Eat & shop here: The Chaweng Walking Street Market, Koh Samui, Thailand

First of September; first day of spring, first day waking up to brilliant, bright sunshine in a while this morning! And this morning as I’m sitting on the train to work writing this post, I’m thinking of Thailand… It’s been a long winter, which I usually enjoy, but the throat infection that’s had me knocked on my ass for the past 2 weeks has been making wish for warmer climates and lazy days spent doing something other than “resting” and “getting better”…

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Chaweng Walking Street Market
South Chaweng, just off the main street
Koh Samui, Thailand

Yes, I realise those aren’t particularly amazing directions or an exact address, but we’re talking about Thailand here. The Chaweng area isn’t that big, so all you need to do is ask someone to point you in the right direction! When husband and I visited early 2014, we didn’t realise that the action all happened at night time there, with the night market being pretty popular with both tourists and locals alike. We saw “market” marked on a map we picked up and the airport and made our way over around lunch time one day; one single vendor was open, so we ordered lunch there, and it was probably the best pad thai I’ve ever eaten…

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In fact, the food was so good that we returned later that night, and the night after that! The little stall made some incredible food; other than the pad that, the other favourite was the spring rolls, hand made fresh daily by someone’s cousin. Or maybe it was someone’s aunt. I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter though, they were delicious either way!

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The Walking Street completely comes to life at night though, after around 5.30pm, so make sure you visit on an empty stomach and ready to shop your way around in between food and cocktails!

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10 Delicious Things To Eat In Thailand

I wrote this article last week for Outlet Magazine, and enjoyed writing it so much (it brought back so many great memories!) that I thought I’d share it here, too 🙂 Thailand has been relatively quiet in the world news since the Shutdown Bangkok movement of January 2014 that we somehow managed to get caught up in; that is, until the bombings in the country’s capital last week. For a country that makes a great portion of its living from tourism, this is a huge blow to the already struggling economy, which actually really upset me; for the most part, they’re good people who are working hard to make better lives for themselves. To be attacked like that is just cruel, it’s really really hard to hear about, especially when it’s Bangkok – the city gets a shitty wrap, but it’s still one of my favourite places! But, like I said when I wrote about the Shutdown thing, there are still so many great reasons to visit Thailand! Think cheap cocktails and beer, endless shopping, bustling markets and (best of all) some of the best food in the world. When things settle down and we’re all ready to head over to spend up on handbags and food, here are ten of the best things to eat.

 

  1. Anything on a stick
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    Chances are if it’s edible meat of any description, you’ll find it in Thailand threaded onto a skewer and grilled. Chicken, beef, pork, seafood, whatever – it’s all fair game, and it’s always delicious. Extra delicious if you can find honey marinated grilled pork skewers, those are the best.
  1. Noodles with wontons
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    There’s a pretty noticeable Chinese influence in Thailand, and you can see it in a lot of the food. Fresh noodles with BBQ pork and wontons are one of those dishes that allows the Chinese influence to sneak in, but it’s so good no one seems to mind.
  1. Satay chicken skewers
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    This is a simple dish, but a huge street food favourite. Grilled chicken on a stick with flavourful, delicious satay sauce. Really good option on the way home from a big night on Bangla Road.
  1. Freshly grilled seafood
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    Find a decent seafood restaurant (look for somewhere super busy), pick out your dinner from the monster crustaceans displayed on ice out the front, ask to have them grilled and go with a simple butter garlic sauce on the side. Amazing!
  1. Pork fried rice
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    Another dish with a Chinese influence, fried rice is always a classic. It’s a great one to order from the street food vendors at night, particularly if you’re looking for something a bit more comforting and familiar.
  1. Nutella crepes
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    Every bit as good as the Parisian stuff. Actually, they’re better here, because more often than not, your Nutella and strawberry stuffed crepe will be doused in condensed milk before it’s served up to you. If that sounds unappealing to you, it’s only because you haven’t had one after a few cheap cocktails at 1am. You should try it.
  1. Pad Thai
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    Duh – can’t well go to Thailand without eating Pad Thai!! Skip the tacky Westernised restaurants and head straight to the street food vendors; that’s where the best stuff comes from. Grab a fresh coconut to drink from while you’re at it – absolute winning combination.
  1. Fresh fruit smoothies
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    These little stalls are set up absolutely everywhere and are the best way to feel better about your holiday food intake. Fresh mangos, strawberries, watermelon and pineapples all blended with ice into a cool, thick cup of healthy deliciousness. They also double up as great happy hour options if you buy your own liqueur at one of the infinite 7/11s floating around 😉
  1. Coconut sticky rice with fresh mango
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    Another Thai classic – thick, sticky, coconut rice topped with sweet, fresh mango. It’s one of those dishes you don’t even need to be hungry to eat – it’s just soooo good!
  1. Coconut ice cream
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    Yeah, they like their coconut over there. And when it’s so delicious and fresh, you can’t blame them for coming up with so many ways to use it. Freshly churned coconut ice cream at the end of a hot day is complete perfection. And because it’s technically made from fruit, you can eat as much as you like without feeling guilty! Everyone wins!

