegetarian impossible?) . Chicken claws, bugs on a stick, hotpots with all sorts of things in them, but fortunately during my trip in China I also experienced that you can eat vegetarian food just fine. So actually beforehand, my hopes for a good plate of food in Tibet were high.

First of all: drinking is a must

Drink a lot, and I’m not talking about alcohol, because that’s exactly what you should avoid during your trip. Lhasa alone is 3,600 meters above sea level, and you only travel higher. For example, Everest Basecamp, which you undoubtedly also want to go to, is located at about 5,000 meters at sea level. The first few days in Tibet you should really take it easy, because you will definitely feel the altitude: you are more quickly tired and can get stuffy sooner. But even when you travel higher you feel the altitude. Drinking a lot is essential: about 3 to even 5 liters a day. Is that inconvenient? No, you feel your body needs a lot of fluids. I could drink a gallon and a half bottle in one rig straight back and was constantly thirsty. If you notice that you are not as thirsty, then I advise you to continue drinking anyway. Drinking plenty prevents altitude sickness, and you don’t want that (first signs are nausea and headaches). No doubt at some point during your trip you will be offered a cup of yak tea, made from tea leaves, yak butter and salt. Give it a try, although I must honestly confess that I didn’t like it that much.

Sometimes I was allowed to walk into the kitchen and opened the pans and said “yes please” to a pan of rice and “this, yes” to various vegetables and a big “yes” to a bowl of tofu.

Buddhism and eating meat

The rumor that Tibetans do not eat meat at all is not true. The reason they occasionally eat meat is different than here in the Netherlands. A guide told me that he never ate fish and many Tibetans do not. “Why not?”, I asked. The guide says, “Well, if I slaughter a yak one creature dies, but a whole family can eat from a yak for days and we use the skin too. If I slaughter a fish then one creature also dies, but with a fish you can only feed one person. So that’s why I don’t eat fish.’ A clear story, if you must deprive a life then rather so according to the guide. Yet there are movements within Buddhism that do not eat meat and fish, and many monks do not eat meat either. So when I say “I’m a vegetarian” during my trip, I wasn’t looked at mad at all. The only problem was though, I don’t speak Tibetan and I don’t speak Chinese. 😉

The holy bible: my bill

Also during my trip in Tibet, as in China, my translation (as below) was sacred. Accept that you don’t speak the language and few Tibetans can speak English. And if they can do it at all, it’s just a few words. In Tibet, I have come across few menus in English. Only in the larger cities. So if you can be surprised with the guarantee that there is no meat or fish in anything, prepare to feast every day!

Or in other words: I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat or fish. Thank you!

Print out this translation and take it with you on your travels. Mind you, you may just find yourself at a little restaurant where the cook can only read Tibetan (and therefore not Chinese), yet once again I always managed to get by with this bill. What I did notice was that Tibetans are very humble. Okay, with this bill, they now know that you don’t want meat or fish. But what should they bring for you? After all, they often don’t want to give you an expensive bill and are still modest. Sometimes I was allowed to walk into the kitchen and opened the pans and said “yes please” to a pan of rice and “this, yes” to various vegetables and a big “yes” to a bowl of tofu. But because of this experience, it is also useful to print it with the above translation:

米饭 = rice土豆 = potatoes
蔬菜 = vegetables豆腐 = tofu
鸡蛋 = egg
蘑菇 = mushroom

That way you give a bit of a guideline to the cook as to what is all fine for you and they can make something out of this.

tibet as a vegetarian

To eat is to share

In Tibet, food is sharing, normally you order a bowl of rice and with it you get all kinds of different bowls of vegetables, mushrooms, egg or tofu. That Tibet is high says, not that there is nothing to get. Much is brought to Tibet from China and everything is quite affordable. And, of course, you eat everything with chopsticks.
In Tibet, you also often come across vegetarian restaurants so that makes it even easier. Several times I also encountered some kind of hotpot. You get a big pan and in it they put all kinds of things: vegetables, tofu, potatoes and a sauce. This pan you share with your other travelers, of course, and with chopsticks you fish everything out and eat it with rice. Delicious it was, check it out!

Combining Tibet with China

Many people combine their trip with a piece of China, often with Chengdu. What you should absolutely try then is the traditional hotpot, but in the vegetarian version (so right: show your bill). You join a round table and in the middle of the table a large pan of broth is simmering. You get all kinds of vegetables, tofu, potatoes and mushrooms, which you throw into the pan and fish it out with chopsticks. Delicious!tibet as a vegetarian

Traveler and vegetarian Lisanne has made her hobby her job. She was working for Rickshaw Travel while writing this blog and enjoys sharing her experiences on Vegan Travel Life. This post is not sponsored.

Inspired by Tibet, but no time or money yet to travel to this special country? Make a tasty Asian recipe. Get into the mood already ;-).