Krabi has a good mix of traveller-oriented cafes, bars and international restaurants to go with some excellent street food.
The first place any self-respecting foodie should go is Maharaj market, easy to find halfway between Maharaj Road and Uttarakit Road on Maharaj Soi 10. All the way to the right if facing the market from the front you'll find close to a dozen stands that each hawk upwards of 25 different curries, soups and other dishes. Standards like panang with pork, massaman with chicken, gaeng neua (beef curry) and gaeng som (sour yellow curry with fish) go for 20 baht each and they'll pile a plate of rice high with as many selections as you like. For something different, try the yellow curry with frog or take the ultimate “I can eat like the locals” challenge with a dollop of gaeng tai pla, a painfully spicy fish belly curry. Many vendors offer basic on-site seating and are used to serving foreigners. The market also boasts a range of Thai sweets and fresh fruit, including the golden mangoes that Krabi province is famous for -- delicious, with or without sticky rice.
If you're an early riser, don't miss the large morning market on Maharaj Soi 8 (west side of Maharaj Road) to see still flapping fish, fresh meat, produce and fruit. This is also a good place to pick up Thai breakfast snacks like fried bananas and khao niao bing, sticky rice with taro or banana wrapped in banana husks and grilled.
Running down Maharaj Soi 8 (east side of Maharaj Road) in the heart of town, Krabi’s weekend night market has grown into quite the bazaar. Resembling Chiang Mai’s famous night markets, the scene buzzes with all sorts of street musicians and vendors selling local artwork, T-shirts and much more. Head towards the eastern end of the street and stroll into the side alleys to find a wide range of foods, including oysters on a half shell, barbecued seafood, meats on sticks, duck noodle soup. Grab a spicy curry and wash it down with a to-go cocktail served in a slice of green bamboo. The dizzying affair takes place only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting at around 17:00. If you need a break from strolling, the adjacent Bar 99 is a large Thai-style club serving beer towers, bottles of whiskey and cocktails to outdoor tables.
A riverside night market also comes to life every night in front of Chao Fah pier and caters to a mix of locals and travellers. All of the two-dozen or so vendors serve prepared foods, so no stacks of fresh fruit or fish, and most offer some sort of English menus (some with inflated prices for foreigners). You'll find standards like pad Thai, noodle soup, som tam with grilled chicken or fish and roti. Cold beer flows as travellers congregate around the basic steel tables and a breeze drifts off the river. Directly across from Chao Fah market, Kotung Restaurant is a good choice if you want local-style food in a more "proper" air-conditioned setup.
Another Muslim-Thai dish that should not be missed is khao mok gai, or yellow turmeric-spiced rice with roasted chicken. It can be found at street restaurants all over town; we can recommend Roti Chachak on the corner of Maharaj and Itsara roads, which is a favourite among locals and draws few travellers. In addition to the steaming cauldron of biryani rice and chicken, the busy staff whips out delicious khao man gai (Thai-style Hainanese chicken rice), roti stuffed with sweet banana or savoury curry, Southern Thai Robusta coffee and complimentary pots of jasmine tea. Roti stalls can be found throughout town frying up the beloved unleavened bread, but also be sure to try roti grob, a huge slab of sweet fried dough flavoured with coconut; you'll need to adjust that belt if taking on one by yourself.
A number of bakeries and coffee shops are found around town, including centrally located Sinocha at the busy corner of Maharaj and Maharaj Soi 10. They sell a range of Chinese teacakes to go with Western-style baked goods that can be enjoyed at streetside tables that fill up nightly with locals who also enjoy Thai iced tea and roti from one of several nearby carts. Over on Uttarakit Road, Lisa Bakery is a tough spot to walk past without popping in for a homemade brownie, cookie or croissant. They also do birthday cakes to order, in case you want to surprise someone.
Krabi town is surprisingly thin when it comes to proper seafood restaurants, but a handful of riverside joints serve up grilled prawns, whole fish, raw oysters and grilled squid, among others. The enormous floating restaurant next to Chao Fah pier is the most obvious choice, but Lomlay Restaurant located further south on Khong Kha is probably the best bet. Try the hoy kaeng clams and som tam buu maa, spicy papaya salad with salty blue crab. While not cheap, Lomlay has reasonable prices and draws a mix of locals and travellers.
Krabi also boasts a fine selection of traveller-oriented cafes serving a mix of Thai and Western food. We enjoyed a pasta dish at Mr Krabi on Chao Fah Road, which has a well-put-together menu and one of the best atmospheres in town -- think dim lights, chill music, free WiFi and a full bar including some decent wine selections. An added bonus is that Mr Krabi offers free use of their bicycles to anyone who spends more than 100 baht at the cafe.
A good choice for sandwiches is Born Restaurant on Uttarakit Road, which also offers fresh coffee and bakes their own baguettes, ciabatta and whole wheat bread. They do hearty breakfasts as well, including a very satisfying ham, egg and cheese sandwich. Though we didn’t get around to trying it, we also heard great things about May and Mark Restaurant on Maharaj Soi 10. Travellers flock to its indoor seating or streetside patio to indulge on sandwiches made with homemade Bavarian bread, salads, enchiladas, coffee and a full Thai menu.
We counted three Italian restaurants in town, and while we haven't try them all, we have had consistently superb meals at Firenze Restaurant on Khong Kha Road, across the street from Smile Guesthouse near Chao Fah pier. The pizza was perfectly crispy and the homemade gnocchi and fettuccine left us craving for more. Firenze also serves house-made veggie lasagna and great garlic bread to go with meal-size Caesar salads. If you’re in the mood for French, Le Cliche looked promising across from the Chao Fah night market. If it’s Mexican you’re craving, Tawan Restaurant at Good Dream 2 does tasty California-style burritos and tacos, including an “Isaan taco” made with fresh chillies and Northeastern Thai sausage.
As for nightlife, Krabi delivers a solid selection of bars without getting into the seedy territory. A good starting point is Local House at the corner of Uttarakit and Khong Kha. With a long wooden bar, chunky tables, talented live musicians and deals on burgers and beer, it reminded us of a classic tavern that you might find in Australia or America. Keep the night moving with good cocktails and conversation from the slanted-cap-wearing bartender at Old West Bar on nearby Uttarakit. Cocktails start at 100 baht and they have what looks to be the biggest booze selection in town, served in a cosy saloon-style setting.
For more of a party vibe, head over to the Playground at Pak-up Hostel on Chao Fah Rd for live DJs, billiards tables, big screen TVs and an open courtyard with candle-lit seating. If you’re after something more intimate for a late-night drink, you might check out Fubar, a reggae-inspired spot off Chao Fah Road, or the tiny Buffalo Hill Bar, which looks like an old shack and is filled with odd vintage antiques near Thai Hotel on Itsara Road.
Thailand’s Krabi province is best known for spectacular white sand beaches kissed by aquamarine sea and sheltered by dramatic limestone cliffs. The provincial capital has none of this, but it does boast picturesque salty seas of its own — spicy southern Thai curry seas. And boy are they delicious, these... Read our full review of Spicy food in Krabi town.