Where to eat and drink: Ko Bulon Lae

Ko Bulon Lae: Where to eat and drink

Bulon boasts a few culinary surprises mixed into Thai food that’s above average for a small island drawing mainly Western travellers.

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Bulon wouldn’t be the same without Su’s Corner, a cosy cafe located just inland from Panka Noi Bay on the cross-island lane. The owners bake tasty cinnamon rolls and baguettes that are especially satisfying on a tiny island like Bulon. Sandwiches prepared on those baguettes are probably the best on the island, and we’ve had good luck with the som tam and green curry for less than 100 baht as well. Fresh coffee and beer are also served to the few tables set on a patio with red umbrellas. This is a very laid-back family operation—the cafe is also their house—so be patient if it’s busy.

Divine cinnamon rolls at Su's Corner. : David Luekens.
Divine cinnamon rolls at Su's Corner. Photo: David Luekens

A top choice for Thai food is Chao Lae Homestay’s open-air restaurant with seating beneath a pavilion or out on a terrace. Grab a Thai-style noodle soup for 90 baht or spend around 150 baht for a huge plate of laab pla (sour and spicy fish salad with toasted rice), pad pong karee pla muk (yellow Indian curry stir-fried with squid and egg) or gaeng som (Southern Thai-style orange curry), among more standard Thai options and a few Western bites. Breakfast and beer are also available and travellers walk here from across the island for dinner.

If you tire of Thai food, Panka Noi Pizza serves excellent pasta dishes, pizzas, breads, salads, mixed grills and wines at its unlikely location on Panka Noi Bay. There’s nothing like kicking back with a delicious plate of Bolognese and bruschetta as you soak up the sea views. Expect to pay 200 to 350 baht for pizza and mains—worth it for the quality and setting—and get here early to score a table in high season. Also on Panka Noi, we’ve heard good things about the Thai-style seafood barbecue at neighbouring Pin & Mud Restaurant.

Chao Lae Homestay is a top pick for delicious Thai food. : David Luekens.
Chao Lae Homestay is a top pick for delicious Thai food. Photo: David Luekens

Also worth a mention is Bulone Resort’s spacious seaside restaurant offering a full Thai menu along with solid breakfasts, a kids’ menu, sandwiches on house-baked baguettes and a few other Western dishes in the 100 to 250 baht range. If you’re really hungry, go for the huge pile of deep-fried chicken and fries in the “Bulone special”. You’ll also find quality espresso and cappuccino along with eight flavours of ice cream scooped out at the on-site minimart, but the Muslim owners sell only cans of beer and no liquor.

Bulon’s number of bars had doubled since our last visit, from one to two. Along the cross-island lane behind Panka Noi Bay, longstanding Coconut Bar entices passersby with Bob Marley tunes, fresh coconuts with rum and cold beer that you can enjoy on a spacious terrace or loft with floor cushions. Over on the trail from Panka Yai Bay to Mango Bay, the newer Mango Bar has stools lining a long bar overlooking a rubber farm. Its laid-back owners are quite the multi-taskers, offering everything from Western breakfast to cocktails to pad Thai and tents that can be rented out if you’re on a budget.

Lie back and sip on a fresh coconut with rum at Coconut Bar. : David Luekens.
Lie back and sip on a fresh coconut with rum at Coconut Bar. Photo: David Luekens

Expect virtually every restaurant to be closed if you visit Bulon in low season. Even in October, we once found ourselves wandering around asking the locals if anyone could cook us a meal.

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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.