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A beach that rarely sleeps, Haad Sai Kaew has the widest range of options for dining and drinking. This is where you'll find the busiest bars and barbecues in the evening -- though not necessarily those of the highest quality. Prices are high, even for Thai islands. If you're on a budget, there's no shortage of quality food and drink for significantly cheaper (though still fairly expensive) in the nearby Samet village.
One relatively cheap way to enjoy a good feed without leaving the beach is to flag down one of the beach vendors who carry around everything necessary for som tam, grilled chicken and mango sticky rice. All of the above can be purchased for around 120 baht total -- without ever leaving your lounger. When the sun goes down, the roti carts emerge.
By day, all of the resorts offer Thai and Western standards and the quality is generally good. Centrally located where the road meets the centre of the beach, Buddie's serves big portions of tasty Thai dishes along with excellent coffee. Their full-on English fry-up breakfasts will cost you 300 baht, but could be just the hangover cure you need. Behind Buddie's in the shaded tunnel that portals visitors from the beach to the village, Jump Coffee is Samet's best stab at an urban Thai-style coffee shop. Along with the great Thai fresh coffee, you'll find free WiFi, ice cream and a few baked goods in a stylish air-conditioned atmosphere.
At night, about a dozen large-scale restaurants invade the sand with their low-lying cushions and tables set up by candlelight. It starts with barbecue, which generally entails a choice from options like prawns, squid, red snapper, sea bass, steak or half a chicken to go with potato, corn, rice, bread and more. Menus and prices are very similar from one restaurant to the next, but Kitt &Food and Ploy Talay are two of the most popular.
Later in the evening, the strip thumps to the beat of loud music, wild entertainment and hordes of partying vacationers.
Ploy Talay is one of the most popular night time options on the beach with its spectacular fire dancing shows at 21:30 and 22:30, and live amplified acoustic music in between. Just south of Ploy you'll find the quirkily named Mermaid of Sunrise Bar. After an all-night session of busting moves to mainstream Western dance hits on their beach deck dance floor with impressive colourful strobe lights, maybe you'll understand what the name means.
At the other end of the beach, Finale feels like it could have been plucked out of Sukhumvit Soi 11. The urban-themed nightclub with slick lighting, and dance tunes pumped over one of the beach's best sound systems make this a good choice for those who don't mind spending some cash. Fear not if you lean towards the more relaxed, old school style beach bum bars. At the far northern end of the beach, both Radio Bar and the little bar hut at Laem Yai are fine spots to sit back with a cold beer or (relatively) cheap cocktail, usually to the sounds of Bob Marley and Jack Johnson and the murmur of conversation.