The Buffet—a minor pleasure when travelling in Thailand
One of the many joys of life in Thailand is the occasional chance and opportunity to ‘pig out’ at a buffet. Buffets are one of life’s pleasant surprises. With a buffet, rather than sit stiffly gazing at a menu and wait for the waiter, one has the opportunity to sight one’s food(s) and determine the quantity and variety tailored specifically to your needs at that moment.
A buffet revolves around the concept of a fixed price for all you can eat, with the food laid out on serving tables. This gives you the chance to inspect and select just what you want. Also, buffets save the proprietor in that fewer staff are needed per customer. A winner all around.
When you are hungry, when you need the big meal, when you are ready to really eat—find a buffet!
Where to find that buffet
Buffets are all around us, you just have to look. In south-east Asia most of the 4 & 5 star hotels have buffets, always breakfast, sometimes lunch, but rarely dinner. These restaurants charge correspondingly higher prices for ‘walk-ins’ (500-1000+ baht – $20-$40), but you can ask about vouchers, freebies, and specials. These all occur. An alternative are the ‘cheap charlie’ hotels, many of which have buffet breakfasts for guests, and also welcome walk-ins. In the Pattaya City for example many hotels have 100-150 baht ($4-$5) buffet breakfasts and 200 baht buffet dinners, and not bad quality. Just wander in off the street, sit down, and partake. In Bangkok many cafes have a small buffet breakfast on offer to guests.
Bangkok has excellent Buffets
Take the time to scout out what is available in your vicinity and to find the best deal: watch while walking around, check websites, browse through foursquare, ask your facebook buddies, and just ask. On your hunt you will notice that prices can vary widely between the same level of hotels.
Guidelines for the Perfect Buffet Experience
This may seem obvious, but do not eat before the buffet begins. If it is a brekky buffet, do not eat the night before. If a dinner, east a light brekky, and skip lunch. Even have a nap beforehand. Some light exercise will get your metabolism buzzing, ready to process that buffet goodness! Be Prepared! You might also want to avoid carrying excess baggage into the restaurant, notice I said a ”void”.
When you enter the restaurant be courteous to the wait staff. Nod to the boss waiter, smile at the cute waitress/waiter. This makes yourself known, and even a little liked. Karma does exist—sometimes.
Pay when you enter (most places do this), get the money matter out of the way. Tell the cashier that you are eating the buffet only, nothing else. No extra drinks, coffee, or whatever. This leaves you free to concentrate on what you came here for.
- Location location location
Find the best table and chair. Somewhere close to the food, away from the toilets, and not on an isle. This keeps you close to what you want, and minimises interference from other people. Try also to get some elbow room, put your bag on the chair next to you. A gourmet needs his or her space!
- Scout it out
You are now ready to make your move, but, first, walk through the food area. Take a look, suss out your food. This can be difficult, it is always tempting to jump in and fill a plate, but don’t. First, figure out where everything is, determine what you want, then make your move. Style.
- Utensils & accoutrements
Get the biggest plate available, and fill it up. None of this small plate thinking—pile it on, but only fill your plate, not bury it. Style. For the rest, napkins, sauces, cutlery, walk over, grab all that you will need for your dining enjoyment, and take it back to your seat in one move. This saves time and trouble.
Identify what you like to eat and make sure you get plenty of that. Keep an eye out for anything new. Put a piece of that on your plate. Try it.
Avoid fizzy drinks. These fill your stomach with gas, limiting how much food you can eat. Clearly, a trick by unscrupulous restauranteurs. Drink water. If included also fruit juice, tea and coffee.
- Eat healthy
When I say ‘I like to eat’, I do not mean 3kgs of chocolate fudge cake with extra sugar and chocolate poured on top of the chocolate. We all want to live, part of achieving this is to eat smart, which means to eat healthily. Fruit and veg, fruit juice, water, not too much oil. You know what I am talking about. We control our urges (thus enhancing), or they control us.
If you are eating to eat, then bring along either just yourself, or like minded people. Avoid pesky relatives or annoying spouses, who will question your motives and style.
Buffets are often great places to spend a few hours with your laptop and get some work done, or simply to surf the net in a pleasant, gustatory environment. Find a buffet with good wifi, and between courses get some work done. There is a certain skill in mixing fine dining and employment, but with a little practice you will be sipping a (included) coffee while sending off invoices to clients.
Don’t waste food, someone has to work to make it. Always get a clean plate. Never eat on your feet, you have a chair for a reason, use it. Allocate an hour or two after the buffet for relaxation—you have earned a digestion break. Lastly, leave a tip. It’s a hard job being a waiter.
See you next to the potato salad.