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Khlong Nin is a refreshing breeze on the culinary front in Lanta. You'll find the island's best Italian restaurant along with some good Thai, homemade ice cream and no shortage of chilled-out beach bars.
The best place in Khlong Nin to start off your day is probably Monkey Bizziness, a cosy roadside cafe that serves quality coffee and several types of tea to go with crepes, muffins and other baked goodies. Just don't count on it for lunch as the staff are known to lock up and take extended breaks around noon. A couple of doors down is Shanti Shanti, a tiny French-run shop that specialises in homemade ice cream but also serves light salads and savouries.
Those after some hearty English/American stodge should head to Otto's Bar and Grill for full English breakfasts, big salads, baby-back ribs with corn on the cob, chicken fajitas and several seafood dishes. If you're around on Sunday, don't miss the lamb roast with giant Yorkshire spuds and all of the fixings.
Pizza and spaghetti are readily available at practically every tourist-focused restaurant on Lanta, but La Monaco to the south of Khlong Nin is the best choice for real-deal Italian dining. Along with wood-fired pizza, fine wines and an espresso bar, the refreshingly small menu offers six classic pasta dishes done extremely well. Prices are high but you get what you pay for. The seaside restaurant is located inside a private villa complex, but anyone can access it either from the road or beach. Open for dinner only.
If you've got an itch for spicy som tam and other Isaan salads along with mouth-watering grilled chicken with sticky rice, look no further than Mama's Restaurant at the corner of the main road and the turnoff for Khlong Nin. As any good Isaan restaurant should be, Mama's is a rundown roadside shack with cheap prices, only a few tables and staff who like to joke around with the customers. On the complete other side of the spectrum, Sri Lanta Resort's Surya Chandra Restaurant is probably the area's best choice for a romantic Thai dinner.
For a broader selection of quality Thai dishes to go with several Western selections and fantastic views, head south all the way to Diamond Restaurant. Set atop a breezy hill between Khlong Nin and Khlong Hin, the pricey menu (appetisers start at 120 baht) includes well-done curries, satay, soups, countless seafood offerings, pizza and sandwiches, making this a good choice for groups with varied tastes. Diamond also offers direct access to Haad Nuy beach (not to be confused with Ao Nui in far southern Lanta) and a free taxi service back to Khlong Nin, Khlong Tob or Khlong Hin after dark, which is a good thing as it's too far to walk.
In Khlong Nin proper, the popular Cook Kai Restaurant has a similarly broad-ranging Thai/Western menu, though the overpriced curry we tried there was nothing to write home about. Next time we'll check out Roi Thai instead; the fact that its owners also run an on-site cooking school might mean that the food is more lovingly prepared. Another spot we missed is The Cave, which is accessed through an actual cave at the far southern end of Khlong Nin beach and serves an eclectic range of dishes on a patio perched over the rocks.
In the centre of Khlong Nin, the beach hosts a string of long-running bar/restaurants where you can enjoy seafood barbecue along with reasonably priced cocktails at happy hours, which often extend for half of the night. Horizon is a standout thanks to its cocktail-wizard bartender who lives in a hut perched directly above the bar. Some quality Thai fare is also served in Horizon's lively lounge with a billiards table and music that goes way beyond the standard Bee Gees and Bob Marley island soundtracks. In the same vein and vicinity is the funky Richey Bar and neighbouring Blue Moon Bar, which has been serving beer, pad Thai and pizza to travellers since 1980.
Finally, no travel guide for Khlong Nin (or Ko Lanta for that matter) would be complete without a mention of Mong Bar. Located just off the inland road that cuts east from Khlong Nin, so about a 10-minute walk from the beach, this long-running institution is known for its hundreds of signs that often say "In Bud We Trust" and are found everywhere on Lanta. Though it's a bit anti-climactic after the barrage of signs, the bar itself is a good old-fashioned spot to kick back, have a few beers and chat it up with travellers, expats and the always-welcoming bartenders.