VeganMoFo 2019: Merci Moncher, Okayama

Travelling light makes everything so much easier. Wherever Dr HH and I are going, and for however many nights, we always pack the same amount: a regular, day backpack that will fit under the seat in front on a flight. It means that we can’t pack anything surplus to requirements, and it also means that we can navigate around relatively easily without dragging suitcases of wielding gigantic backpacks that could knock someone out. It was a massive bonus on this trip in particular because we spent so much time hopping between destinations, and everything was just easier without huge luggage to worry about. On one day in particular it was a huge help: we were travelling from Osaka to our next destination, Okayama, and we were able to stop along the way to visit Himeji as well, without hauling loads of stuff with us.

Himeji was on the itinerary just so we could see the castle. I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to castles (moat, drawbridge, dungeon, turrets, etc), but I did enjoy the castles in Japan. They were just beautiful!

Then we resumed our journey to Okayama, and found ourselves boarding the Hello Kitty shinkansen, which was quite a fun surprise! Almost everyone on the platform whipped out their phone to start taking pictures as it pulled in.

Then we arrived in Okayama! It was on our itinerary for two reasons: firstly, the castle (I enjoyed the contrast with the white castle we’d just seen in Himeji), and secondly as a base to visit the art island of Naoshima (more on that on Monday). We stayed for two nights, and I wouldn’t have stayed any longer – there weren’t too many sights to see (some very nice gardens though), and the vegan options were particularly disappointing.

Happy Cow gave us a few places with vegan options, but the opening hours were unfavourable, or nothing was labelled vegan on the menu, or they were sold out of that one vegan dish when we got there. It was a tough place!

When we arrived we went for a late lunch at Merci Moncher, located in a shopping centre near the station. Nothing was labelled vegan here, but from the list of ingredients and allergens we deduced that the falafel plate should be fine. And “fine” is what it was: not spectacular, no amazing flavours, just a solid plate of food to sustain us for the afternoon.

We got two nice but unexciting falafel, some brown rice, two different kinds of hummus, some pumpkin and carrot, plenty of red cabbage, a bit of salad, and a little dish of minestrone soup on the side. It was expensive for what it was, but we didn’t really have an alternative and were happy just to find somewhere. It was colourful and fresh, and it did the job!

As vegans, falafel is often a good backup choice when on the go, with the bonus that it’s generally cheap and cheerful. It was a bit of a nuisance that it was so expensive here, but sometimes you just have to take the hit!

Is falafel your saviour on the road as well? And do you travel light?

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10 Responses to VeganMoFo 2019: Merci Moncher, Okayama

  1. In Okayama I like Bikan Historical district (just outside Kurashiki station) and the excellent Okada Museum of Art. I’ve enjoyed Cafe Nature in the past but heard they reduced the amount of vegan options recently… there’s also Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (the castle in the clouds) in Okayama Prefecture, one of the twelve castles in Japan with the original castle keep remaining.

  2. Kelly says:

    Packing light is the best! Do you have a fancy favorite backpack?

    Those castles are really lovely. A shame about the mediocre food, though.

    • Jenny says:

      Ha, we just have really cheap Adidas backpacks, nothing fancy at all! The canvas on mine is starting to rip now, so I am thinking of getting something hardier and fancier at last. Any recommendations?

      • Kelly says:

        I really like the eBags brand, partially because they have fantastic customer service (and frequent sales). I have the Mother Lode Weekender Jr., which is great in many ways (#1: It opens like a suitcase for easy packing/unpacking!) but also a little large for my small frame (even though it’s the smaller size!). And I don’t know that it’s compatible with budget airlines that require you to stash your bag beneath the seat ahead of you — I suspect it’d be a bit too big for that.

        I also won one of those hipster Swedish Kanken bags in a Facebook giveaway a few years ago, and I really like that one as well… but it’s just slightly too small to serve as my only piece of luggage for most trips, unless I also have a sizable personal item where I can stash a few bulky items.

        I’m a regular Goldilocks when it comes to travel backpacks, I guess!

      • Jenny says:

        I’m sure you’ll find one that’s just right soon!

  3. onesonicbite says:

    I would not of even noticed that was a falafel! lol I guess it fall into that category of foreign food being rearranged for local tastes.

    Since we have a little kid, packing light is a little out of the question right now. XD I think this time around we can ditch a stroller and no need for a portable crib anymore! So whoo! In general I do try and pack as little as possible because I get really anxious about leaving things behind.

    • Jenny says:

      I’m always in awe of my friends who have kids and have to lug so much stuff around. How do you all do it?! I’m glad it’s getting a bit easier for you anyway.

      • onesonicbite says:

        I bring the minimum of things I need. I know a lot of my friends carry around so much more stuff. Though we haven’t done too much traveling/vacationing with our son, but it helps to look for lodging that will have a crib, or things to entertain kids (like cabins with board games and stuff)

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