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Krabi

Eat and meet

Krabi

Krabi has a good mix of traveller-oriented cafes, bars and international restaurants to go with some excellent southern Thai street food.

The first place in Krabi any self-respecting foodie should go is Maharaj market, easy to find half-way between Maharaj Road and Uttarakit Road on Maharaj Soi 10. All the way to the right if facing the market from the front you'll find close to a dozen makeshift stands that each hawk upwards of 25 different curries, soups and other dishes. Standards like panang with pork, massaman with chicken, gaeng neua (beef curry) and gaeng som (sour yellow curry with fish) go for 20 baht each and they'll pile a plate of rice high with as many selections as you like. For something different, try the yellow curry with frog or hard-to-find gai unasawari, slow roasted chicken with mustard greens. Many vendors offer basic on-site seating and they're used to serving foreigners. The market also boasts a range of Thai sweets and fresh fruit, including the golden mangoes that Krabi province is famous for -- delicious, with or without sticky rice.

If you're an early riser, don't miss the huge morning market on Maharaj Soi 8 to see still flapping fish, fresh meat, produce and fruit. This is also a good place to pick up Thai breakfast snacks like fried bananas and khao niao bing, sticky rice with taro or banana wrapped in banana husks and grilled. If you're around on a Sunday, the non-touristy night market that sets up along Maharaj Soi 9 is a good place to graze on Thai finger foods and perhaps pick up a T-shirt or pair of flip flops.

A riverside night market also comes to life every night in front of Chao Fah pier but seems to cater mostly to travellers. You'll find standards like pad Thai, noodle soup, som tam with grilled chicken or fish and roti. While not a complete rip-off, prices are generally inflated for travellers and dishes are often toned down for Western tastes. Unlike at Maharaj, however, cold beer flows at Chao Fah and the lively scene is great for meeting other travellers. Directly across from Chao Fah market, Kotung Restaurant is a good choice if you want local-style food in a more "proper" air-conditioned setup.

Another Muslim-style dish that should not be missed in Krabi is khao mok gai, or yellow biryani rice with roasted chicken. It can be found on street restaurants all over town; we can recommend Roti Chachak on the corner of Maharaj and Itsara roads, which is a favourite among locals. The busy staff also whip out delicious khao man gai (Thai-style Hainanese chicken rice), roti stuffed with sweet banana or savoury curry, southern Thai style wood-fired kopi and complimentary pots of Chinese jasmine tea. Roti stalls can be found throughout town frying up the beloved unleavened bread, but also be sure to try roti grob, a huge slab of sweet fried dough flavoured with coconut; you'll need to adjust that belt if taking on one by yourself.

A number of bakeries and coffee shops are found around town, the most famous of which is centrally located Sinocha at the corner of Maharaj and Maharaj Soi 10. They sell a range of Chinese style tea cakes to go with Western style baked goods that can be enjoyed at streetside tables that fill up nightly with locals who also enjoy Thai iced tea and roti from one of several carts. Both Lisa Bakery near Good Dream Guesthouse on Uttarakit Rd and Cake Connection on Maharaj Soi 4 are good bets for cake and fresh Thai coffee.

Krabi town is surprisingly thin when it comes to seafood, but a handful of riverside restarants serve up grilled prawns, whole fish, raw oysters and razor clams. The enormous floating restaurant right next to Chao Fah pier is the most obvious choice, but Lomlay Restaurant located further south on Uttarakit is probably the best bet. Try the hoy kaeng clams and som tam buu maa, spicy papaya salad with salty blue crab. While not cheap, Lomlay has reasonable prices and draws a mix of locals and travellers.

At least two dozen traveller-oriented cafes are found throughout the backpacker areas on Uttarakit and Chao Fah roads, and most offer near identical selections of pasta, burgers and Thai basics. We enjoyed a pasta dish at Mr Krabi on Chao Fah Rd, which has a well-put-together menu and one of the best atmospheres in town -- think dim lights, chill music, free WiFi and a full bar including some decent wine selections. An added bonus is that Mr Krabi offers free use of their bicycles to anyone who spends more than 100 baht at the cafe.

A good choice for sandwiches is Born Restaurant on Uttarakit Rd, which bakes their own baguettes and whole wheat bread. We counted four Italian restaurants in town, and while we didn't try them all, we had an excellent meal at Firenze Restaurant on Khong Kha Road, across the street from Smile Guesthouse. The brick oven pizza was perfectly crispy and the homemade gnocchi left us craving for more. Firenze also serves house-made veggie lasagna and great garlic bread to go with meal-size Caeser salads.

As for nightlife, Krabi town is no Patong Beach, but it does have a handful of interesting bars. Both cocktails and conversation from the chilled out, slanted-cap-wearing bartender at Old West Bar on Uttarakit Rd are worth seeking out. Cocktails start at 100 baht and they have what looks to be the biggest booze selection in town along with a casual yet classy ambiance with a lot of hard woods and music from the likes of Van Morrison playing over the soundsystem.

For a more urban vibe, head over to the Playground, next to Pak-up Hostel on Chao Fah Rd for live DJs, billiards tables, big screen TVs and an open courtyard with candle-lit seating. Those looking to get wild might be best off either at Fubar, a reggae-inspired spot off Chao Fah Rd, or the tiny bar that looks like a shack and is filled with odd vintage antiques near Thai Hotel on Itsara Rd.


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