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Eat and meet


Mukdahan's food scene isn't too shabby for such a small city -- look for the abundant Vietnamese food, spicy Lao-Isaan fare, some notably good Western comfort food and even some rocking nightclubs.

Early risers will appreciate the GoodMook coffee shop just a few yards from the immigration office on Songnang Sathit Road. Great coffee, free WiFi and some decent sandwiches are on offer here and the local expat population tends to frequent this place to meet and chat. It's also open late into the evening and they offer a full range of alcoholic drinks. Also in the coffee realm, Dara Coffee Corner right next to Riverfront Hotel whips up a good espresso or cappuccino to go with free WiFi, cookies and ice cream cakes.

In terms of local specialties, don't miss the night market along Songnang Sathit Road, where you'll find a plethora of Thai, Lao and Vietnamese dishes that include fried spring rolls for eating while you walk, stacks of tropical fruit, corn on the cob and classic street noodles to be enjoyed at tiny tables. The market gets rolling around 17:00 and winds down around 21:00. Even if dining elsewhere, the market is worth strolling through just to soak up the buzz -- don't be surprised if you hear Vietnamese being spoken here.

Speaking of which, Vietnamese food is very popular in Mukdahan and almost as easy to find as Thai. It doesn't exactly jump out at you, but the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese spot right at the corner of Samut Sakdarak Road and Soi Si Worrabut (around the corner from Riverfront Hotel) sells outstanding kway job Yuan (Vietnamese-style noodle soup with peppered sausage), fried spring rolls and khanom pawk maw (rice flour rolls with pork and veggies), which cost us just 110 baht for all three. There's no English menu but everything except the noodle soup is displayed up front so you can just point at what you want and the good natured owner is happy to oblige. If seeking something a little more accessible, the Vietnam restaurant across the street from Submukda Grand Hotel has all of its dishes pictured on the wall with prices.

As for Thai food, there are several good riverfront restaurants just south of Indochine market with breezy verandas and great views. We were told by a local to check out Wine Wild Why, and the meal we had there ended up being one of our favourite Thai meals in some time. The riddle-sounding name is a curious one, but the owner speaks solid English and serves up laap-style Isaan salads (the laap bla fish edition was fabulous) along with tom yum and tom kha soups and a handful of excellent curries. They also sell liquor, beer, and as the name would suggest, a handful of decent wines, and they're open for lunch and dinner until 22:00.

We also had a great experience at Away Restaurant, which boasts a pleasant open-air dining space along Samut Sakdarak Road right next to River City Hotel. They only sell a handful of dishes, but the khao soi northern Thai style curried chicken soup with egg-wheat noodles was a pleasant and tasty surprise.

If looking for Western fare, walk directly next door from Away restaurant to the Picking Cowboy. The chilli-con-carne is recommended, and although we stuck to the Asian food while in Mukdahan, one resident Travelfish member (thanks Madmac!) told us the burgers at Picking Cowboy are the best he's ever tried, anywhere in the world -- and he's an American. Picking Cowboy stays open until 01:00, often has live music and is a favourite haunt of local expats. If seeking something more up-scale, the piano bar atop River City Hotel is a good bet for either a Thai or Western meal and some sweeping views of the Mekong.

Moving onto nightlife, the area around Mukdahan Tower a short walk south of River City Hotel is home to several clubs that stay open until 01:00, including a very loud thumping DJ spot called Kingdom of Heaven and a more sporty joint called The Country Club where you can catch up with your favourite football squad.

The Bangkok-style Grand Pub in front of the Mukdahan Grand Hotel is the most happening club in town with live bands and hip hop/dance DJs rotating throughout the night. It tends to draw Mukdahan's younger set, as do two similar but smaller nearby clubs called Share Yes and The Pool -- head down the road behind the 7-eleven right across from Ploy Palace to find these.

When going out on the town in Mukdahan, don't forget you're in a distant northeastern Thai city and while you won't look out of place if you dress to impress, most people dress casually, no matter what the venue.

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