Mae Sariang’s a small town, with few residents and even fewer tourists, so don’t expect too much of a choice when it comes to dining out. There are however a couple of decent local eateries, some above-average guesthouse food and a few excellent spots to down a cold one.
Coming into Mae Sariang, before hitting the T-junction with Langpanich, the riverside road, the old Sino/Thai favourite Inthara is still going strong in its quaint old-teak setting, offering a selection of well-prepared classic dishes plus a few local specialities. Prices aren’t too bad, though we suspect perhaps marginally more than locals would be paying -- it is one of the few non-guesthouse or hotel restaurants in town with an extensive English-language menu. Simple decor and a roadside location make it perhaps more of a lunchtime quickie spot than somewhere for an evening out, but dishes are generously sized and tasty.
Continuing down Langpanich past all the guesthouses is Cowboy Night, which also serves up some excellent Thai food in a riverside, Thai country-style pub, just as the name suggests. There are outdoor tables in a small garden or others in the stilted teak building overlooking the Yuam. All your Thai faves are here but it does cater mostly to locals so they don’t spare the chillies unless you specifically ask. Friendly and efficient service – this is a great spot for an evening beer or dinner, and on most nights they even have live music starting from 21:00 or 22:00 onwards. Worth the walk!
Returning back towards the centre is the rather, we felt, pretentiously named Coriander in Redwood, offering more toned down Thai food with foreign visitors in mind. It’s set in a very attractive varnished teak building though it doesn't have a river view, and prices are slightly higher than our previous two suggestions so you’re paying for the decor, English-language menu and the staff’s basic language skills. We found the food rather bland but if you’re not so used to the chillies it may be a good option and the location is very practical. It even has a wine list!
Just next to PS on the same road is Sawaddee bar and restaurant, which also caters to foreign visitors and has an English-language menu including vegetarian options. Sawaddee has a large wooden seating area overlooking the river though it was closed for renovations when we last visited, but was due to open again late 2015.
The Redwood is owned by the Riverhouse group and both the Riverhouse Resort and Riverhouse Hotel offer similar menus, with perhaps the latter’s wooden terrace being the more pleasant place to sit. The Resort does promote their pub/restaurant but we found it somewhat sterile. Also as guesthouse grub goes North West is a good spot to eat and has some interesting Western food selections as well as the usual Thai, plus several interesting fusion dishes.
You'll also find plenty of the usual noodle and rice shops dotted around town and the bus station has a bit of a night market thing going on after dark, as does Wiang Mai Road, but as we said – it’s a quiet town. Note that the two finely situated Thai eateries, Krua Biman and Tuk Ta, which used to bookend the Yuam bridge, have both sadly closed. Neither looked ready to re-open when we visited.
Riverside Hotel and Resort as well as Good View and Riverbank are all top spots for a sundowner or early evening beer, while the always popular and friendly North West is a good place to meet other travellers if that's what you're after.
Down Langpanich past the guesthouses is where the locals like to hang out, and there’s a small bunch of popular local cafes and bars close together here, such as Ching Ching Cafe, @Maesariang, Mae Sariang Bar and slightly further on, Cowboy Night.
Ching Ching is just a simple roadside wooden shack but is hugely popular with the younger locals, serving beers, Thai whisky and soups from a next door cafe -- you’ll be hard pushed to find a table there either inside or on the footpath after around 20:00. Across the road, garden-set @Maesariang is another busy evening spot, serving drinks and Thai-style pub-grub, but with a slightly more chilled out atmosphere. Mae Sariang Bar is even more chilled out again -- even incongruously so for Mae Sariang -- with low tables and ottomans scattered around a roofed but open-sided terrace directly on Langpanich. We guess they’re trying to catch whatever passing backpacker trade there is as well as the locals -- the bar wouldn’t look out of place down a Khao San Road back alley.
River views are clearly not a priority for locals in Mae Sariang -- we guess they do see them every day -- and being seen sitting by the roadside is much more important. Further down the street and with a view this time is the Cowboy Night Bar, mentioned above, where the Thai country chic definitely appeals to an older local market. It can get lively later on when they have live music.
All these bars are friendly places and tourists are few enough that you’d still be a bit of a novelty in any of them, so you’ll probably get some of the more inebriated customers trying to practise some English with you. It can be good fun if you’re in the mood.
Finally and where you’ll almost certain to attract the attention of tipsy locals are a couple of karaoke dives around the bus station. They are open till 01:00, but probably best avoided unless you're really desperate. They're friendly but seriously grungy!
Inthira: Wiang Mai Rd (just up from the traffic lights); T: (053) 681 529, (053) 681 441; inthira.wordpress.com; open daily 08:00-22:00.
Cowboy Night: Langpanich Rd; open daily 17:00- 01:00.
Coriander in Redwood: Langpanich Rd; T: (053) 683 309; open daily 10:00-21:00.
Sawaddee: Langpanich Rd.
Walking Street: Wiang Mai Rd; Sundays 17:00-21:00 and around the town hall on Fridays, 17:00-21:00.
Ching Ching Cafe: Langpanich Rd; open daily 18:00-01:00.
@Maesariang: Corner of Langpanich and Sirimongkol Rds; open daily 18:00-01:00.
Maesaring Bar: Langpanich Rd; open daily 17:00-01:00.