Although the National Park accommodation lacks a restaurant, there is a huge one back by the visitor centre on the main road. While the visitor centre was rather poor and empty when we passed, the vast restaurant was packed -- perhaps a rather damning comment on certain local tourist priorities when visiting national parks!
The restaurant is of average quality and extremely overpriced. We paid 50 baht for a lukewarm instant coffee – purely for research purposes, since the road up to the national park is lined with great fresh coffee shops
. There are also numerous local-style noodle and rice cafes
up the road as it passes through several villages, so there’s really no excuse for eating in the park canteen; ditto the dingy park cafeteria at the summit – avoid!
, down a side road at approximately the halfway point between the visitor centre and ticket checkpoint, is a solid bet for food, with some small and not so extortionately priced cafes and a very good coffee stall located in the car park. Most of the other most popular falls also come with snacks and drinks facilities.
Note that most park eateries will close early, so after dark you’re limited to the village cafes or heading back into Mae Chaem
or Chom Thong
, both of which have more good, local-style restaurants and night food stalls at non-inflated prices. The resorts lining the start of Route 1009 also have restaurants of course but they may not be very used to serving foreign visitors, and even for locals prices aren’t particularly cheap.
Eating options are pretty good considering Mae Chaem’s small size. There’s the Mae Chaem Hotel
restaurant; one great eatery on the main street, a very good coffee shop, several local-style rice and noodle shops and even a tiny night market.
Mae Chaem Hotel
has a poolside eating area and an English-language menu offering reasonably priced, classic Thai and Western options. (Don’t expect too much in the latter but they can’t go too wrong with fried chicken and chips surely.) There’s cold beer, even some spirits and mixers, and erratic but friendly service. Our only gripe is their super-early closing time. Lunch is no problem but the last evening meal orders were at 19:00 in low season.
We assume you’d get away with 20:00 during high season but never fear if not: walk out the lane, cross the main street, and directly opposite is an excellent unnamed bar-cafe
open daily from 08:00 until 22:00. It’s just a small shack really but with a few tables outside on the footpath under a bamboo awning and a good friendly local vibe to the place. They also have managed to knock together an English-language menu and as well as their excellent Thai dishes serve a few simple Western choices and breakfasts. Main courses go for around 80 to 100 baht or over-rice options are 30 to 40 baht. You can even get a whole fish for 150 baht. It’s not the cheapest but it’s good quality and servings are large -- and unlike the Mae Chaem, their coffee is good!
Turning left at the crossroads onto the start of the Inthanon Road you’ll see a few evening stalls
setting up just down from the Katsikorn bank. Noodle soups and fried chicken are available here until around 21:00 in the evening.
Directly opposite the bank is the town’s best coffee shop
. There’s no English name, but it’s open 07:30 until 21:00 serving juices and excellent locally grown coffee. Service is friendly and, at least when we visited, some English was spoken.
Finally, crossing over the bridge and continuing to the T-junction, you’ll come face to face with a tiny bamboo bar
(again no English sign), also with attached fried chicken stand. They serve beer and local whisky until 21:00 or whenever the last customers go home.