Many of Krabi’s residents are Muslim, and Southern Thai-style Halal food is hawked from khao gaeng (curry and rice) stalls all around town. That means curry: spicy, cheap and plentiful. You’ll also find excellent seafood to go with quality cafes and lively bars.
The place to start is Talad City, a small yet buzzing market with fresh mango, durian, rambutan and other fruits stacked close to the footpath on Maharaj Soi 10. Wander inside to find “curry alley,” where most stalls set out as many trays and cauldrons of colourful soups and curries as they have chairs for patrons to sit on. Popular dishes include panang with chicken, gaeng neua (beef curry) and gaeng som (sour orange curry with fish). For something different, try a 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 curry made with lots of krachai (finger root) and salty pickled fish innards. It tastes better than it sounds.
All of the above and countless other options go for just 20 baht per item, plus 10 baht for a big plate of rice. Pull up a plastic stool at one of the shared stainless steel tables and you’ll find fresh cucumbers, Thai eggplant and other veggies to ease the spice, although even these complimentary greens come with sides of nam prik kapi, a pungent and fiery dipping sauce. If you’re not so adventurous, Talad City is also a fine place to score milder dishes like pad Thai, whole grilled fish, khao na ped (roast duck with rice) and khao mok gai, Muslim-Thai turmeric-spiced yellow rice with chicken leg. Some stalls open for lunch but the market really cranks from late afternoon to early evening.
If you’re an early riser interested in checking out fresh ingredients, don’t miss the cavernous Talad Maharaj. It’s the spot to check out still-flapping fish, fresh cuts of meat hung from hooks and masses of produce, including ingredients not often found beyond the south such as sator (astringent “stink bean”) and pak lieang, a green leaf whose earthy tones flavour soups and curries. Do get there early—you won’t find many vendors still around after 11:00 or so.
The market that grabs the most attention in the area is the so-called Walking Street that takes over a central patch of downtown, drawing crowds from Ao Nang every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Resembling Chiang Mai’s famous night markets, the scene buzzes with street musicians as vendors sell local artwork, T-shirts and souvenirs. One whole section is filled with finger foods like oysters on a half shell, barbecued prawns, mango with sticky rice, meats on sticks and other options preferred by tourists. While we think the food at neighbouring Talad City is more interesting, the Walking Street is good fun and several surrounding bars buzz with live music and revellers sipping cocktails served in bamboo cups with bright little umbrellas.
A smaller market comes to life nightly along the riverfront in front of Chao Fah Park—again we prefer the food at Talad City but the laidback atmosphere and plentiful on-site seating makes it worth a trip. Perhaps two-dozen vendors offer English menus, mostly featuring Thai standards like tom yum, pad Thai, krapao and roti. We prefer the long-running Isaan food cart at the far southern corner, where locals file in to munch on som tam, tam taeng (spicy cucumber salad) and grilled chicken or fish. Attracting quite a few backpackers, this market is a top spot for enjoying a slow graze with some cold beers.
One more market of note sets up across from the provincial hall on Chao Fah Road on Thursday evenings only. It’s more of a farmers’ market drawing folks from other districts to sell produce like fresh mushrooms and herbs straight from their gardens. Here we enjoyed a flavourful Krabi-style variety of hor mok pla, a type of fishcake steamed in a banana leaf wrapping.
Across from where the Walking Street Market sets up, Pa Yin Dee is a good bet for Southern Thai curries and more standard Thai dishes like stir-fried morning glory and stir-fried pumpkin with egg—typical Thai breakfast and lunch fare displayed behind glass and sold cheap with a plate of rice. Around the corner from that sits Hong Ming, a strictly vegetarian joint with its own display of curries, soups and meat substitutes. Both of these spots are almost as cheap as the makeshift khao gaeng stalls found in Talad City.
Over on the west side of Maharaj Road you’ll find a khanom jeen joint that’s popular with locals but rarely patronised by travellers. A choice of soup-like curry—our favourite is nam yaa thanks to the balance of sweet, spicy and sour—comes ladled into a bowl of fresh sticky rice noodles. Sit down at a footpath table and pile on fresh greens and herbs, including pak lieang and sator.
On the east side of Maharaj near Vogue Shopping Centre you’ll find a few stalls with streetside seating that fill up every night with locals who come for flaky roti dashed with sweetened condensed milk and accompanied by milky coffee or Thai iced tea. While these have a lively atmosphere, we prefer Roti Chachak down at the south end of Maharaj for its khao mok gai and khao man gai (chicken rice) in addition to the roti and coffee/tea. These are just a few street food options—wander downtown and you’ll find plenty more.
Those who don’t mind paying more for a proper sit-down meal will find some outstanding Thai eateries in Krabi, where prices start at around 80 baht and top out at several hundreds of baht for items like whole steamed fish.
A good choice for seafood is Bai Toey, a long-running spot overlooking the riverfront at a quiet spot south of downtown. Specialties that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere include chakteen or dog conch, a type of large sea snail served steamed with toothpicks for prying the meat out of the shells. We skipped those and went for pla krai, thin silago-like fish deep-fried with garlic and turmeric to a crispiness that makes it possible to eat the head, tail and all of the bones—honestly delicious in our opinion. Along with more typical dishes like som tam with blue crab and pad Thai available in portions for one to 10 diners, Bai Toey offers other adventurous choices like horseshoe crab spawn salad, smoked prawn chilli paste, steamed chuk tean (wing shell), local seaweed salad and gaeng pa (jungle curry) with frog.
