When the sun goes down, Chaiyaphum converges at the night bazaar that materialises on a side road running west off Sanambin Road. Marked by a big English sign, the market features bountiful finger foods like sai grok (sour Isaan sausage), flaky roti, skewered meats, cauldrons of herbaceous soups and smoky gai yang (grilled chicken) served with som tam and sticky rice. Some vendors offer a few tables for eating on site, and after filling up you could browse the second-hand clothing stalls.
Stroll across Sanambin from the night bazaar to find The 1 Bar, Chaiyaphum’s one-and-only Western-style pub, run by an affable British-Thai couple with help from their adorable kids. They serve up steak and kidney pie, New Zealand lamb, bratwurst and terrific burgers, including a veggie burger. Step up to the bar for an Old Speckled Hen or other foggy English brews along with some cocktails and the usual ice-cold Chang and Leo. You might expect a depressing crew of older Western expats to dominate but we met a bunch of friendly twenty-something English teachers shooting billiards and having fun.
Around the corner from Pocket Park Minitel, Cupple Coffee is a good option for breakfast and lunch. Set in a large air-con space with tables and sofas, the young staff offers English menus with photos along with fresh coffee, cake and WiFi. You can’t go wrong with Thai rice plates like the krapao muu sai kai dao (pork stir-fried with holy basil and chillies), but simple Western breakfasts are also available.
While we didn’t get to try them on a short visit to Chaiyaphum, we’ve also heard good things about Krua Nong Tan, a large Thai restaurant off Sanambin, and a cafe called Le Pain on Nonmoung. If you pass through when The 1 Bar is closed and are weary of the many local-style eateries serving noodle soup, chicken rice and Isaan food, you could head up Sanambin to the chain restaurants found in the Tesco Lotus shopping centre.
Cupple Coffee: Haruethai Rd, next to Pocket Park Minitel; open 08:00-18:00.
Krua Nong Tan: 264/1 Sanambin Rd, in front of Chai Phum Polytechnic School; open for lunch and dinner.
Le Pain Cafe: 531/12 Nonmoung Rd; open 09:00-18:00.
Night bazaar: Sanambin Rd, just north of Bannakarn Rd; open daily 17:00-21:00.
The 1 Bar: 700/3 Sanambin Rd; open Tue-Sun 11:00-0:00 (kitchen closes at 21:00); T: (090) 398 0341, (089) 050 5382.