Where to eat and drink: Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi: Where to eat and drink

Ko Phi Phi is not renowned for a fabulous eating scene -- if anything it is more known for its bars than restaurants -- but you won’t starve, even if you’ll probably grimace at some of the prices.

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For those craving coffees, smoothies, sandwiches and desserts Phi Phi does have some excellent bakeries to choose from. The long-running Phi Phi Bakery found near the pier is always a favourite – there’s often a line-up of people here in the morning grabbing takeaway wraps or sandwiches to take on the ferry or their boat trips. Just across the path is Patcharee bakery, which has similar offerings with more of a focus on cakes and coffees. Another tasty spot is Bakery by Pa Jay, found near the market opposite Corner Seafood, which has a choice of Italian breads, baguettes, bagels and sandwiches. Here is where you’ll be able to order a birthday cake, too.

Set at the junction near the market, there’s nothing fancy at Corner Seafood but it brings in a good crowd in search of more authentic tasting Thai food. Seafood is its specialty, but other dishes including paenang chicken curry are on offer. Good place to stop for a fill-up before hitting the beach.

The walls and parts of the ceiling are plastered with recommendations from guests (we liked the "Better than sex" one) at That Orange Place and they’re all right, the food is good. All the Thai standards are covered, with a bit of a focus on northeastern food, and the prices are very reasonable. The very friendly Thai lady who runs this place might give you an impromptu Thai course if the going is slow. No alcohol on sale, but they’ll go grab a beer for you if you’re desperate.

Food at Papaya is stock standard Thai and while we at first recoiled at the prices, the servings are really oversized and at least three times (yes, three times the size) what we’d expect in a normal Thai restaurant. They’ve now moved from their former streetside setting into two air-con shops nearby, which during our visit seemed to have possibly hurt their popularity -- they didn’t appear to be as busy as they once were. Good place to go if you want Thai food with a bit more authentic flavour – its whole fried fish dishes are worth trying if you’re in a group. Free WiFi.

Matt’s Joint is an eat all you can barbecue place with chicken fillets, burgers, sausages, salmon steaks, kebabs, baked potatoes, pasta and salad. Its nightly buffets are 299 baht including one beer or cocktail, and usually bring in a big crowd They also offer food off the menu and do some pretty solid burgers -- with an insane amount of mayo! They have a big-screen TV showing sports mostly, plus free WiFi and some board games like Scrabble to keep things sociable.

Set right on Lo Dalam Beach the shady Ciao Bella is a great spot for lunch or dinner, with the shade offering respite on what is a largely shadeless beach. While Thai is also available, if you’re here, it should be the pizza and pastas that you’re sampling. Servings are generous but the service is not as friendly as it used to be. Prices are reasonable for the standard. Baia Baia bungalows by the same owner are tucked away behind the restaurant.

Found at the far end of Ton Sai beach at the base of the cliffs, Mama Beach Restaurant offers a beachside setting and a quiet escape from the crowds of the village. It looks rather snazzy in the evenings when they set lamps out on the sand and put white tablecloths on the tables in the open-air dining area. Its menu has a wine list and a mix of French and Thai food with main dishes mostly in the 100-200 baht range, very reasonably priced for a resort. Out front on the sands is Cliff Bar, a thatch-roof hut serving beer, cocktails and snacks. Recommended for dinner, especially for couples.

Bars and nightlife
Carlitos, overlooking Ton Sai Beach, has an on- and off-beach portion with beachside being by far the better option. It’s been around for a decade or more and seems to attract a more sedate crowd these days, even families, since most of the late-night action has moved over to Lo Dalam. Yet they still really belt the music out from here and put on fire shows nightly -- this at least seemed to be the loudest bar on this side of the island.

Another option is Carpe Diem where they play a good mix of music that won’t numb the mind, and the atmosphere is just right -- Indian-style seating at low tables, some of which is found inside an old longtail down on the beach, and they lay mats with pillows on the beach in the evenings, surrounded by tea candles, to create an intimate ambience.

Breakers is more of a bar than a pub, and as Jordan’s across the road pretty much satisfies the pub niche, that’s no big deal. Food servings are large and heavy and are best washed down with either their iced beer or a selection from their formidable cocktail list. Very popular in the evening, especially when it’s showing football matches on its big flat-screen TV. Staff are friendly.

With its graffiti strewn walls, 3-for-1 buckets and iced beer on tap, Jordan’s Irish Pub is the hub of Ton Sai village’s party quarter. There’s TV, pool tables, good staff and pretty good drink prices too. You can drink with the mob downstairs or grab an upstairs spot to lounge by the veranda and watch the circus unfold outside. Very popular and with good reason.

Reggae Bar is famous for its muay Thai boxing ring, which sits at the centre of the bar and hosts regular exhibition events and occasional real fights. What makes it famous though is on any given night tourists are invited to get in the ring and fight for the grand prize of two free buckets for his or her table. (A bucket, for those not in the know, is a bottle of booze poured into, well, a bucket, with mixers and ice, to be communally slurped-up with straws.) For those who fancy their chances in the ring, bear in mind that getting into any boxing ring when drunk is very, very, very, stupid. Also be aware that medical facilities on Ko Phi Phi are basic at the best of times. Drinks are very expensive with a large Beer Chang going for 200 baht -- so most drink buckets (which are priced at two-for-one all night).

As with most of the beach bars, Stones Bar lays out axe pillows and cushions to ease the pain of the inebriation, and there’s nightly shows to keep the eyeballs entertained. Likewise, as with all the bars along this section of Lo Dalam, the music is ridiculously loud. There are similar bars on either side should Stones not do it for you. Service is slow during the day, but comes with a smile.

Sunflower is set at the far eastern end of Lo Dalam, just before you reach PP Viewpoint Resort. There’s a large boat on site which has rooms available for rent within and the main part of the bar with pool table is underneath it. But the real attraction here is the rambling garden and the seating fashioned from cut up longtails. Drink prices are reasonable and the chilled out music outstanding -- a refreshing change for the numbing thumping that pulsates out of most Phi Phi bars. Sunflower is also an excellent spot for sunset. Pity the surrounding area is in a bit of a shambles lately with various construction works underway. But still highly recommended. Free WiFi.

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