Though we missed it on our last visit, we’ve heard that Nong Joke is another top-ranking spot to try Southern Thai specialties—food writer Mark Wiens has a great wrap on dishes worth trying there. Another spot that was recommended to us is Anchalee, a more upscale restaurant with dining beneath a broad pavilion up on Maharaj Road’s quieter northern reaches. For a livelier atmosphere involving a bar, river views and seafood served grilled, steamed or simmered in soups in curries, Poo Dam draws locals and travellers across from the famous black crab statue on Uttarakit, right in the heart of town.
May and Mark’s downtown is a terrific cafe for breakfast and lunch served with a full menu of coffee, juices and smoothies. Morning fare includes huevos rancheros, various avocado toasts, pancakes and house-made muesli, while sandwiches on house-made pumpernickel and baguettes satisfy the lunch crowd. The food is flavourful, the service attentive and the atmosphere reminiscent of reliable brunch spots found in places like Sydney or London.
A similar choice is Cafe 8.98, which as an offshoot of the eponymous cafe in Ao Nang—it adds creative cocktails to a good mix of breakfast and lunch options. Expect to pay a minimum of 100 baht per dish at either of these cafes. Also in the cafe category, Pakarang (Coral) has a small coffee shop and Thai eatery situated above its hard-to-resist shop, which is stuffed full of books and vintage wears. Beware: it’s the kind of place that you might pop into for a quick peek and come out two hours later weighed down by shopping bags.
For Italian we’re fans of Uno, which used to be called Firenze before it moved from Khongkha Road to its current location on Maharaj Soi 10. The crispy pizza is great, though we’re partial to house-made gnocchi and fettuccine tossed in simple yet flavourful sauces for 150 to 250 baht. Other Italian/European options include Viva Ristorante and Bistro Monaco—expats have told us that both are good options for curing a dough craving.
The nightlife scene in Krabi branches in two directions: bars drawing mostly young backpackers to the south of downtown, and bars drawing mostly local Thais and expats to the north of downtown.
In the young traveller category, Playground goes has a hip-hop vibe while nearby Grace’s is a classic pub for romping and downing buckets like you’re on spring break. Fubar draws hippies to its live reggae band, which often clashes with the music thumping from the aforementioned bars across the road. For a mellower reggae scene, head to Joy Bar set in the corner of a pocket of traveller-oriented cafes and pubs at the south end of downtown.
If you’re after a more mature scene or are hunting for craft and imported beer, Hobby Hops is worth a stop. Also worth is Buffalo Hill Bar, a funky little pub where we’ve found ourselves mingling with locals and travellers over big Chang beers at the streetside tables draped in fairy lights at the southern end of downtown, just east of Krabi City View Hotel.
Heading north on Maharaj out of downtown takes you to some larger bar/restaurants that are geared towards locals. Jao Sua and Factory Bar Garden are both popular joints featuring live bands and Thai drinking food served to spacious roadside decks, where live bands and DJs keep the atmosphere lively.
Bistro Monaco Corner of Uttarakit Rd and Khongkha Rd; T: (096) 673 1138; Mo–Sa: 17:00–22:00.
Cafe 8.98 Corner of Maharaj Rd and Maharaj Soi 6; T: (075) 680 418; Mo–Su: 08:00–22:00.
Chao Fah night market Khongkha Rd in front of Chao Fah Park; Mo–Su: 17:00–22:00.
Factory Beer Garden 173/3 Maharaj Rd (just north of Maharaj Soi 11); T: (086) 002 3222; Mo–Su: 19:00–01:00.
Fubar Chao Fah Rd (across from A Mansion); Mo–Su: 17:00–24:00.
Grace’s Irish Pub 12/3-4 Chao Fah Rd; Mo–Su: 09:00–03:00.
Hobby Hops Craft Beer Bar Corner of Khongkha Rd and Uttarakit Rd; T: (082) 469 2426; Mo–Su: 17:00–02:00.
Hong Ming Vegetarian Food Sukhon Rd (cross street cutting south off Maharaj Soi 10); T: (075) 621 273; Mo–Sa: 07:00–17:00.
Jao Sua Maharaj Rd (just north of Maharaj Soi 30); T: (075) 620 488; Mo–Su: 12:00–03:00.
Joy Bar 69/6 Isara Rd; T: (081) 099 0905; Mo–Su: 17:00–02:00.
Khanom Jeen Maharaj Rd (across from west end of Maharaj Soi 4); Breakfast and lunch.
May and Mark’s House 34 Maharaj Soi 10; T: (087) 759 4521; Mo–Su: 07:00–21:00.
Pa Yin Dee Near Orange Tree House facing car park that hosts Walking Street night market; Breakfast and lunch.
Pakarang Coffee House Uttarakit Rd between Maharaj sois 10 and 8; Mo–Su: 08:00–20:00.
Playground Bar Chao Fah Rd (behind Pak-Up Hostel); Mo–Su: 17:30–02:00.
Roti Chachak 8/7 Maharaj Rd (corner of Isara Rd); Mo–Su: 17:00–22:00.
Talad City Maharaj Soi 10; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
Talad Maharaj Maharaj Soi 7; Mo–Su: 05:00–12:00.
Uno Restaurant 10/1 Maharaj Soi 10; T: (086) 941 9650; Tu–Su: 11:00–23:00.
Viva Ristorante Sukhon Rd between Maharaj soi 4 and 6; T: (075) 630 517; Mo–Su: 11:00–23:00.
Walking Street night market Between Maharaj Rd, Maharaj Soi 10, Maharaj Soi 8 and Sukhon Rd; Fr–Su: 17:00–22:00.
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.