Starbuck$ Ubud

Bloody Starbucks.

That’s what I said when I spotted a Starbucks in Ubud. ‘Are tourists that desperate for a shitty chain coffee?’ I asked my wife as we strolled past the giant Starbucks right in the heart of central Ubud. I knew that they were coming to town because a local had mentioned their imminent arrival the last time I visited and they weren’t happy about it. And here it was in all of it’s faux Balinese glory. They were trying to ‘pretend’ that they were all culturally sensitive and had this fakey-temple thing going on with a giant Balinese Starbuck’s gong at the entrance. I really can’t understand why people on a one week holiday can’t last a few days without having a Hazelnut Vanilla Double Frappe Macchiato. I searched the Ubud Starbucks on Trip Advisor and there were comments like: ‘It’s really expensive; but it’s such a nice luxury,’ and ‘I was SOOO excited to find a Starbucks in Ubud!’ If you have read any of my books you will know how much I hate those big horrible ‘restaurant’ chains that set themselves up right in the heart of historical towns and cities.

Why, for example, is there a McDonalds in Venice, right behind Piazza San Marco? Not surprisingly, it’s full of fat Americans who can’t go on holiday without having a Big Mac. I honestly don’t get it. There really is no excuse. It’s not like Italian cuisine is too exotic for a simple palette. Or that all the food in Venice is too expensive. It’s not. You can find simple panini or pizza all over Venice (just step one street away from the tourist streets). ‘McDonalds is a godsend. My kids love it.’ That’s what one lady wrote to me in an email. In fact, that was the only reason she wrote to me – to tell me that she couldn’t understand why I bag McDonalds so much. Give your bloody kids a panini. It’s a toasted cheese sandwich. And the money will go a to a local business. It seems the locals aren’t too happy about it either. This is a statue that was erected in Venice…

McDonalds statue Italy

And like Starbucks in Ubud, McDonalds think that because they ‘blend in’ then it’s alright. In Salzburg, Austria (right in the middle of the main historical street across the way from Mozart’s birthplace) their cutesy medieval sign still doesn’t hide the brightly coloured plastic furniture inside and that distinctive chemically enhanced McDonald’s smell.


Or, even worse, when they take over a famous building or site. In my most recent book Tell Them to Get Lost – where I traipsed around South-East Asia using the original 1975 Lonely Planet South-East Asia on a Shoestring as my only guidebook – I kept finding recommended local places in the old guidebook that were now McKFCs or similar. In Kuta, Bali the ‘irresistible East West restaurant’ right on the beach was now a Maccas – complete with a surfing Ronnie out front…

McRubbish Bali

The same thing happened in Yogyakarta. The ‘popular Happy Restaurant’ now served McHappy meals, while the ‘iced juices’ at Helen Restaurant were now replaced with ‘iced donuts’. It was now a Dunkin Donuts. But it’s not just in Asia where The Crap Food Cartels have moved in on local landmarks. In Paris, McDonald’s took over a building in Rue Saint Lazare that dates back to 1892 and is a listed historic monument.

McMerde Paris

And this one made me particularly mad. Not only is the McDonalds at the Spanish Steps in Rome right in the heart of the eternally historical city, it also used to be a nightclub made famous in the Fellini film La Dolce Vita. It truly was a cool place. Rugantino’s nightclub looked like a subterranean cave. Now it’s just a sub-standard restaurant. Oh, and McDonalds – a couple of statues and a bit of marble doesn’t make you Roman…

McShite Rome Italy

I do love it, though, when they just get it all wrong. A few years back Starbucks opened up in Lygon Street, Carlton in Melbourne, Australia. Lygon Street is arguably the coffee capital of Australia, so not surprisingly the place was empty. You’d think they would have done some research, but they are so arrogant they thought people would swarm in anyway. Less than a year after it opened they closed it down. Which was a pity. When I go to Carlton now where I am going to get my 13 shot soy vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra caramel?




2 replies
  1. Craig Balfour
    Craig Balfour says:

    Hi Brian,
    I couldn’t agree more! I stumbled across the Maccas in venice (I think there actually is two or three of them now!!) and almost choked on my slice of pizza! What I don’t understand is why Venice let them in there in the first. Not only does the city not need it, but it takes away the charm (and history) of Venice. They will be opening one at the top of the Eiffel Tower next!

    • bthacker
      bthacker says:

      Hi Craig,

      I believe Maccas are also planning to open one in the Colosseum in Rome – there is all that empty space in the middle after all!

      Cheers and thanks for commenting,


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