The monkey city has some photogenic markets along with a typical spread of Thai eateries and backpacker cafes.
Many travellers hardly stray from Noom’s Restaurant -- and for good reason. Tables with floor cushions and sofas occupy the indoor section of the guesthouse’s ground floor, while proper tables are set up under an awning on the street. All of them fill up with travellers sharing stories over draft Chang beer and cocktails after dark. The panang curry that we sampled was delicious and we heard positive reports about English breakfast with fresh coffee, burgers, salami baguettes and lamb-and-potato pies. The staff did an exceptional job, making the 80 to 150 baht prices seem like a bargain.
If Noom’s is full you could pop across the street to Matini, another traveller-oriented spot with beer, cocktails and Thai/Western food, including some vegetarian options. There’s also Budsi’s, a smaller spot located just south of Noom’s where you can gobble up a burrito or green curry before strumming one of the guitars. It’s a favourite hangout of local English teachers with a fun punk-skater vibe, making it a good option for chatting up the expats.
Those looking to go beyond the obvious traveller-oriented options could start at the night market that sets up around the train station on Na Phrakan Road from around 17:00 to 21:00. While it’s not the best night market we’ve come across by any stretch, you will find a decent spread of dishes like khao ka muu (stewed pork knuckles with rice), som tam (green papaya salad), gai tort (fried chicken), muu ping (grilled pork skewers), rad na (wide noodles with pork in a thick gravy) and roti. Most vendors offer a few tables for eating on site.
In the morning you ought to take a stroll through the municipal market located across from the north wall of Narai Ratchaniwet Palace. The inner part features mainly fresh meats, fish, chillies and flowers, while carts set up along the outer footpaths to sell morning-time snacks like ba-bin (mini coconut pancakes), khao tom mut (coconut sticky rice with fillings steamed in coconut husks) and khanom beuang (crispy taco-shaped sweets).
We also suggest a stroll through Talad Tha Pho, an old market stretching near the river in the northwest corner of the old town. Grab a pouch of deep-fried bananas before joining the locals to queue up for ba-mii muu daeng (roasted pork with egg-wheat noodles) at 50-year-old Rot Samphan. Going strong since 1913, nearby Duch Hai Di serves old-fashioned bitter Thai coffee with sweetened condensed milk in an old wood shophouse -- expect some stares as you make a futile attempt to blend into an atmosphere that seems frozen in time.
For an authentic Thai-Chinese dinner in a setting where foreigners won’t feel quite so out of place, Khao Tom Hor is a reliable option that’s easy to find. The sprawling joint has stainless steel tables set inside and out on the footpath, where police officers join scruffy backpackers to indulge on tom yam soup or stir-fried clams with Thai basil. Served with cold beer and steamed rice or rice soup, many of the options are displayed in big cauldrons. The restaurant has an English menu with prices starting at 30 baht, and staff is used to serving foreigners.
For something more relaxing you might head down towards Wat Choeng Tha and enjoy seafood along with Thai soups and salads at Pae Ban Rim Nam’s large dining terrace, which floats over the Lopburi River.
While Noom’s, Matini and Budsi’s are all good options for kicking back with some beers, those looking for a proper pub could drop into Come On Bar on the lane running to the north of Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat. Drawing a mix of young locals and travellers, the funky spot serves beer towers and mixed drinks to a line of outdoor tables. From here you could walk a smidge west to a large Thai-style live music joint at the corner of Sorasak and Petracha to keep the night going.
Budsi’s: Ratchadamnoen Soi 1; open around noon until late.
Khao Tom Hor: Corner of Na Phra Kan and Ratchadamnoen; open for lunch and dinner.
Municipal Market: Entrances on Sorasak and Ratchadamnoen; open daily 05:00-14:00.
Noom’s: 15-17 Phaya Kamjad Rd; open daily 08:00-22:00.
Pae Ban Rim Nam: Petracha Rd (just south of Wat Choeng Tha on the river); open 10:00-22:00.
Talad Tha Pho: Northern end of Tha Khun Nang Rd; open morning to afternoon.