Chilled out beach scene
Located at the centre of Ko Pha Ngan’s south coast, Baan Tai is a charming village with several good places to eat and drink. You’ll also find a few worthwhile options on the beach in Baan Kai, a more sparsely developed area located east of Baan Tai and west of Haad Rin.
A go-to breakfast spot is Bubba’s, drawing loyal expats along with travellers seeking excellent Western food in an inviting space with wood tables set up inside and out on a street side balcony. The eggs Benedict with house-made hollandaise was one of the best we’ve ever had in Thailand. You can also grab a strong coffee, salad or bagel sandwich. A bit further east, Mayom Garden is also worth a stop for fresh coffee, breakfast and sandwiches like the Parisian: ham, cheese, pickles and butter on a fresh baguette.
Baan Tai lacks the happening markets of Thong Sala, but a night market does set up along the main road to the west of town on weekend nights. Durian, mangosteen and other fresh fruits are mixed into spreads of Thai sweets and cheap clothes. Look to the far right corner if facing the market from the street, to find a plate of khao mok gai (yellow rice with roasted chicken) served out of a big cauldron by a woman who also offers some Southern Thai curries. The main Thong Sala - Baan Tai Road also has its share of local-style eateries with bamboo tables; Mama Restaurant is one option with an English menu offering green curry, tom yum and other standard but well-prepared Thai dishes.
For a more upscale Thai dinner, Fisherman’s Restaurant serves refined seafood dishes prepared by an islander chef and served to candlelit tables on the beach in the centre of Baan Tai village. The “Thai salad” featured shredded green mango along with lemongrass, quite a few bird’s eye chillies and fresh seafood. While it was good, we really enjoyed a bowl of gaeng som with fish and the unusual addition of cucumbers adding a very subtle sweetness to this sour orange curry done Southern Thai style. Prices run from 160 to over 400 baht, but portions are large and the chef really knows what she’s doing.
For a much cheaper meal on the beach, head down to Baan Kai and keep an eye out for a faded wood sign that says, “Mudteo Muslim Restaurant”. Also spelt Mateo, this family-run spot does simple Thai soups, stir-fries and noodles, cooked in a wok out the back and served to an open-sided bamboo dining area set on stilts over the sand. The atmosphere is classic Ko Pha Ngan, with a young one snoozing in a traditional bamboo rocker and plastic chairs and tables set up in the sea breeze. The pad prik gai (chicken stir-fry with chillies) was tasty and as spicy as we asked for, and this is a good opportunity to support a modest family business in a peaceful spot.
Also on Baan Kai Beach, Golden Beach Resort boasts a phenomenal sunset perch in the form of an open-sided wood pavilion built high above some boulders -- grab the two hammocks and you’ll be in heaven. The kitchen cooks up nicely done green curry and pad si ew, and the bartenders are a pleasure to chat with. While we didn’t try it on our last visit, we’ve also heard that nearby Munchies Resort serves quality Thai food at a bamboo restaurant on the beach.
While Baan Tai and Baan Kai tend to stay quiet on an average night, a handful of beach bars host major parties every so often. The monthly Half Moon Party is held close to Mac Bay Resort and has become a major destination for travellers who won’t be around for the Full Moon Party. Located on the main road between Baan Tai and Thong Sala, The Nomad House holds rocking Half Moon pre-parties, with taxis picking up for the main event at midnight. Another option is the monthly Waterfall Party, held at an out-of-the-way location amid the jungle at the end of a lane that cuts inland off the main road through Baan Kai.
Infinity Beach Club is another happening party spot, hosting trance and electronica DJs that get a huge beachfront and swimming pool area moving on certain nights. There’s also Loi Lay, a large roofed bar that floats near the pier in the centre of Baan Tai and also throws large monthly parties. For something a little more intimate, At Beach Bar and Bed is a beachfront hostel and bungalow joint with a funky bar that often holds barbecues and fire-spinning shows.
Check out the Facebook pages of these establishments and the events posted on the local blog, Phanganist, to see what’s on during your stay.
At Bar Beach & Bed: Baan Tai Beach; T: (093) 661 5988
Bubba’s: Baan Tai village; open 07:00-16:00; T: (099) 078 4805
Fisherman’s Restaurant: On the beach in Baan Tai village; open 13:00-22:00; T: (084) 454 7240
Loi Lay Floating Bar: Baan Tai village, next to the pier
Mateo Restaurant: Baan Kai Beach; open 07:00-21:00
Munchies: Baan Kai Beach; T: (062) 339 5196
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.