What Happened To My Breakfast?


Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, TEDx Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

There’s something about breakfast when I travel. It’s a meal that, when in my home country, I don’t think about much. I might make some oatmeal, I might make eggs, perhaps some fruit and veggies. But, when traveling, breakfast becomes a challenge. I notice it because I can’t find it. My current trip to Asia only highlights this.

Breakfast at Incheon Airport

After eating dinner at the cafe across from my airport hotel (I’m staying in Terminal 2, and rented a room for 12 hours) I didn’t expect to eat at that same cafe for breakfast. When my hotel told me that is the place to go for breakfast, I just presumed the breakfast menu would be, well, that it would have some eggs. Apparently, my stomach is one of the first parts of me to notice I’m “not in Kansas anymore.” 

Upon arrival at said cafe, I’m confronted with last night’s dinner menu. There’s not even a glimmer of tea. I don’t want noodle soup, I don’t want chicken stew, so I go for the dumplings. A very strange breakfast, and not terribly filling as it’s more pasta than filling. Eating dinner for breakfast is a strange sensation. I’ve only really done that when hungover or out of food, so it feels like something is off. I’m tired from a long flight, I’m turned around with jet lag, I’m grumpy, and now I feel like I ate Kung Fu Panda’s breakfast and am still hungry.

Durres port

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur

I board my next flight, and arrive at my Kuala Lumpur hotel at 1am. A few hours later, breakfast finds me longing for eggs, once again. (Don’t you always crave what you can’t find?) My hotel offers a few items for $2, so I try the one that says it has egg and anchovies. It turns out to have chili sauce, so it’s spicy. That’s not a breakfast I recognize, and I’m not craving a burning mouth at 8am. The egg is a sliver of the egg, not the egg itself. There are a few pieces of small fish. Not enough protein for me, and eating all the rice doesn’t fill me. I spend the morning feeling like I might float out of my body. The dish is called Nasi Lemak and the photo below gives you an idea of what it looks like, but mine had less egg and fewer anchovies and was about half as big a portion.

Durres port
Image by Faizal Zakaria from Pixabay

With all the traveling I do, you’d think I’d get used to different breakfasts, but I never do. Well, I do eventually, but the first few days feel like a success or a failure based on what I can find for breakfast, which means that my first day in Kuala Lumpur starts as an epic food failure. I join a free walking tour and feel like I’m just waiting for the moment we can eat because my legs are walking but the rest of me is lagging waaay behind. We pass the Petronas Towers, walk past the KL Tower and travel to Chinatown where I try some glutinous substance dipped in sweet peanuts. It’s chewy and sweet, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but it momentarily stops me feeling like I might pass out. Then the amazing happens. To my delight, there is a tea egg. It may possibly be the best egg I’ve ever had in my life. Or, it might just have seemed that way in the moment. Either way, my body senses a glimmer of hope, enjoys every bite, and makes it to lunchtime without falling down.

The real success comes the next day, when I find the perfect cafe, just a few minutes walk from my hotel. The Feeka coffee roasters. The staff is lovely and I make new friends just by returning. And they have eggs. Fried eggs, scrambled, poached, even avocado toast. Finding breakfast I recognize, even if it will only last for a few days, helps me adapt to my new surroundings and feel ready to take on a new day.

The experience makes me realize that I take breakfast for granted when I’m not traveling and don’t have a kitchen to make my own meals. I always forget about my initial breakfast challenge days, but truth be told, I’ve had them everywhere – even France. The UK has eggs, but the whole fry up concept is still more food than I’m used to. In the end, all this reminds me that though the first few days of travel shifts and change are bumpy, I’m still pretty adaptable to new surroundings. In fact, after ten days in Malaysia, I’ve begun to skip protein breakfasts and just eat whatever’s available and find my protein at lunch and dinner. 

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