The riverside night market sets up from 17:00 in a semi-roofed area and draws hundreds of locals. Outer stalls mostly feature clothing and fresh fruit, including the stumpy bananas and durian that Kamphaeng Phet is known for. Wander further inside to find Thai curries and chilli pastes, deep-fried larva, coconut sticky rice and other Thai sweets, northern and northeastern Thai sausages, deep-fried pork belly, noodle soup and fiery Isaan salads. Several stalls have a few tables for eating on site, or you could walk towards the parking lot to find a few larger restaurants serving whole grilled fish along with stir-fried veggies and soups. Also keep an eye out for chao kuai, black strips of sweet grass jelly served over ice with sugar syrup and toppings like jackfruit, dried pineapple and banana. Follow that with a cocktail from a pink VW bus bar and you’ll be under Kamphaeng Phet’s spell.
For a great day market experience, head to the Municipal Market that sets up just off Bumrungrat Road, across the street from Bumrungrat Soi 1. The sprawling affair feels like the centre of Kamphaeng Phet’s universe and is a great place to pick up khao niao bing (coconut sticky rice grilled in banana leaves) and other munchables while perusing the locally grown produce.
Though you’ll find ba-mii muu daeng all over Thailand, Kamphaeng Phet is particularly known for this Chinese-Thai dish featuring egg-wheat noodles with roasted pork, served dry (heng) or as a soup with a pork broth (sai nam). A good place to try it is Ba-mii Chakungrao, a hole-in-the-wall shop near the river that serves small bowls for 30 baht a piece. Pork satay is also available. Ba-mii can also be found in the night market with roasted duck as well as pork.
After dark, locals converge at one of the many muu kata (do-it-yourself pork barbecue) joints scattered around town. These can seem intimidating at first but are actually pretty simple: collect your desired pork and veggies from the central buffet and use chopsticks or tongs to cook it yourself at the round grill with a riveted edge for boiling, which is provided at the centre of each table. It’s best enjoyed with cold beer and a few friends, and for 159 baht per person you can eat as much as you like. A huge muu kata joint called Ped Muu Kata gets packed every night just down the road from Three J.
Vegetarians can hit a tiny ahaan jay (vegan food) shop serving Chinese-Thai curries, stir-fries and meat substitutes at a tiny shop on Ratchadamnoen 1, just north of Soi 2 on the right if heading north -- look for the yellow banner and sign that says “Vegetarian and Healthy Food”. It’s open only during the day and is easy to miss, with a few tables on the ground floor of a shophouse. Several other open-fronted shops serve boat noodles, Isaan food, noodle soup and khao man gai (chicken rice) along Ratchadamnoen Road.
Down the road from the night market, Tasty Restaurant is a good choice if you prefer an English menu with pictures, servers who can speak a little English and a comfortable air-con atmosphere. Here we tried khao ob hom din, a tasty mix of pork, sausage, veggies and rice baked and served in a clay pot. The khao soi (Northern Thai curry chicken soup with egg noodles) and whole deep-fried fish with som tam also looked promising. You’ll also find spaghetti, steaks, salmon salad with cream cheese and salty Thai-style drinking food that goes great with cold beer. Prices run from 40 to 200 baht.
You could also head across the bridge to the west bank of the Ping River, where at least half a dozen large restaurants serve Thai-style seafood at open-sided dining decks set up along the river. We’ve heard good things about Mae Ping Riverside, which has live music to go with dishes starting at around 100 baht. To get here, take the first exit after crossing the bridge and then hang a right (south), and look for the Thai script signs on the left after a few hundred metres.
If you’re craving a Western-style sandwich, head straight to Fat Boys Burger and Bite on Ratchadamnoen 1 Soi 4. While beef is not available, the little shop does a good job with grilled chicken “burgers” along with commendable stabs at barbecued ribs, steaks and pasta for just 40 to 100 baht.
Kamphaeng Phet also boasts a bunch of good bakeries and coffee shops. A standout is Phayao (the only English on the sign says "Real Coffee"), a long-running spot near the night market on Tesa 1 that serves up whole cakes, ice cream, Western-style baked goods, steamed Chinese buns (sala bao) and dim sum. A good place to start the day is Chai Bakery around the corner from the Navarat Hotel on Ratchadamnoen 1. Strong Northern Thai coffee and a range of baked goods are served in a smart, air-con space -- a small piece of their tasty sponge cake kept us full until early afternoon. While we didn’t have time to try it on our last visit, the newish Common Cafe near Tasty on Tesa 1 appeared to be an interesting option for dinner, coffee and cocktails.
The riverfront area near the night market and Chakungrao Hotel is the place to be for nightlife. Funky little bars like the long-running Eagle Pub on Tesa 1, Wanwaan on Ratchadamnoen 1 Soi 2 and Rong Team Sa Kung Rao on Tesa 1 Soi 9 all feature live music to go with beer towers, bottles of whiskey and cocktails served in cosy confines. The open-air pub next to the riverfront basketball court has had a different name every time we’ve visited; in mid 2016 it went by Studio Cafe and was thumping hip-hop.
Ba-mii Chakungrao: Corner of Ratchadamnoen 1 Rd and Ratchadamnoen 1 Soi 1 (look for a green sign in Thai with a picture of a bowl of noodles with chopsticks); open daily 08:30-15:00.
Chai Bakery: Ratchadamnoen 1 Rd, just south of the entrance to Navarat Heritage Hotel; open daily 08:30-20:30.
Day market: Bumrungrat Rd, across from Bumrungrat Soi 1; open daily early morning to afternoon.
Fat Boys Burger and Bite: Ratchadamnoen 1 Soi 4, just north of Ratchadamnoen Rd on the left if heading north; T: (095) 634 3221; open 08:30-21:00.
Night market: Tesa 1 Rd, just north of the Chakungrao Hotel; open daily 17:00-23:00.
Ped Muu Kata: Ratchvitji Rd, about 200m south of Three J Guesthouse; open 16:00 22:00.
Phayao Bakery: Tesa 1 Rd, just south of the night market; open 07:30-20:30.
Tasty Restaurant: Tesa 1 Rd, just south of Tesa 1 Soi 9; T: (055) 712 594; open daily 10:30-22:30.
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.