When looking for accommodation throughout the world, I’m always looking for that little added incentive, something to sweeten the deal. A place with a pool could provide relief from the mind altering humidity, for example. Or a place that has its own laundry saves the hassle, and embarrassment, of carrying a pile of dirty jocks down a busy city street. These things make life simpler and are one less thing I have to concern myself with.
When in Southeast Asia, my favourite by a long margin is the ‘breakfast included’ option. It doesn’t faze me how the meal comes; if it means I don’t have to shower, dress properly and walk down the road searching for something that resembles an edible morning meal I’m pretty stoked. It’s not a deliberate act of perpetual laziness either. For those who have travelled, we understand that sometimes, the ability to not have to switch on for a few extra hours can be invaluable. The longer a trip goes, the more little perks feel like luxuries.
I’m not just talking about buffets either which are usually more of a perk of an expensive hotel or resort. I’m talking simple little options that mean I don’t have to spend more money to eat elsewhere. Money can get tight, at times, and the longer you can put off calling Dad to ask for a cash injection, the better.
The funny thing is that the food provided is just about the same. Everywhere.
The provided breakfast will include eggs. These eggs are served two ways; sunny side up or sunny side up. When they arrive they look at you like big, yellow googly eyes, still runny as they haven’t quite been cooked properly. I usually turned them over on my bread, to hide the sloppiness and quell the nauseous feeling that rises from deep within my empty stomach. The first bite results with yoke explosion that will require a change of shirt for those novices who don’t take the time to lean over their plate.
When I say it comes with bread I mean it might or a roll, if you’re lucky. If the roll is included it will most likely be the size of your head, contain more air than solids and be impossible to cut without creating a pile of crumbs a few centimetres think. I suspect that little old ladies may also carry these rolls round in their handbags to swing at muggers as some have roughly the same weight and density of a cinder block.
The bread, or roll, will also test the mettle of any hard-core traveller. The key is not to look too closely. If you do, however, you will find surprise pellets of protein, commonly referred to as weevils. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been halfway through my raw egg roll and noticed these permanent residents staring back at me. Well, if they weren’t baked in, I’m sure they would stare back at me.
Condiments are pretty standard. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, one place I stayed had a simple yet familiar setup. Like most places, the menu was limited, reduced to little more than some sugary sweet bread, strawberry jam and butter. There was a fan aimed at the table in some kind of vain attempt to deter flies and other insects from carrying the plate away, but all it succeeded in doing was to waft the nauseous smell of melted butter around the open space. When I say ‘melted’ I mean it had ceased to be a solid and had become a liquid. This is not always the case, more of an extreme example. Either way, it’s a common occurrence not known until the first morning’s breakfast.
Then, sometimes, a banana is thrown into the mix; to the relief of those vegans or vegetarians out there who can’t eat eggs with the nutritional value of balsa wood. I should point out that I have no problem with veganism or vegetarianism. It’s a choice. Like baking. Or cockfighting. But if I were a vegan travelling through Asia, I can imagine how difficult it could be finding food to meet those dietary requirements. The positive is the large amount of fresh vegetables and fruit on offer. It’s the kind of fruit that you would usually see in the produce section of a supermarket with a price tag per kilo larger than the cost of a new car. Unfortunately they rarely get used when breakfast is included. (NOTE: Southeast Asia has plenty of vegan friendly foods, they are just rarely included when breakfast is involved.)
Then there is the coffee; or as I put it, black tar. I have become so wary of local milk that I refuse to have any in my coffee, which can be so thick that you could place your spoon in it and watch it free stand. To counter this, I have taken to using several extra spoonful’s’ of sugar so that I can still have my morning coffee hit without the fear of gagging or having to skim floating white lumps from the top. If coffee doesn’t float your boat, as I realise not all people are normal like that, fresh juice is commonly available. The problem is that it’s usually warm. Unless you place ice in it, that is, and risk spending the rest of your day running for the loo, as the contents of your bowels try to evacuate through your rectum at a moments notice due to water born parasites, often found in Asian tap water.
Having a western ‘breakfast included’ can be as predictable as an Australian being surprised that no one else in the world likes Vegemite. You think it’ll be fine but it will make you screw your face up in disgust. But free is free. Don’t be too critical of something that is little more than an added incentive that takes care of something you couldn’t be bothered doing anyway.
Wayward Tip: Hold onto the banana. You never know when you might need it during the day. Of all the offerings you’ll get, it is easily the most practical.