Although Tha Ton doesn’t present a large choice of local restaurants, aside from the guesthouse restaurants, you will find several eateries set up with high season tourists in mind as well as a few spots along the main highway catering to the passing trade.
Firstly, in the town centre, on opposite sides of the main road, you’ll find a couple of good options in the form of 95 Coffee and the Sunshine Cafe. The former is perhaps more coffee shop than restaurant but aside from juices and local brews does have a small Thai food menu of the fried rice and noodles variety. Sunshine has a much more extensive choice of dishes—including vegetarian options—while still offering particularly tasty, locally sourced coffees and teas. The simple cafe with outdoor seating and bamboo roof has a variety of breakfasts and sandwiches plus the usual selection of inexpensive and well-prepared Thai dishes including inevitable favourites such as pad Thai and green curry. (40 and 50 baht respectively.) Both cafes have friendly staff with some English spoken and English language menus. 95 Coffee also offers a range of western-style breakfasts around the 100 baht mark and comes with an air-con interior and a couple of terrace tables outside.
You’ll also see a couple of simple noodle and rice shops (including khao soi, chicken on rice and so-on) dotted aside the main road in town as well as in the bus station yard though for a pleasant riverside location and more sophisticated Thai menu our call would be Chanhkasem Restaurant just past the boat pier. There are several international dishes on their menu—which we didn’t try—but their Thai dishes are authentic and fairly priced. We had fried minced pork and basil on rice for 40 baht.
Another Thai option including more specifically local, northern dishes is Sanay Chianam, just over the bridge on the right (when heading towards Chiang Rai). With a well-placed terrace overlooking the Kok River, this represents perhaps the best dining in town. You’ll see northern sausage, gaeng hanglay, (north Thai-style pork curry), spicy dips and whole fish dishes on offer and prices are restrained considering food quality and location.
Slightly out of the way, but one of our favourite local eating spots is a small clutch of riverside cafes up in Kang Saimoon—the Shan village just before the border on the Kok’s left bank. They only open during daylight hours and offer a simple and cheap selection of fried rice, tom yam, pat kra pao and so-on but there’s plenty of chilled beer and the choice of floating bamboo rafts or riverbank tables making this a top lunchtime destination.
Our favourite of the in-house restaurants would be the delightful setting of Garden Home Nature Resort’s restaurant or if you fancied a change from Thai, Apple Guesthouse’s well-placed terrace. The former—tucked down the lane just north of town—has a fine riverbank setting plus floating bamboo raft seating and serves up a good range of authentic inexpensive Thai dishes. This is a popular spot on a hot weekend afternoon for a cold Leo, pork laap or fried chicken, followed by a splash around in the Kok in an inner tube.
During high season Apple Resort has one of the most extensive international menus in these parts including salads, sandwiches, burgers and pasta dishes (as well as vegetarian dishes) along with a choice of Thai dishes. (Note that in low season the kitchen will either be closed or with a much-reduced service.) Their Thai offerings are more aimed at visitors so include the usual green curry, stir-fried chicken with cashews and ubiquitous pad Thai but they do have a couple of token northern Thai offerings and some good fish dishes. Most mains go for around 100-150 baht or whole fish dishes for 250 baht. Their splendid riverside terrace has some of the best views in town so it’s worth paying a few extra baht.
Apart from a couple of the predictable, grungy karaoke shacks on the road out of town, Tha Ton does not come equipped with bars as such, so Apple’s west facing Kok-side terrace gets another mention as our favourite location for a sundowner. They also possess one of the widest drinks menus in town, although for the cheapest beer we found you could move on for a post-sunset beverage at Sunshine.
Khunmai Baansuan and Garden Home also both have pleasant riverside seating areas as well as logs around winter bonfires though they’re both in the shadow of Doi Tha Ton so you won’t get Apple’s sunset views. On the west side of the bridge—so east facing—both Harbour Cafe and Saranya’s in-house cafe are potentially good spots for a drink and a natter; if they’re open!
95 Coffee Highway 1089, Tha Ton; Mo–Su: 08:00–17:00 .
Apple Restaurant Apple Resort, 352 Moo 14, Tha Ton; T: (053) 373 144; .
Chanhkasem Restaurant 209 Rim Nam Kok Rd, Moo 3, Tha Ton; T: (053) 053 613, (086) 197 7914; Mo–Fr: 08:00–21:00.
Garden Home Nature Restaurant Garden Home Nature Resort, 14 Moo 14, Tha Ton; T: (053) 373 015; Mo–Fr: 08:00–21:00.
Khunmai Baansuan Restaurant Khunmai Baansuan Resort, 13 Moo 14, Tha Ton; T: (053) 053 551, (088) 952 6196; Mo–Su: 08:00–21:00.
Riverside cafes Kang Saimoon Village; Mo–Su: 08:00–18:00.
Sanay Chainam Restaurant Moo 14, Tha Ton; T: (087) 177 1727, (082) 896 8856; Mo–Su: 09:00–23:00 .
Saranya River House 232 Moo 3, Tha Ton; T: (053) 053 672, (089) 851 7072; .
Sunshine Cafe Highway 1089, Tha Ton; Mo–Su: 08:00–22:00.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.