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Trat

Eat and meet

Trat

Trat has some very good markets to go with a smattering of cheap local shops and traveller-oriented cafes.

The one not-to-be-missed food attraction in Trat is its night market that opens every evening around 17:00 (closing around 21:00) on the side street to Trad Hotel. It's marked off the main drag by a big sign that reassuringly reads, "Thai Food Safety Street". We suppose it's safe enough -- no parasites to report at least -- and the food is great. You'll find a wide mix of finger foods like meats-on-sticks, dumplings and Thai sweets to go with fresh fruit. Several sit-down spots allow you to fill up with a bowl of noodle soup or stewed pork with rice for 30 baht. A bit further north and on the other side of the main drag, across from the sign for S.A. Hotel, a couple of smaller food plazas serve made-to-order stir-fries, soups, noodles and salads for similar prices, with basic English menus available. Some of these stay open late.

Just south of the night market lies the impossible to miss Talad Sod, a massive roofed day market where fresh food vendors sling locally grown veggies and pig's heads, and a food court is filled with stalls serving cheap staples like pad Thai and chicken rice. This is also a good spot to pick up fresh fruits like rambutan and durian, which Trat province is known for. The vendors are used to travellers passing through and some can speak a little English. For those who can't, pointing will suffice.

Across the main drag from the entrance to the night market, a Thai-Chinese style bakery offers tasty teacakes and steamed buns along with Western baked goodies like doughnuts and cake. With a neighbouring stand brewing cheap but good coffee and Thai iced tea next door, this is a safe bet for a local-style breakfast that will also satisfy your dough craving.

If you need a break from the heat, Coffee and More at Rimklong Boutique Hotel down in the old quarter serves quality fresh coffee, fruit shakes and a few cocktails in a bright air-conditioned atmosphere. They don't serve food, but you can pick up cheap Thai sweets and fried goodies from the hole-in-the-wall shops that dot the area's narrow lanes to make it a meal. Almost adjacent to Rimklong on Rhak Muang, an old woman sells savoury fried rice cakes with dried shrimp that are to die for. If you're staying up towards the hospital, Obchoey Corner is a huge air-conditioned coffee shop and restaurant that also looked inviting.

Several laidback restaurants cater to travellers in the old quarter, with one of the best known being Cool Corner on Thana Charoen. With a cheerful ambiance that incorporates tastefully simple paintings, northern Thai lanterns and wooden tables, this artsy hangout also draws plenty of expats, which tells you something about the quality of the food. Owner Moon makes everything from scratch, with the curries receiving especially good reports. You'll also find a few well-done Western selections, breakfasts, smoothies and coffee. Just up the street, Pier 112 has a similarly artsy vibe that's embodied by an endearingly chubby golden retriever who often flops down in front of the cafe's large selection of used books. Curries are also good here, and the cheap breakfasts and cocktails look promising. Both Cool Corner and Pier 112 offer several vegetarian options.

If you prefer a more local-style setting to go with cheaper but no less delicious vegetarian fare, a nameless restaurant (look for the yellow flags) sells almost exclusively vegan Chinese-Thai meat substitutes, stir-fries and curries just east of the night market. Minimal English is spoken, but most of the dishes are displayed out front so you can point and watch as they're piled on top of rice. The food is usually sold out by late afternoon.

If you're craving Western food, we've heard that Casa Pizza is a decent Italian spot found off the highway just east of the Tesco Lotus. You'll also find the usual fast food suspects out this way, in the shopping centre itself. Most traveller restaurants in the old quarter also do pizza, burgers and sandwiches to varying degrees of quality. Though we didn't try it, the pizza at Orchid Restaurant looked good.

Trat is no bastion of nightlife, and most travellers are happy to hang around the old quarter's restaurants exchanging stories over a few beers after dark. Along with solid Thai food and Western selections, the easy-to-find Sea House near the corner of Rhak Muang and Sukhumvit has a small bar and is a popular traveller and expat hangout. For something different, you could head out to Sa Sisiar reservoir to the west of town, where a string of Thai-style barbecue joints serve fiery salads, grilled whole fishes and whiskey with a bucket of ice on terraces overlooking the lake.


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