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Haad Sai Khao

Eat and meet

Haad Sai Khao

Haad Sai Khao boasts a solid mix of cheap Thai restaurants and street food, beachside shacks, seafood barbecue joints, international cuisines, refined resort restaurants and bars that sometimes lean towards the seedy.

Beginning with cheap Thai, twin roadside barbecue joints Nong Bua and Boogie Chicken, located across from Alina Resort, are both worthy stops for northeastern Thai-style rotisserie chicken, spicy salads and an abundance of Thai staples. Nearby Siam Kitchen also does solid Thai barbecue along with a variety of noodle soups for under 50 baht a bowl. Further south, a cosy congregation of street carts dish out dirt-cheap classics like khao man kai (chicken rice), khao na ped (rice with roast duck) and noodle soup to a few stainless steel tables and plastic stools. When dusk arrives, a small night market sets up along the main drag to offer the usual blend of fresh fruit, banana roti, grilled meats and kebabs.

If you make it all the way to the far northern end of the beach, you'll inevitably stop in at Grass Hut (aka Somtum Shop), a cheerful shack that blends into the rocks and serves authentic Thai food to go with smoothies, beer and well-done sandwiches and burgers. Also in the beach's northern reaches, May La Mean and Rock Sand have both received good reports for their Thai food, while the loud and proud Chang Bar is the centre of the northern beach's rag-tag nightlife scene.

Back on the main drag, you'll find several spots that specialise in coffee and breakfasts. Air-conditioned Marin Coffee has two locations along the main drag Haad Sai Khao (plus another in Cha Chet), both offering quality fresh coffee to go with chunky croissants, sandwiches, cakes, smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices. Further south, Thai Dutch Restaurant and Amsterdam Cafe offer hearty breakfasts with an obvious Dutch twist.

A very good choice for satisfying a range of tastes is 15 Palms, located smack in the centre of the beach. It has a stylish and comfortable atmosphere, with polished wood and terracotta features to go with chilled out music, sofas, a full bar, billiards table and several tables set outside over the sand. They offer excellent Lavazza coffee along with ice cream, champagne and an eclectic menu with selections ranging from all-day English breakfasts to tacos, salads, baguettes, pizza and Thai. Prices aren't cheap but portions are large and the standard is high. In a similar vein but with more of an eccentric ambiance and better Thai food, Thor's at Alina Resort is another solid choice.

Right across from 15 Palms sits Buffalo Bill's, an American wild-west themed bar/restaurant serving generously sized steaks and burgers along with beer and cocktails. They also have an electronic bull for those who feel the need to prove their stupidity, err, courage. Another pub highlight is Paddy's Palms, the Irish-owned institution where you can indulge in a hearty Sunday roast with all of the trimmings, fish and chips and Guinness on draft. Next to that is the White Elephant, a somewhat distastefully named expat hangout that offers filling stodge like bangers and mash and meat and potato pie. Both of these spots have billiards tables and widescreen TVs showing the latest sports, generally from a European-Australian slant.

A bit further south, The Bavarian at Top Resort is probably the island's best German restaurant, offering house-made goulash and schnitzel along with creamy ice cream and over two dozen varieties of German beer in a roadside beer garden atmosphere. For Italian, head to La Dolce Vita, a quality and affordable spot hidden away in Chang Kao Plaza. India Hut should satisfy that masala craving, though it's quite pricey and not as good as Emperor down in Kai Bae.

When it comes to nightlife, Haad Sai Khao has something to suit all tastes. While the live bands at open-air Oodie's should fit the bill for rock and rollers and Bob Marley worshippers who might want to get up and join the band for a number, One Nightclub in the back of Chang Kao Plaza turns up the live dance and hip hop DJs in a relatively large urban-inspired nightclub. In the same vicinity you'll find a cluster of hole-in-the-wall bars with names like Double Lucky, Honey and Friend. While these are a far cry from full-on go-go bars, they're staffed by "bar girls" who make it perfectly clear that single men are "WELCOME"!

For a more relaxed nightlife experience that's suited to conversation with friends and perhaps a round of pool or darts, Buffalo Bill's, Paddy's Palms and Chang Bar are all fine choices.


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