Start your day in Stung Treng with piping hot noodle soup on the banks of the San River. Meals are cheap and the coffee strong, but little English is spoken. Staying local, venture into the market to find coconut-flavoured rice wrapped in bamboo as well as an impressive assortment of fruit for such a quiet town.
According to locals, the best restaurant in town is Sun Tha, just south of the market, along the main thoroughfare (Street 63). The restaurant is large, modern (in a strictly provincial sense), spotlessly clean, brightly lit with plenty of fans to keep you cool and offers a large menu of traditional Khmer dishes, from menus that are printed in Khmer, English and Chinese. The food is well-prepared, very tasty, and mid-priced. The staff on the other hand will give you a headache, but since this is the “best place” to eat in town, you may be prepared to put up with it. Or is it?
Despite all local assurances to the contrary, we actually thought it was the second best place in town, ceding poll position to a little no-name restaurant on Street 14, just off the main market square. No Name is very small, with a beautiful white clapboard front which the owners have partially obscured with a couple of huge umbrellas, and doesn’t offer much more than marinaded chicken or beef skewers cooked up on the street side grill and served up with pickled vegetables and slices of toasted baguette for less than $2. We couldn’t have been happier, and the owner and staff were more than delightful.
They open early for breakfast, and from 16:00 in the afternoon, until everything is gone, usually by about 21:00. It really does have no name. There is no sign, and when we asked the owner what the name was, he told us it didn’t have one. So there you go.
The main traveller restaurant in town is Panika’s Palace, whose menu features an array of Khmer, Western and Indian food, including a decidedly greasy English breakfast, pumpkin soup, cottage pie, various masala dishes, Mekong fish, burgers, house-made yoghurt and ice cream — we liked the amok, which had a bit of an Indian flavour to it. Free WiFi, bikes and motorbikes are available for hire, and they can provide you with lots of assistance and advice for local excursions and onward travel booking.
Riverside Guesthouse also has a restaurant, but is better suited for beers and chats with fellow travellers than attempts at satisfying an appetite.
Mekong Blue, the weaving centre to the east of town has a small cafe on site, but only drinks were available when we visited. Still, give it a try after checking out the weaving centre.
For the best food that we found in Stung Treng, in the loveliest setting, you’ll have to head out of town to Mekong Bird Guesthouse, off Route 7 on the road to Laos. This very sweet, riverside guesthouse has a small restaurant overlooking the Mekong — a gorgeous site for sunsets as it happens — and serves up a delicious menu of beautifully-cooked Khmer and Thai dishes at very, very reasonably prices. Usually around $3 or $4. The dining area is a wooden and bamboo open-fronted cabin, with a small platform at the front for even better views. Not to be missed if you can do it.
Sun Tha Restaurant: Street 63, Stung Treng; T: (012) 225 156.
The restaurant with no name: Street 14 (about three doors down, on the left side, as you walk away from the main market square), Stung Treng
Ponika’s Palace: Street 61(in between the taxi station and the market), Stung Treng; T: (012) 916 441, (088) 357 0751.
Riverside Guesthouse: Street 4 (behind the taxi station); T: (012) 257 207; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mekong Blue: Thmey Village (about 9km from central Stung Treng city); T: (012) 796 699; email@example.com