On the ferry to Ko Si Chang, we met a couple who claimed they were coming to Ko Si Chang just for the food. The dishes are authentic, unbelievably fresh and cheaper than you would ever pay on other Thai tourist islands. The emphasis is definitely on seafood, but the island has a variety of options for those who cringe at the thought of eating creatures of the sea.
iThalay Sea View Thai & Seafood Restaurant, north of Kasikorn Bank and before the hospital, is a real seafood experience – prawns, scallops, squid, deep-fried and oh-so-delicious oyster omelettes – with a deck right on the water.
Affectionately known at "Pad Thai Lady", Pad Thai Lady serves two dishes only, and she serves them well. Wrapped in egg like a Christmas present with sprouts hidden underneath, the pad thai rivals the best of Bangkok. The oyster omelette is dripping with greasy goodness. Open from 14:00-22:00 near the 7-eleven, with two tables and one set of condiments, Pad Thai Lady is the closest thing Ko Si Chang has to fast food.
Sho Gun, with a blue awning adjacent to Sawadee Sichang Bungalows, is an indoor-street food kind of establishment; no frills, no smiles and great food. Serving up noodles and fried rice dishes for breakfast and lunch for only 40 baht, Sho Gun seems to be a favourite for Ko Si Chang locals alone, and is a find for those on a budget or avoiding seafood.
It would be a shame to visit Ko Si Chang and not stop by Pan & David's, on Atsadang Road before the turn off to the beach. The selection of wine, open-faced grilled cheese and vegetable sandwiches, New England clam chowder, and home-made cheesecake supreme make you wonder where in the world you are. Run by a Thai-Farang couple and pricier than the rest, Pan & David's may be the only place in Thailand that serves real Vermont maple syrup. It may be worth staying at the ramshackle Rim Talay Guest House on the same property just to eat at Pan & David's three times a day.
Four different seafood restaurants fleck the Tham Phang Beach, each with almost identical menus and price points. Tampang Beach Resort restaurant is the only one with a kitchen and options for seating not on the beach. Perhaps it is purely psychological, but this fact alone made it feel more hygienic than the rest. Despite the rather tumbledown aesthetic, the seafood competes with iThalay Sea View, with sauteed crab with Malaysian curry, spicy squid salad and Thai herbs, and other Thai-seafood delicacies. The biggest perk of Tampang Beach Resort restaurant is that you can use their bathrooms, which serve the entire beach, free of charge.
Nightlife is hard to come by on Ko Si Chang, so if you want to party and mingle, bring your social network with you. Some restaurants like Lek Ta Wang, south of Pan & David's, are ‘bars' by night, with a pop-up tiki stand and Thai music. Don't bank on there being a large crowd for schmoozing – you could be the only one there.
Roy Bar, a hard-to-find guesthouse and bar next to the Ko Si Chang Immigration Office across from Charlie's Bungalows, may embody the crux of the party culture, with rainbow coloured boats converted into bar tables, beer and whiskey, and Thai bar food. Even if you're not in the mood for drunken reverie, visit Roy Bar at night just to experience the scene – which closes at 22:00.