Six came up again during one of our tours in Chiang Mai. The tour guide, whose name was Tum Tum, told us his entire life story in the eight hours that we spent with him. By the end of the day, I was irritable and tired and could not even feign the obligatory smile I had plastered on my face earlier that morning. One such story, involved Tum Tum’s new baby nephew, who was born with six fingers on each hand. Yes, that happened. Adam and I tried to understand what his 12 fingered nephew had to do with our trip to Doi Inthanon National Park. We are still piecing it together. Nonetheless, it was something we talked about the rest of the trip.
A more boring observation was our total number of six flights, including those we took within Thailand. Last, but certainly not least, were the six buffets. Admission: buffets tend to give me anxiety. There is something about the variety of options that just sets me into panic mode. My indecisive/germ-a-phobic side comes out and my inner monologue just goes. “What do I try first? I don’t want to miss anything but I don’t want to over eat. Has this food been sitting out for a long time? Did anyone sneeze in these eggs?”
The end result was always the same. An overstuffed plate, maple syrup on my bagel and lox and an untouched egg white omelet that I chose at the beginning when I was trying to be healthy. The last time I dealt with this many buffets was on a cruise my senior year of college. By then, I had gained so much weight (six pieces of bacon status) that I was pretty much a fat boy at a Bar Mitzvah eating my feelings.
I learned from this trip that not all buffets are created equal. In fact, given my situation with the street food, the buffet was sometimes like a a warm blanket during the times that I cried in my coconut milk soup and just needed a piece of toast. Fine, a pancake with Nutella. Since I also came to the realization that I am not the biggest fan of Thai food, or as they say in Thailand, food, it was helpful to have some other options. I know. I am an embarrassment to the foodie culture, but now that I’m back to my homeland, I’m back on the wagon, promise.
Listed below are mini-reviews of the infamous six buffets. I rated them on a scale of 1 to 6, for obvious reasons. 1 is Old Country Buffet, 6 is my grandmother’s Yom Kippur spread. I hope you enjoy!
J.W. Marriott breakfast buffet, Bangkok
Overview: This was our first buffet in Thailand. For 40 U.S. dollars, this buffet had legitimately everything under the sun to appeal to every culture. Cue up the anxiety. Every piece of breakfast meat you can imagine, made-to-order, made-to-order ramen, made-to-order pancakes and waffles, Israeli salad with hummus, just to name a few.
Highlights: This was pretty much our first real meal in Thailand, so at that point, toast actually was a highlight. The homemade blueberry muffins and bacon were also stand outs, but the ravenous factor may have wafted my judgment.
Low lights: The sick feeling I had for the rest of the day after completely overdoing it.
Miscellaneous Anecdote: At this point I hadn’t yet mastered my two Thai phrases (hello and thank you), so I kept saying hello to the waitress in Thai, thinking I was thanking her.
Overall rating: 4
The Rim Resort breakfast buffet, Chiang Mai
Overview: This self-serve boutique hotel buffet had all of the American basics, along with Asian noodles and fried rice.
Highlights: Amazing fresh sesame bread that was even more amazing toasted with butter
Low lights: Six pieces of bacon
Similar to Carnival Cruise breakfast buffet: yes
Overall rating: 2
The Twinpalms breakfast buffet, Phuket
Overview: This buffet was somewhere between the J.W. Marriott and the Rim. The egg station upgraded it from the Rim, the lack of pita and hummus downgraded it from the J.W.
Highlights: Fresh mango, watermelon and orange juice served from the blender were a treat. Free champagne and a nice smoked salmon bar with good toppings, both channeled my inner Yom Kippur.
Low lights: Bacon sitting in a hot pot was not always crispy. I need crispy, dammit!
Overall rating: 3
Catch Beach Club dinner buffet, Phuket
Overview: This buffet was the fanciest of the group. A non-buffet lover would love this buffet. The slew of options initially triggered the anxiety again, especially since there were so many of my favorite foods. Fresh wheels of cheese with baguettes, made-to-order sushi, spicy octopus salad and all sorts of fresh seafood.
Highlights: Since Phuket is right on the Andaman sea, it is known for its seafood. The ahi tuna and smoked trout were especially noteworthy.
Low lights: The dessert bar had eye potential, but the chocolate mousse and creme brulee fell short in the taste department.
Overall rating: 5
John Gray Sea Canoe Tour lunch buffet, Phuket
Overview: This was the most authentic buffet of the trip, as it was essentially just a Thai family-style meal. For lunch, they served noodles with vegetables, Thai spring rolls, a variety of raw vegetables, fresh fruit and three different kinds of iced tea.
Highlights: The noodles were perfectly seasoned and cooked. Loved them!
Low lights: The teas. I was sweating bullets and hoping for something refreshing. Instead, they were like drinking a mouthful of honey.
Overall rating: 4
John Gray Sea Canoe Tour dinner buffet, Phuket
Overview: I saved the best for last. An amazing spread of all different kinds of Thai dishes. Chicken, fish, beef, vegetables and fresh Tom Yum soup were all involved.
Highlights: There was a beef dish with cashews that had just the right amount of kick for me, which is almost none. I loved it! The soup was also perfectly flavored and the chicken was tender and juicy.
Low lights: Massaman curry. This isn’t entirely fair as I really don’t like curry. The smell irks me.