Vegan's Chronicles + [vegetarian]

A vegan flying with Air China

I'm in Cali!!! My trip here took forever-and-a-day because I had a long layover in Beijing. Yea, Beijing is totally out of the way from Seoul to LA, but it was the only affordable ticket I could find on short notice. The ticket was with Air China, so I called the airline to request vegan meals. On their website, it clearly says that they offer 'Vegan' meals. However, when I called them, the customer service guy had no idea what 'vegan' was. After I explained the definition of 'vegan' to him, he went to find out from someone else whether this was an option. He came back and said that they didn't have a vegan option, but that they had an all-veg meal except maybe with eggs, or an all-veg meal, except maybe with dairy. Huh??? That didn't make any sense to me.

Me: "But the website specifically says you offer vegan meals."
Customer service guy: "yes, that might be misinformation."

UGH. Seriously people, why do you have to go misleading people like that?? So then after some thought, I picked the veg meal with eggs because I figured getting the one with eggs in it might be the lesser evil... ? Or at least easier to recognize and pick out?

So anyway, on my first flight from Seoul to Beijing, they served us lunch. As usual, the special meal orders came out first, so I got my food before everyone else. The first time I requested a special meal, I felt kind of embarrassed because people were looking at me, wondering why I had gotten my meal first. But now I'm used to it, and I feel special that my meal always looks way healthier than theirs.

Here's a photo of my first meal with Air China, from Seoul to Beijing. Even though the customer service guy said there might be eggs in it, I'm pretty sure this meal was 100% vegan, because I didn't see or taste any hint of egg. The main dish was couscous, zucchini filled with rice, and a mix of veggies and beans. That couscous part was a little bland to my taste, but it was still good, and the asparagus and buckwheat noodles (in the top right corner) were absolutely delicious! There was also a great marinara sauce to dip the bread in. I was surprising since the guy at Air China's customer service had said there might be eggs in it, but then I looked down at the tag and saw that it wasn't even catered by Air China after all- it was a meal from Korean Air! (See bottom of green tag.) So yea, it felt pretty good to know that Korean Air is serving decent vegan food.

Before we could get off the plane at Beijing, ladies in masks and white uniforms came and took everyone's temperature, for Swine Flu precautions.

Once I got to Beijing Airport, I had to wait about 6-7 hours before my next flight to LA. I thought there would be more things to do at Beijing Airport to pass time, but the airport was soooo boring! There were hardly any restaurants or cafes, not many interesting shops, and no public WiFi access. I couldn't even find a single water fountain, so I went to one of the only cafes there and bought a peach juice for about 3 USD. I still had a lot of time to kill, so then I paid 5 bucks at an Internet cafe because I wanted to blog about the trip so far, only to find that 'Blogspot.com' is blocked by the Chinese Government! I couldn't even see my blog! So much for that. It was a reality check to be in a country where censorship is so obvious like that.

I was getting pretty hungry at the airport too, but since there were so few dining options, it was a bit of a struggle. Finally, I settled on a place called Flavor Tang, which basically serves fast Chinese food. I walked through their options and almost everything had an animal product in it, except for one dish: cooked celery, carrots & peanuts (around 1.50 USD). I'm not a big fan of eating big chunks of celery, but I was hungry, so I went for it. It actually tasted better than it looks, and it was also the perfect amount to hold me til my next in-flight meal.

After boarding the plane going from Beijing to LA, they served dinner. While the first meal was catered by Korean Air, this next meal was done by Air China, and sure enough, it wasn't vegan. And even though I requested a meal with no dairy, the packaged butter clearly had milk in it, and the bread roll had a very suspicious buttery smell. The meal itself was also pretty nasty... . two potato patties, kind of like hashbrowns, and marinated mushrooms. Everything was just too oily, the textures were kind of nauseating, and the side salad was brown and wilted. Air China, you call this a meal?!

The final meal, breakfast, was pretty much the same thing. They served the same oily hashbrowns, with mushrooms, but this time with some vegetables mixed in. These mushrooms were better than the last, but still not great, and covered in oil. The bean bun was okay, but I'm pretty sure it had egg spread on the top of it to give it that shininess, so I peeled the top part off and ate the rest. I was so hungry by that time, I couldn't not eat it.

So that was the food scene with Air China. I have to say, it was pretty disappointing. I've had some excellent vegan in-flight meals before, so this was a let-down. I was also not impressed with Air China, in general. The plane was old and rickety, and for some gross reason, there were what looked like blood smears on my side of the wall! You can see one of the smears in the above picture. Don't they clean the airplanes, what with the swine flu going around these days?? Also, there was no movie entertainment during the whole flight, so I had nothing to do but force myself to sleep.

Phew. Yea, it was a rough trip, but I am thankful that I arrived in LA safely. I'm sooo happy to be back here, especially since the weather is gorgeous, compared to the wetness of Seoul right now. And ofcourse, I know I will be eating some good grub, so I'm excited! I'll try to blog as often as I can, but no promises. Tootles for now!

Here are some aerial shots of the landscape as we were nearing LAX. Beautiful, no? :)