Traveler's Confessions: The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

Monday, July 29, 2013

All backpackers have a secret that we don't want any of you to know. In fact, it's such a dark, embarrassing secret that we would much rather miss flights, get stuck in cramped bus rides or get food poisoning while on nonstop 24 hour train rather than be found out. But it's about time you knew. Are you sure you're ready for this?

When push comes to shove, most backpackers have a tendency to steal take stuff. 

But I'm not talking about hard core The Bank Job, Ocean's Eleven kind of deal here. I'm referring to getting excited upon seeing a full roll of toilet paper at a restaurant. Refilling your little 50ml bottles from bigger jar at a couchsurfer's place. Or stuffing those packs of jam and sugar into your pocket at a cafe. Don't play innocent and tell me you haven't done this before. In moments of lack and deprivation, we take joy in little things that we can take with us to make the journey a little more tolerable and perhaps even exciting.

This was exactly our situation in a small town called Banmaw in Myanmar. We were short on budget, with no access to cash or ATM and traveling in a big group. To make things worse, we had to take a 3 day boat from Banmaw to Mandalay later that day.

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

But there was a silver lining to this dark cloud: we had been staying at a hotel that offered a buffet breakfast along with the cost of accommodations. And this was not the usual buffet you get in most Southeast Asian countries. It was a real, Asian and Western style buffet that had at least 20 different dishes (why hello bacon!).  It was a wonderful surprise in a country like Myanmar!

What's backpacker to do when faced with such a challenging situation? Prepare for famine of course!

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

There were 8 people in our group so we thought it was best to take advantage of that. Preparations were made as early as the night before. This was our game plan:

-We would arrive at the buffet table in groups of 2 within 30 minutes of each other. The earliest group would be ready at 6 AM when the restaurant opened.

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

-Each group would be assigned a certain food (rice, veggies, sweets, etc) and would take these items stealthily back to the room to be packed for the boat ride.

-Food items had to be packed and stored properly to last us a few days.

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

-Everyone had to come in and out of the restaurant, eat, take food and disguise them and do their best not to get caught.

This is what happened the next day:

-Before 6:30 AM, all the rice had been emptied from the pot.

-At 7 AM, 3 trays of dim sum had mysteriously disappeared

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

-By the time the 3rd group had arrived, all the cakes, pastries and sweets were gone- and there were only less than 10 people at the buffet area!

We used a lot of shopping bags, sarongs and even shawls to carry the food away. This left the servers very busy, confused and scratching their heads within an hour after the buffet opened. We finally managed to gather the food, place them in bags and fit them inconspicuously into our luggage after an hour. This was our sustenance for 3 days:

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

✓ 3 bags of plain rice
✓ 3 bags of fried rice
✓ 10 soft boiled eggs
✓ 22 pieces of sausage, bacon and ham
✓ 32 pieces of cake
✓ 15 pieces of sticky rice in banana leaves
✓ 4 apples
✓ 3 packs of sliced fruit
✓ assortment of chocolate bars, coffee and tea packets

It's not something we're proud of and we definitely felt guilty as soon as we left the hotel. To make matters worse, as soon as we checked out, the friendly staff gave us all a food packet to take on the boat- an apple, egg and sticky rice! They were so generous! We gave each other guilty looks, thanked the staff and went off to catch our boat.

The Great Burmese Buffet Heist

Traveler's Confessions Series

Do you have any confessions to make as a backpacker? Any deep dark secrets you want to share? We will keep your identity a secret- or if you so choose, share it with the world! Spill the beans by commenting below, emailing your story to solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com or if you are a blogger, write about it! We will link you up to this post of you dare to share. You know you want to...

Disclaimer: This trip to Myanmar was done in 2011. I wish to keep the identities of my travel buddies a secret to protect their integrity.

Daredevil backpacker,
Sole Sister Lois

Photo Credit: Susan Stephanie

Lois has traveled extensively and has called the USA, Germany, Switzerland and the Philippines home in various stages of her life. When she's not having adventures around the globe, she can be found surfing, surfing someone's couch or giving talks, workshops and retreats. She is a certified Passion Test facilitator who believes that people can find what they love and make a living from their passions. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of

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3 sole trails

  1. Not too lewd unfortunately ;-) Once in a while, I use (other people's) shampoo that I see in the shower stall. Not because I don't have any, but because they smell nice. To be fair, once it was lavender-scented and being the only female guest in an all-male hostel, I figured someone left it behind :)

  2. haha! Holy cow! Im not alone! I've done this too! When i was in hongkong, my friends and I stole muffins, nutellas, oranges, jams, and cupcakes during buffet breakfasts at our hotel! That happened 6days straight. Atleast, we have snacks while we tour the city.

  3. OMG look at the varieties of food.hope you had a great time.


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