Trat boasts some terrific markets to go with a smattering of humble eateries, seafood restaurants and traveller-oriented cafes. We always appreciate the intense flavours and low prices after enduring the overpriced, watered-down Thai food that’s typical of the islands just offshore.
Starting with the centrally located day market #, wade into the dim corridors lined by cheap clothing to find a cavernous roofed section filled with pig heads, horseshoe crabs and piles of fresh fish, to name a few. This is the place to try some of the fruit grown in Trat province’s rural reaches—durian is an all star but you’ll also see salak, rambutan, mangosteen and various types of mangoes. May through August is the best time for fruit tasting.
Known as Talad Thetsaban or Talad Sod, the day market also hosts a number of street-style stalls dishing out bowls of kuay thiao nam (noodle soup) and khao kaa muu (braised pork shanks with rice), among other options, for 30 baht. Top it off with grilled bananas or gently fried khanom krok (coconut custard) and you should be all set until dinner. After ordering from as many stalls as you like, grab a seat at one of the tables and the vendors will bring the food over to you. Most vendors are used to serving the occasional foreigner through a mix of pointing, limited English and a calculator for displaying the prices.
Equally impressive is Trat’s night market # that springs to life along a couple of side streets just north of the day market. You’ll find well-known selections like mango with sticky rice, deep-fried chicken and muu ping (grilled pork skewers), but more adventurous eaters also won’t be disappointed. We grabbed an insanely spicy portion of gaeng puu, a non-soupy curry made with bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, pea aubergine and some of the crab that Trat province is known for. Other possibilities include deep-fried whole fishes, a wide range of chilli pastes and gai kata—roasted quail sold with head and legs attached. There are hundreds of stalls but few have tables for eating on site.
Though we were sadly full when we found it, Sang Fah Restaurant # looked promising for sampling Trat specialties in a large air-conditioned dining room. Dishes that caught our eye included tom som rakam pla krapong, a pearl snapper soup made sour by rakam, a cousin of salak fruit; and nam prik kai puu, a chilli paste of crab egg and spices served with fresh herbs and vegetables for dipping. You’ll also find more typical seafood dishes like puu nim gratiem prik Thai (fried soft-shell crab with garlic and pepper), laab pla (herbaceous fish salad) and kung op wun sen (prawn baked with glass noodles and herbs). Expect to pay 100 to 300 baht for family-size portions. Staffers speak a little English and all items are pictured on the menu, though only certain dishes come with English descriptions. Chocolate cake is also available.
You’ll also find the usual shophouse kitchens dishing out cheap Chinese-Thai street dishes, including a few near the old-town guesthouses. At the corner of the main drag and Rhak Muang you could go for khao man gai (chicken rice) or khao muu krob (deep-fried pork belly with rice). Head a little further east on the same street to find a pad Thai joint that’s popular with travellers and locals.
Of the cafes that aim specifically for travellers, a good place to start is Pier 112 # for a mix of Thai and Western dishes served to a spacious patio by the canal. We once had a tasty massaman curry here, and the free WiFi, library and lounge join an artsy ambiance to make it a good spot for killing time.
Orchid Restaurant # is another solid choice—we’ve not tried the Thai food but the pizza and sandwiches on homemade bread will do the trick if you’ve reached rice overload. Orchid’s small dining area is also conducive for having a few beers while chatting up other travellers and the talkative owners. We’ve also heard good things about the Thai food and fresh coffee at Basar Guesthouse’s garden cafe. Expect to pay 60 to 120 baht for Thai dishes at any of these spots, with Western options fetching 100 baht or more.
For low-key nightlife you might check out Punyarit #, a cosy bar that doubles as an art gallery. Grab a beer or cocktail while perusing the paintings and retro decorations before settling into a sofa to talk with the hipster clientele. From there you could tie one on with expats, travellers and the spirited Thai woman who runs Cafe Oscar #, a tiny corner bar (not really a cafe) that keeps the party going late with rock tunes from the 1970s and ‘80s.
Cafe Oscar 20 Thana Charoen Rd (east end of the lane near the bridge); T: (085) 691 6626; Mo–Su: 16:30 till late.
Day market (Talad Thetsaban) Centre of town covering several blocks on east side of Sukhumvit Rd; Mo–Su: Early morning till afternoon.
Night market Off east side of Sukhumvit Rd, just north of Trad Hotel between Soi Vijit Junya and Soi Rai Rung; Mo–Su: 17:00–21:00.
Orchid Restaurant 92 Rhak Muang Rd (fronting the same-named guesthouse); T: (092) 765 8400, (098) 292 9114; Mo–Su: Lunch and dinner.
Pier 112 Thana Charoen Rd (across from Artist’s Place); Mo–Su: 07:30–22:00.
Punyarit Bar and Art Gallery 59 Rhak Muang Rd; T: (092) 250 9055; Mo–Su: 18:00–01:00.
Sang Fah Restaurant 157-159 Sukhumvit Rd (across from Trat Hospital); T: (039) 511 222; Mo–Su: 10:00–21:00.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.