Visiting gourmands in search of gratification are spoiled for choice in Asia. From dim sum in Hong Kong and pho in Vietnam to sashimi in Japan or tom yum goong in Thailand, there is no shortage of epicurean experiences to write postcards home about. But what about vegan and vegetarian visitors? Can a region best known for its meat-based offerings cater to those living on a purely plant-based diet? Increasingly, yes. According to online statistics portal Statista, 9 per cent of the Asia-Pacific population identified as vegan in 2016, abstaining from consuming food, wearing clothes and using products that are derived from animals. This makes it the region with the largest share of plant-based consumers globally, perhaps influenced by Dharmic religions’ vegetarian practices and Buddhist cuisine, although these do not dictate veganism. However, it is certainly not limited to faith-based food choices. China, a nation known for Peking duck and pork dumplings, and where an expanding middle class has led to a significant increase in meat consumption, is expected to have been the fastest growing market for vegan-labelled food products between 2015 and 2020, with a growth rate of 17.2 per cent, according to Statista. According to Hong Kong-based branding and marketing agency CatchOn’s annual Future of Food report, the rise in a plant-based approach to consumption can be credited to “affluent millennials”. “Acutely aware of food ethics, sustainability issues and plant-based alternatives, the purchasing power of this demographic is changing the way food is produced and putting pressure on brands to create vegan products,” the report notes. Millennials travel more than other generations, according to various reports, spending more while they are at it, so the fact that their consumer habits have an impact should come as little surprise. Heck, even Japan, which in this writer’s experience is one of the most difficult Asian destinations to visit as a vegan, is acknowledging the trend and vowing to add more options to the menu. In August, online vegan news portal LiveKindly reported that northernmost prefecture Hokkaido was “hoping to use vegan food to attract tourists”. Local authorities planned to conduct studies exploring the vegetarian options currently available, according to the article. Those offering plant-based options would be listed online to encourage others to do the same. The idea was that it might attract more arrivals from the United States and Europe, who have increasingly asked for meat-free meals, but a quick search of “vegetarian” in the food section of Hokkaido’s official tourism website brings up the disappointing message, “no corresponding data”. So, if Hokkaido isn’t yet making it easy, which destinations are? Tour companies, activist groups and vegan bloggers regularly compile their own lists and some of the destinations that consistently show up near the top of them include Singapore, Taipei and Sri Lanka, where a lot of vegetarian dishes are actually vegan and most curries are cooked with coconut milk rather than ghee. As outright winner, it appears to be a toss-up between Chiang Mai, in Thailand, and Ubud, Indonesia, which even has a “vegan cinema”, the Paradiso, where films are shown and cultural events hosted along with “the most delicious, organic plant-based food and cold-pressed juices and smoothies for the ultimate cruelty-free dining experience”. Wherever travel takes you, however, it is important to remember that veganism is a choice often only the privileged can make. Yes, eschewing meat and animal products does wonders for the world – according to a 2016 report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , if the global population turned vegan, the world’s food-related emissions would drop by 70 per cent by 2025 – but when exploring pastures new (another luxury of the privileged), it can perhaps be an impediment to making genuine cultural connections. And before expounding on the environmental and ethical benefits of a plant-based lifestyle to any locals you might encounter, consider the carbon footprint you incurred on your flight to reach their homeland. Australian ‘schoolies’ warned to watch what they drink in Bali Every November, Bali becomes ground zero for Australian school leavers, as thousands of teenagers descend on the Indonesian island to celebrate their graduation from the education system. If that sounds terrifying, that’s probably because it is. Known as “schoolies”, revellers are notorious for their boozing and bad behaviour, but those heading to Bali are being warned to watch what they drink after recent cases of methanol poisoning on the island. In October, 19-year-old Bailey Chalmers, from Perth, was rushed to hospital after a hangover turned out to be much worse. “We have all heard it before, ‘Don’t drink spirits in Bali’ … but as we were at a very reputable bar, it was thought that the A$14 cocktails would be perfectly fine … right?”, wrote Chalmers in a Facebook post. Wrong. Methanol toxicity can lead to permanent blindness, kidney failure and, in extreme cases, death, and the effects can be felt even after drinking a small amount of contaminated alcohol. Colin Ahearn, founder of Just Don’t Drink Spirits in Bali, a group that raises awareness of the dangers of methanol poisoning, advised Chalmers to guzzle down vodka, as ethanol counters methanol toxicity. “I have zero doubt that as a minimum we have saved his sight and possibly stopped him from organ damage,” Ahearn told Australian broadcaster Nine News. In a video posted to YouTube, Ahearn and Chalmers had a strong message for recent school leavers: “If you go to Bali, you’re going to have drinks, that’s what leavers is about. Just don’t drink spirits in Bali.” For anyone else visiting the Indonesian island in the next few weeks, it might be advisable to avoid Seminyak as well as spirit-based drinks. Fodor’s ‘no go’ list includes Bali, Angkor Wat Travel guide publisher Fodor’s has assembled its annual list of destinations to avoid in the year ahead, among them Hanoi’s train street, Angkor Wat and Bali , all for reasons of overtourism. “Every year, we use the No List to highlight issues – ethical, environmental, sometimes even political – that we’re thinking about before, during, and long after we travel,” writes Fodor’s . “For this year’s No List, as we do every year, we highlight places and issues that give us pause. The underlying issues are ones that we’ll certainly be grappling with in the decade to come.” Angkor Wat is included for the physical strain millions of pairs of feet place on the ancient Cambodian temple complex every year, while Bali is highlighted for an increase in unruly arrivals, water scarcity and improper waste disposal. As for the Instagram-famous street in the Vietnamese capital , it was closed to tourists in October, so it might be wise to stay away regardless of what Fodor’s says.