Located on the infamous party island of Koh Phangan, Haad Rin beach is home to the world renowned Full Moon Party. Each month, thousands of tourists and party goers alike descend upon this white sand beach for a night of bass pumping, bucket guzzling, neon splattered debauchery that continues on well past the early rise of the morning sun. Feeling knackered? No problem! Crack open a Red Bull, or better yet, an even stronger M-150, both of which contain small doses of amphetamines to keep you going strong.
Heart palpitations aside, you’ve worked up one hell of an appetite dancing the entire night away and are left with the ever pressing question looming over your head, where should I go eat? Luckily, (although perhaps unfortunately for all you indecisive folks) Haad Rin has the largest selection of restaurants, cafes and eateries located on all of Koh Phangan. With such a huge influx of international tourists, one can find food fare that caters to almost all discerning tastes. From classic western burgers, handmade Italian pastas, to authentic and fragrant Indian curries and even Moroccan Tajine! There is even a 24 hour Bakery that serves up delicious deli style sandwiches on homemade bread.
So, faced with a difficult decision and an impending hangover, here are some things to consider before you finally choose a place to take your order if you’re on a tight budget. Being that Koh Phangan is an island (thanks tips!), prices are already slightly more inflated as everything must be imported.
Since there aren’t many “Street food” style vendors on Haad Rin, you’ll be hard pressed to find any really cheap snacks and eating at restaurants is ALWAYS more expensive. This can be a real crap-shoot at times, nothing is worse than eating an over priced meal that is mediocre at best. Does this mean you’ll be confined to the air-conditioned walls of 7-11 slurping Tom Saab flavored Mama Cups and chowing down steamed buns? Not necessarily.
As a general rule of thumb, any western/international food will be quite a bit more expensive than local Thai dishes. Ordering Thai food ensures a lesser gouge to the wallet and almost always guarantees a tasty, expertly prepared meal that rarely disappoints unlike its western counterparts. (Uhh…soggy french fries, anyone?)
If you aren’t fussed about watching re-runs of “Friends” or “Family guy” amongst a crowd of still pickled backpackers, why not head to a noodle soup stand or Thai style restaurant? There is a nice selection right by the only used book store in town. It will certainly be no frills or flat screen tv’s, but the food will be great and the prices will be absolutely reasonable. Mama Pooh’s serves up excellent vegetarian Thai style dishes and My Friend restaurant has a pretty well rounded Thai menu with meals for no more than 80 TBH.
When in doubt, as the locals! They know where all the hidden haunts are located. Think they will be sitting around dining at joints where meals are over 250 TBH a pop? Not likely, unless the food tastes like it was blessed by Buddha himself!
If you’re looking to splurge on a meal, Haad Rin is definitely the place to do it! As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are no shortage of restaurants in the area but be forewarned, there are definitely some duds masquerading around as quality digs. The following are my top 3 picks that you shouldn’t shy away from:
1. Om Ganesh : Traditional North Indian and Nepalese cuisine
Located close to Haad Rin Pier , this restaurant is an absolute gem! The staff are very friendly and speak impeccable English, and the meals are authentically flavoured with Indian spices. The menu boasts a huge selection of curries, biriyani and tandoori dishes prepared using a traditional clay tandoor oven. They also offer meal sets which allow you to sample many dishes or you can order everything individually. Don’t miss out on their homemade yoghurt lassi and the spicy lamb vindaloo with garlic naan bread. Best of all, the prices are completely reasonable and they deliver!
2. Monnalisa – Italian Restaurant
I know what you’re thinking, every Italian restaurant in Thailand labels itself as “authentic”, but Monnalisa is the real deal! Run by an Italian family and a true Italian chef, Monnalisa imports its ingredients straight from Italy to make classic hand-made pastas and delicious pizzas. Hands down the best pizza joint in town, the pies aren’t cheap but are they ever worth it! If that’s not tempting enough, they also make a delicious espresso and an absolutely decadent tiramisu!
3. Nira’s Home Bakery & Deli
More than just your average Bakery, Nira’s is somewhat of a Haad Rin institution. Now with 3 locations on the island, its been around for over 15 years! The Haad Rin location is open 24 hours a day to cater to all your late night snack attacks. Known for it’s freshly baked, home-made bread, the deli counter is the way to go. Craving a New York style bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese? Well look no further! Nira’s offers loads of gourmet deli style sandwiches as well as an array of cookies, pastries, loaves and squares. I was particularly delighted to find Carrot Cake on the menu, the real deal loaded with walnuts and raisins with a proper, thick layer of frosting. Yup, fatkid heaven. If you’re looking for something other than sweets, Nira’s also has an extensive breakfast & brunch menu as well as healthy smoothies with additions such as protein powder and flax oil.
In a couple of days, I’ll be heading further South to Krabi, land of devilishly spicy Curries and Roti galore! I’ll be stopping in Thongsala on my way out from Koh Phangan and post a quick blurb about the little night market that get’s going as the sun goes down.
Finally, some proper street eats, stay tuned!