An excellent breakfast option is Sunny Side Up, a French/Thai-run cafe with outdoor seating located across from Rattanarangsan Palace. Fresh brown bread and baguettes are served with eggs, cured meats and fresh coffee as travellers and expats chat, check email or dig into the book exchange. Stroll down the hill from here and you’ll find a shop selling local food products, including some of the cashews that Ranong province is known for.
Most visitors pop into the Municipal Market at some point due to its hard-to-miss location on central Rueangrat where songthaews park. It’s a good place to spy fresh seafood and other produce, with a few vendors dishing out classic Thai street dishes like kuay tiao nam (noodle soup) and khao man gai (chicken rice) up front. Wander down the side lane, under the Chinese gate, to check out scenes of chillies and fish drying in front of century-old shophouses.
Dedicated market lovers should also pop over to Pakdee Siri Market on Thawi Sinkha Road, which runs parallel to Rueangrat to the west. In the daytime you’ll find dozens of Burmese and Thai vendors selling piles of banana, rambutan, mango, watermelon and many other fresh fruits by the kilo. Walk north to find a few humble eateries displaying fiery Southern Thai food along the footpath; we had good luck at Khao Gaeng Pa Mui with a 40-baht plate of rice topped with gaeng som tai, a well-known orange curry with fish and pickled pineapple, and kiao ka muu prik, roasted pork knuckle in an herbaceous sauce. They also do khanom jeen (fresh rice noodles) served with choice of curry and sprinkled with your choice of veggies set out on the tables—don’t miss the steamed pak lieang, an earthy green leaf rarely found in other regions of Thailand.
Continue north on Thawi Sinkha to find more terrific eats, including filling Muslim-Thai dishes at Raan Pang Gi Roti Arab. This large open-sided spot with wood tables serves unleavened fried roti along with mataba, or roti stuffed with meats and spices. They also do delicious deep-fried chicken and khao mok gai, Muslim-Thai rice seasoned yellow with turmeric and topped with roasted chicken and a sweet-and-spicy sauce for around 40 baht a plate. A bit further up the street is a small ahaan jay (vegan food) shop that was closed when we passed on a Sunday but looked promising if you’re a vegetarian after a cheap local-style meal.
Consisting of two rows with vendors on either side, Ranong’s small night market sets up around 17:00 on the southeast side of town off Phoemphon Road, just north of the same-named river. We found it disappointing compared to night markets in other Southern cities, with almost no seats for eating on site, but still it’s worth a browse for barbecued meats on sticks, Thai desserts and Southern Thai curries for takeaway. At the southwest corner we grabbed a decent pouch of kua kling, a staple Southern dish featuring chopped pork or fish in a pungent dry curry paste with lots of fresh chillies and kaffir lime leaves.
A better option for a local-style sit-down meal after dark is Tha Muang Market, situated a 10-minute walk southwest of the main night market. Two rows of vendors set up beneath a high awning with lots of tables at the centre, serving pad Thai, mango with sticky rice, noodle soups and grilled seafood for cheap. Some of the vendors have English signs and all are accustomed to serving foreign travellers. Simply order what you like from any vendor, point to where you’re sitting and they’ll deliver straight to your table.
If you’re willing to go out of your way for fresh local seafood served in big portions to tables with a view, make your way to Somyot Seafood overlooking Haad Chan Damri across the river from Saphan Pla. Several types of fish, crab, squid, lobster and various shellfish are served grilled, steamed, stir-fried with curry pastes or simmered in soups. The yum wun sen kung (glass noodle salad with prawns) that we tried was tasty and the prawns were excellent, even if the spice was toned down for a Westerner. Prices start at 100 baht and reach above 300 baht. You can get here by road via a roundabout cruise to the north of town along Ranong Paknam Road, or by longtail boat from Saphan Pla.
Back in the heart of town, many visitors never stray from the restaurants and bars on Rueangrat Road. A standout drawing lots of locals as well as expats and travellers is the Farmhouse, a sleek two-floor restaurant in the nightlife area. Local specialties include yum pak lieang, a salad featuring these local green leaves with prawns tossed in a sweet, sour and spicy sauce, and muu kong, an extremely rich and mild dish of roasted pork belly with Chinese spices. The kitchen also serves steaks and pasta, with prices for Thai salads starting at 70 baht and options like lamb chops fetching up to 450 baht. The on-point staff uses tiny microphones to communicate, and the bar serves Hoegaarden on draft along with Brewdog Punk IPA from Scotland, one of dozens of imported beers. While we didn’t get to try it, nearby J&T Restaurant was also recommended to us for local Thai specialties along with a few Japanese dishes in a cosy setting.
The north end of Rueangrat is also the place to be for nightlife, featuring at least half a dozen freestanding bars running from holes-in-the-walls with a few stools on the footpath up to large rooms with loads of tables and stages. Two of the most popular are Story and The B, both of which both had live bands playing when we rolled through.
Farmhouse: Towards north end of Rueangrat Rd; open 12:00-24:00; T: (094) 424 2459
Khao Gaeng Pa Mui: West side of Thawi Sinkha Rd (just north of Pakdee Siri Market; look for a yellow sign with red and blue Thai script under pots of food on the footpath); open early morning to early afternoon
Raan Bangui Roti Arab: North end of Thawi Sinkha Rd (look for green sign with Thai script and the Islamic star and crescent symbol); open for lunch and dinner; T: (081) 852 2033
Somyot Seafood: Haad Chan Damri; open 10:00-22:00; T: (077) 810 965 ; (083) 647 2357
Sunny Side Up: Kamlangsap Rd (next to Palmy Home); open daily 07:00 to late afternoon; T: (081) 486 5039
Tha Muang Market: North side of Tha Muang Rd (a short walk east from the southern end of Rueangrat Rd); open 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.