Where to eat and drink: Amphawa

Amphawa: Where to eat and drink

There’s not much in the way of Western food in Amphawa, but it’s a fun place to eat if you like the Thai way of preparing seafood and sweets. Be sure not to miss the area’s specialties: salty mackerel (bla tuu), razor clams (hoi lot) and tropical fruits like lychee and pomelo.

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If you arrive on a weekend, you’ll be treated to one of the best markets in all of central Thailand. The biggest draw is the seafood; grilled squid, whole fishes, shrimp, scallops and a range of shellfish can be purchased from boats beside the canal to be enjoyed at tiny tables, or at more proper restaurants with large roofed dining rooms. The latter cost a bit more, but we found the string of simple restaurants with relatively spacious tables along the canal closer to the river to offer large portions and decent prices. Don’t miss the mackerel (pla tuu), which is considered a "can’t miss" by Thais and is usually grilled or fried and served with head and tail still on. It’s a bit messy -- you’ll need to remove the head and debone the fish yourself -- but the salty flavour and meaty texture are worth the effort.

If you don’t come on a weekend -- or would prefer a more romantic and stylish setting -- head for Chal Sam Rhand restaurant’s spacious patio beside the Mae Khlong, where an extensive seafood menu in English includes a full page of mackerel dishes to go with authentic chilli pastes and whole fishes. Liquor, beer and wine are also available, making this a good place to let loose, but with most dishes costing under 200 baht prices are reasonable given the atmosphere and snappy service. Chal Sam Rhand is open every night from 15:00 to 23:00; we arrived to find a notably good singer/guitarist duet performing Thai songs.

Although Amphawa’s market is known as a floating one, the majority of vendors set up either in the large roofed pavilion towards the southwest side of the canal or on either side of the footbridge that crosses the canal near the centre of town. Tropical fruit is cheap and fresh, and all sorts of Thai sweets, baked goods, homemade coconut ice cream and finger foods can be sampled. Most vendors aren’t open on weekdays but a handful do set up around the town centre, which also hosts a smattering of cheap street restaurants serving the standard noodle soups and made-to-order dishes like krapao kai (chicken with chillies and holy basil) and pak boong fai dang (sauteed morning glory). The area around Rama II park also hosts a midday market on weekends with similar foods but a lot more breathing room.

Also near the town centre on the way to the minibus pick-up point is Moo Dang restaurant, which is a bit of an anomaly in that it has a colourful and well-put-together menu with good English descriptions and an inviting garden dining terrace to go with cheap yet tasty food that’s usually the stuff of hole-in-the-wall joints. Roasted red pork with rice and a savoury sauce is the specialty, but a few noodle and chicken teriyaki dishes are also available, all for under 30 baht. Moo Dang is also open seven days a week.

Coffee enthusiasts will enjoy the classic Chinese-Thai style coffee shop smack in the town centre between the tourist information centre and the canal, where you can enjoy strong brew with sweetened condensed milk to go with complimentary Chinese jasmine tea and sticky rice goodies like khanom ba-jang. Also on the coffee front, don’t miss Amphawa Coffee in its humble shophouse with gold Thai and Chinese script on an old red sign on the south side of the canal near ChababaanCham Resort. They’re only open on weekends, but the northern Thai Arabica and wood-fired southern Thai Robusta are worth seeking out. Another solid cafe-style option is Thanicha Healthy Resort -- we couldn’t resist losing an hour in its inviting lobby/cafe with a strong espresso and herbal tea.

Several restaurants are shut during the week, but the canal-side terrace at Baan Kupu serves seafood barbecue to go with beer, liquor and live music seven nights a week, and the rooftop restaurant at Amphawa Na Non Hotel boasts some great views while being your best bet for a sandwich, steak, pasta or Thai meal.

Finally, we highly recommend the tiny noodle shop that sets up everyday just east of Wat Phra Yat towards the eastern end of the canal on the northern bank. The woman who runs it was one of the residents who were forced to move from the old teak homes that were bought up and destroyed by the giant hotel project across the canal, and she makes a mean kwit-tieau nam (noodle soup) for 30 baht per bowl.

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