Vegan Vacation (Rui Playa Blanca Panama)
This past vacation was my first trip travelling vegan, I can’t say I wasn’t a little worried about what my food situation would be like in a different country. Food for me has always been a comfort. I know its bad but I anxiety eat, a lot, and being away from home I tend to overindulge even more than I usually do. Looking in my fridge before I left, I realized a-lot of my staple foods that made it easier for me to transition to being vegan were things from the health foods store. I wouldn’t have my vegan butter, or my Veganaise for sandwiches. No more silk coconut vanilla creamer for my coffee, no vegan cookies or cake, no meat or cheese substitutes, WHAT WOULD I DO?
I’ve never had a life changing experience at a resort buffet eating meat or dairy, so I couldn’t imagine limiting my choices further would end in anything but starvation. I figured being at a larger resort my options would be a little better than a smaller chain, and I was right. We stayed at the RUI chain in Panama. As with my previous experiences at larger chains, for every meal, I would usually find one or two things I liked, and would stick to that for the rest of the week.
While being vegetarian id load my plate up on pizza, mashed potatoes, pasta with cheese, bread and butter. Now I didn’t have those options I had to look else wear. At Rui there is alway a few vegetarian dishes, of course half contained cheese or butter but some were edible. There is a decent fresh fruit section, a salad station and large bread selection. Between those areas I always managed to throw a decent meal together.
This trip I spent a-lot of time in the salad section, which honestly is a first for me. For being vegan, I really am not a fan of healthy foods (lol). My go-to meal for lunch and dinner was a sandwich, and sometimes even my breakfast if a fruit bowl wasn’t suffice. I would load my bread up with mustard, lettuce ,tomato, purple cabbage, carrot shreds, cucumber, onions, green peppers and alfalfa sprouts. Some days they had pasta with plain tomato sauce, or herbs. Some days they had avocado, so I would make little avocado sandwiches. There was always rice, so making a stir fry was always an option, but a rather bland option as there wasnt any sauces I could use.
As mentioned previously, there was always a vegetarian section at the buffet. The title next to the meal would say “ vegetarian dish” but not mentioning the ingredients. I realized quickly that the cooks did not know the difference between vegetarian and vegan. I would say, “does this have butter in it? I am vegan”, they would reply with “yes this is vegan”. I would repeat, “does his have butter?, they would say “yes this has butter”. So instead of getting mad that people in a different country do not understand my langauge, I looked up a-few phrases in Spanish. From that point on eating was a breeze. Although some cooks were dismissive when I said I was “vegano”, I wasnt surprised by that as it is the same in Canada. So I began to say I had allergies, then they would double-check the ingredients with the chef.
Here are some phrases that are worth remembering when travelling to a Spanish-speaking country.
“I am a vegan” – “Soy vegano”
“Does this have milk in it?” – “Hay leche en esto”
“Does this have cheese in it?” – “¿esto tiene queso?”
“Does this have egg in it” – “¿Tiene esto huevo?”
“I cannot have eggs” – “¿Tiene esto huevo?”
“Does this have butter it in” – “¿Tiene esto mantequilla?”
“I cannot have butter” ( or lard) This was helpful when asking about their refried beans as some contain lard – “no puedo tener mantequilla”
“I cannot have dairy” –“no puedo tener productos lácteos”
“Does this contain meat or seafood?’ – ¿esto contiene carne o marisco?
If you do not know how to pronounce these terms then write them on a piece of paper and keep them in your bag when you go to eat just point at the phrase you wish to use. If you have an internet connection at your resort, download a translator app and use that.
Although the food is repetitive and somewhat bland, it is worth noting the positive. My body felt great. Travelling usually causes me aches and pains from sitting in the plane so long, the altitude changes, and the dry air. No longer eating foods that cause inflamation made a huge difference in how I felt when I arrived. I’m sure I’m not alone in this but usually by the 3rd day of an all-inclusive vacation I am either completely constipated, or exploding diarrhoea. I have been constipated on every vacation I have ever been on. I assume it is from the larger than normal portion sizes, and binge eating while drinking. When I ate meat I almost always had a-few days of diarrhoea. Meat in other countries always made me sick. I don’t know if it’s how it’s cooked or maybe different hygiene standards, but I would always have a gurgling stomach post meal. So yea, that seems to all be an issue of the past. Who knew more fruits and vegetables would mean less over-eating, I felt fuller for longer. I felt lighter, my joints hurt less, and no upset stomachs.
Overall this was a very positive experience for me. So if you are travelling to a Rui in the future, have no fear, you will not go hungry.
**Note, they had soy milk available in the buffet during breakfast and lunch. I never drank it but it was always there.