Photo: Now we’re talking.

Eat and meet



Served at countless beachside tables along with eateries in the fishing village and proper restaurants on Naranthip Road, seafood is the name of the game in Cha-am—and stiff competition means that most of it is exceptionally fresh.

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Even on weekdays, when the hordes have picked up and left, there’s a staggering amount of seafood plus som tam and grilled meats for sale along the beach road. You’ll see live prawns, crab, squid and fish along with clams and other heavy metal filterers to choose from. The process is simple: point at what you want and then have it cooked to your liking, or just sit down on any beachside chair and wait for someone to magically appear with a menu. There’s little price variation between the stalls, with a half-kilo of grilled prawn fetching around 200 baht and a som tam buu maa (papaya salad with blue crab) going for 100 baht, so it’s really just a case of wandering along until you find a spot that suits you. Cold beer is readily available as well.

Did we mention the seafood?

Did we mention the seafood? Photo: David Luekens

Head north to the end of the beach road and you’ll bump into the fishing village, which is worth a visit especially if you time it for lunch. A few places offer beachfront dine-and-lounge just south of the village, but we suggest walking until you reach the actual unloading docks set straight inland from the long pier. Several restaurants here serve straightforward but fresh and tasty seafood dishes like yum talay (spicy seafood salad) and gaeng som pla (sour orange curry with fish) to proper tables on decks overlooking the harbour.

If you don’t mind straying from the beach road, Krua Garn Wela dishes out stellar and authentic Thai dishes to a roadside terrace that’s conducive to a slow and relaxing meal. Seafood is a hit here as well, with dishes like hoi shell pad chaa (clams sizzled with fresh peppercorn and chillies), tom yum with Thai mackerel and pla hed khon tort gratiem (whole sillago fish deep-fried with garlic) all hitting the spot. We also had a fabulous nam tok ped yang (spicy grilled duck salad) and we liked how nearly all dishes are pictured on the menu with their Thai names transliterated into Roman script. Portions are large, service is snappy and most dishes cost a very reasonable 100 to 200 baht.

Spicy duck at Krua Garn Wela.

Spicy duck at Krua Garn Wela. Photo: David Luekens

Also on Naranthip Road you’ll find several simple eateries specialising in muu han (slow-roasted pork belly) and gai ob ong, chicken slow-cooked in a ceramic pot over charcoal. The muu han at Mai Mai was just delicious, and a plate of som tam with its sour and spicy tones provided an ideal balance for the rich and fatty pork belly that’s crisp around the edges.

For coffee, sandwiches and pastries, The Baguette is a great bakery and cafe with an inconvenient location off Phetkasem Road at the far south end of town. On the beach road, Raya Coffee serves decent cakes, Danishes and croissants to go with fresh coffee and tea at marble-top tables in an inviting seaview cafe.

Mai Mai doesn’t fall down on the meat front.

Mai Mai doesn’t fall down on the meat front. Photo: David Luekens

One long-running nightlife option is Blue Lagoon, a pub and restaurant offering live blues bands, billiards, darts, a popular trivia night on Mondays and some cheap rooms for rent upstairs. A few other pubs join it in the same side street (more of a parking lot really) in a little foreigner enclave—head there if you’re looking to chat up some of the expats who reside in Cha-am.

Though we didn’t look too far into Cha-am’s Western food scene, you will find Norwegian, French and Italian restaurants, among others. For info on those check out the local expat-run website, www.onlychaam.com.


Map of eating options for Cha-am

Legend
(1) Blue Lagoon Guest House & Bar (2) Krua Garn Wela (3) Mai Mai (4) Raya Coffee (5) The Baguette (or La Baguette)

Blue Lagoon Guest House & Bar 262/14 Soi Plaza (off Naranthip Rd just west of Chao Lai Rd); T: (062) 450 8156; Mo–Su: 12:00–late.
Krua Garn Wela Naranthip Rd (around 200 metres east of Phetkasem Rd; look for two signs with Thai script, a Chang Beer logo on one and Est Cola logo on the other); T: (032) 471 547 , (087) 404 9635; Mo–Su: 11:00–24:00.
Mai Mai Naranthip Rd (across from Okay Supermarket; look for the pig head on the sign); Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00 .
Raya Coffee 264/2 Ruamchit Rd (in front of Raya Resort); T: (032) 472 641; Mo–Su: 08:00–20:00.
The Baguette (or La Baguette) Off the west side of Phetkasem Rd in south Cha-am; T: (089) 742 3258; Mo–Su: 08:00–18:00.

Blue Lagoon Guest House & Bar
262/14 Soi Plaza (off Naranthip Rd just west of Chao Lai Rd); Cha-am, Southern Thailand
T: (062) 450 8156; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Krua Garn Wela
Naranthip Rd (around 200 metres east of Phetkasem Rd; look for two signs with Thai script, a Chang Beer logo on one and Est Cola logo on the other); Cha-am, Southern Thailand
T: (032) 471 547 , (087) 404 9635; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Mai Mai
Naranthip Rd (across from Okay Supermarket; look for the pig head on the sign); Cha-am, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Raya Coffee
264/2 Ruamchit Rd (in front of Raya Resort); Cha-am, Southern Thailand
T: (032) 472 641; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
The Baguette (or La Baguette)
Off the west side of Phetkasem Rd in south Cha-am; Cha-am, Southern Thailand
T: (089) 742 3258; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
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