Fast food – your typical American chains. Yes, I’m talking about McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Subway. As a traveller you might get very depressed when you’re at the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors and you see everyone going into KFC to eat, or perplexed at the presence of KFC and Pizza Hut by the Great Pyramids of Giza, or maybe you’re utterly cool with it.
As a budget traveller in Europe, sometimes you’re just looking for a cheap meal. And let’s be honest, when it comes to these establishments, you know exactly what you’re going to get. You know that a small McDonald’s meal is likely to be significantly cheaper than eating out in Rome for example, and if your hostel doesn’t have kitchen facilities, well, you’re possibly a little hamstrung for choice.
On the other hand, we are talking about giant American companies that have spread their non-nutritious mass-produced products and symbols all over the world, and frankly you need to ask yourself, did you travel all the way to Kyoto to have a Quarter Pounder with cheese?
In Japan though, look a little harder and you’ll find plenty of other options which won’t cause you to blush when your family asks what you ate when you were there. Ramen shops are everywhere, although sometimes you might pass a little restaurant full of great food without even knowing it was there. They don’t have giant gold arches outside to pull you inside.
And Japan is one country where McDonald’s especially is absolutely everywhere. And yes, it is popular in Japan although plenty of people pooh-pooh it there as well. In modern-day China, KFC probably rules the roost, but also there are no shortage of McDonald’s and even the odd Subway.
Recently I was in Thailand. I remembered the ol’ backpackers haven of Khao San Road from my first couple of trips there, and I also remember that there were no American Fast Food outlets there. Now, well, on a road that’s only a few hundred metres long there are TWO McDonald’s, and there are two Burger Kings on either end. Not only that, but the sizes of the meals are like that in America – your fries and drinks have what Europeans, Japanese and Australians consider to be ‘large’ as the ‘medium’ size! I kid ye not. I had one McDonald’s meal in my week in Thailand, and was blown away by just how big my coke was. Totally unnecessary!
Even in India you’ll find quite a few McDonald’s now – beef’s not on the menu however you can have the chicken-based Maharaja Mac, although I found it rather spicier than I expected. I’ve even had Pizza Hut in Lahore, Pakistan, although I confess to finding that a bit of a welcome change.
So, in these depressing times of globalisation, are there any parts of the world you can’t find McDonald’s? Yep. There still are. I didn’t find a single American chain in Central Asia, although I gather one or two might be popping up in Kazakhstan. You’ll be Big Mac free in America’s favourite ‘naughty’ states in Iran and North Korea. I didn’t see any in Laos or Myanmar. In all my time in West Africa I didn’t see of these places, and in fact most of Africa bar Morocco, Egypt and South Africa seem to be free of the fast food giants.
This is a map of the world indicating where McDonald’s can be found. If it’s not grey, there’ll be a McDonald’s or seven thousand. It’s quite a world empire, let’s be honest. It also shows that Greenland and Antarctica are good places to get away from the Golden Arches.
How do you feel about eating fast food whilst travelling? Be honest! Thanks for reading, and May the Journey Never End!