Cheap is a relative term. For instance, as we’ve discovered, our definition of cheap is far lower than TripAdvisor’s. These days the island boasts a multitude of upmarket establishments serving quality fare in delightful surroundings. You won’t see any of those places here, we can’t afford ambience. We’re on a tight-ish budget, so we’ve concentrated our culinary explorations on places that are as low-priced (yet hopefully sanitary) as we could find. Much like in Bangkok, the general rule seems to be that you can find dishes in the 50-80B range if you go to a market stall, but if you sit in a restaurant expect to pay at least 80-120B for the same dish, often much higher. I did notice some restaurants along the Baan Tai/Baan Khai stretch advertising Thai food for 40-60B, but I didn’t get a chance to try any – let me know if you have.
Here are a few of the more affordable places we found:
Freeway Bar, along the Hin Kong Beach stretch. This is an atmospheric bar that, of all the places we’ve been on the island, most has that chilled-out, stay-a-while, backpacker vibe of old. An old motorcycle rusts next to a raised platform with low tables and pillows that looks out over the beach. We could relax while the kids played on the beach in front of us. Facing West, it’s an ideal location to watch the sun set. The food we had was tasty, the serving size good, and in the 100B range for fried rice or a curry. I can recommend the Green Curry Fried Rice, the Paneng Curry, and the kids loved their fluffy pancakes with jam. This is our most returned-to place thus far.
The Flying Dutchman, also along Hin Kong Beach, further South towards Thong Sala. This is another bar on the beach, though the mangroves growing out front close in the view compared to over at Freeway. Here you will also find a relaxed atmosphere with a raised seating area with triangle pillows and hammocks. The Dutch owner is really friendly and enjoyable to chat with, and serves nice cafetiere coffee from Holland. Many reviews rate the food very highly, and while it was nice, it wasn’t out of the ordinary and we preferred the food over at Freeway. Nice for a bit of variety though, and we enjoyed our time here. Prices were again in the 100-120B range for Thai food.
Petty’s Place, further South towards Thong Sala from Hin Kong, click for map. We went here for dinner, the painted-pink sign and glimmering, flickering fairylights drawing us in. We were the only guests, but were greeted very warmly and the staff were super friendly all evening. The menu is shorter than at other places and food here was more expensive than we had expected (see my comment above about TripAdvisor’s idea of cheap) with that dishes being in the 200B range. However, the food was delicious and the serving sizes were very generous. I’d actually recommend one dish between two, which would bring the cost per person down on par with other local restaurants. We ordered three dishes between the four of us and barely made a dent in one of them. The Massaman curry is particularly well known here, and I’d say it was well worth ordering. The chef even brought out a taster of the sauce to check if it was a good level of spiciness for the kids, or if we wanted more. Complimentary watermelon was served at the end of the meal, and the mango shake was the best I’ve had so far. At 750B, it was our most expensive meal of the trip so far, but we definitely enjoyed it.
Phantip Plaza Night Market, Thong Sala. Every evening a small night market sets up with a food court and various stalls selling everything from fried rice, to fresh avocado spring rolls, to pizza slices, to fish organ curry, to ice cream rolls. Prices for Thai food are in the 50-80B range, shakes can be had for 30B. Food can be packed up to take-away, and in fact I drove in and picked up some dinner last night, feeding the four of us for 330B including the 100B I spent on doughnuts. Ben particularly enjoyed the “meat sticks” aka BBQ chicken skewers. Highly recommended.
Phangan Cove, Srithanu. This resort and restaurant is situated on a beautiful stretch of beach. We sought it out because it’s run by a lady called Eiw who ran the bungalow operation on Baan Tai called “Liberty Bungalows” where I spent much of my two months on the island back in 2005. The food she made was fantastic and I remember it to this day. Phangan Cove is significantly more upmarket than Liberty was, but I’m pleased to say that her food is still fantastic, and for such a fancy resort the prices here were very reasonable. Expect about 120/140B for generous servings of the usual Thai dishes like Phad Thai, curry or fried rice. My Paneng curry was delicious and Chloe proclaimed the Phad Thai to be the best she has ever had. The restaurant has lots of different seating options, including some relaxing areas with cushions down by the beach. This would be a great place to come for lunch or to have dinner while the sun sets.
Mama Pooh’s, along the main road through Srithanu. This rustic establishment consists of lots of individual bamboo framed tables with benches under their own thatched roofs, sitting side by side along the road. The general feel is rather ramshackled, yet friendly. We went for dinner and were issued menus and bug spray upon arrival. Believe me, the bug spray was a necessity! The menu was extensive, the prices very reasonable (in the 60-100B range for non-seafood dishes) and the food was good. They do lots of fresh seafood and the prices for it was less than at other places, often in the 150B range.
My Way, Haad Salad beachfront. This place seemed one of the more affordable places among a host of fancy resorts on Haad Salad. We had lunch here and sat in the raised bar area overlooking the beach, on cushions at low tables. The atmosphere was pretty casual, with staff being pleasant but not overly attentive. The prices were in the 80-120B range and the food was yummy – my Thai Curry Fried Rice was nicely spicy, and the coffee shakes made with espresso (70B) were very good. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here, but if you are on the beach and looking for a budget option, it’s worth checking out.
Nira’s Bakery, across from the Seatran Pier in Thong Sala. Nira’s is a Thong Sala establishment, having been in operation since 1985. They serve home-made baked goods – the cinnamon bun I had was delicious – as well as breakfast items, sandwiches, quiches and Thai food. Ben had an enormous serving of French Toast with cinnamon and maple syrup that was delicious, and I can highly recommend the Green Curry Fried Rice. Real coffee is served. A hot latte will set you back 60B, while an iced version costs 80B – I guess ice is expensive? Buns and cakes are 55-65B, while western breakfast items like the French Toast or Museli/Granola with Fruit are 95B. Fried Rice was 80B. This was a popular place every time I visited, and I can see why – good food, reasonable prices, proper coffee and air-conditioning to cool off in. Worth a stop if you are in Thong Sala, or waiting for a ferry.
These are some of the places we found and enjoyed – if you have any recommendations let me know!
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