Sunday dreaming… Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market, Koh Samui, Thailand

Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market

Koh Samui, Thailand

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I can’t remember how this came up, but husband and I were reminiscing about some of the best markets we’ve visited on our travels, and this one was close to the top of both our lists. If you find yourself in the very fortunate position of being in Koh Samui on a Friday night, do yourself a HUGE favour and hail a tuk tuk, and ask your driver to take you to the Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market. They won’t need an address, just that name. If you’re staying somewhere along Chaweng Beach like most visitors to Koh Samui do, you’ll find it a pretty quick 10 – 15 minute ride away, in the Bophut area of the island, and it’s the absolute best way to spend a night!

The market is incredible, full of the best street food on the island, which you’ll be wanting to wash down with a freshly mixed cocktail, which you can sip on while you’re shopping for little trinkets and souvenirs. There’s occasionally live music and heaps of little bars and restaurants you can stop at if the heat and crowds get a bit too much to deal with, as well as super easy access to tuk tuks when you’re done and ready to head back to your hotel. Remember to bring cash (notes in smaller denominations will serve you best), comfy walking shoes, and an appetite to try some strange but delicious stuff you might not ordinarily see on the restaurant menus!

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Through my eyes: Fire twirlers on Chaweng Beach, Thailand

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The weather’s been warming up here in Melbourne, and by the time I finish work at the end of the day, I’ve been having memories of the warm, happy nights I’ve spent in Thailand on my mind… If you’re in Koh Samui, do yourself a favour and head to Ark Bar after dark for one of their nightly beach parties – that’s where we found these guys, as well as great music, an extensive cocktail menu, delicious food, some of the best customer service we’ve ever experienced, and an amazing night laying on the beach, staring up at the stars and just remembering what it’s like to love life 🙂 Ahhh take me back…

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Through my eyes: Elephants & lanterns in Koh Samui, Thailand

I really love Thailand, for so many reasons I’ll never be able to list. It’s the different way of life, the alternate beliefs, the relaxed approach to everything, the street food and market culture, the smiles… it’s so foreign, but it feels so familiar each time I go back.

Two favourite memories from one particular trip, to Koh Samui, were the ones below. Firstly, the sky lanterns you can release on the beach at night. The idea is that you write your wish onto your lantern, light a candle to help fuel it’s flight, and let it go into the night sky. Releasing your lantern signifies the release of your trials and tribulations, your hurts and worries, and hopefully the start of something new and great for you. Yeah, it’s pretty touristy, but I have to tell you, it felt really great letting my lantern fly (the cocktails I’d consumed earlier may have helped..)!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

My other favourite experience is the elephant trekking. I’ve visited Thailand three times now and have done an elephant trekking trip each time, and will most likely do it again next time I go. They are the most beautiful, gentle creatures, with such sweet and patient dispositions, especially towards their masters, or mahouts. The bottom photo is one of my absolute all time favourite travel photos, just because it brings back not only a lot of great memories, but a ton of emotions too. If you’ve never tried it, I’d highly recommend it, particularly in Phuket, where I believe they really look after their animals. There’s something indescribably uplifting about sitting high up on the back of an elephant, while it steadily pads through the jungle and mountains, seeing everything from a completely new angle. Fresh, cool breeze against your skin, the sun shining on your face, the most stunning array of greenery all around you, as far as you can see, and all the while the surprisingly quiet sounds of the gentle padding of your elephant’s feet against the earth. Just wow.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Laem Din Market, Koh Samui, Thailand

Laem Din Market, Koh Samui, Thailand

According to http://www.chaweng.com/chaweng.html:
Location : at the entrance of Soi Reggae, Near Petch Bucha Thai Boxing Stadium
Open Daily : 05:00am – 11:00pm

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

As with most great finds when you’re travelling, I found this place by utter and complete accident. And thank goodness I did. I was sprawled across the hotel bed with a giant map I’d picked up from God-only-knows-where during the day, looking for something to do the following day. The map was mostly in Thai, with a few little pictures to guide me. I saw a little picture that looked like fruit, and deducted that may be a market of some type. I told my husband we were going to a market the next morning. “Are you sure that’s what it is?” Nope, does it matter? Nope!

So, the next morning we got up, grabbed a bag of diced pineapple and a mango shake for the walk, and set off to find this market, maybe. Once we got off the main “street” where all the hotels were, we realised there wasn’t another tourist to be seen. We figured at that point that it didn’t matter if we found the market or not anymore, we’d be bound to find some great stuff! We did, and that’ll need it’s own story and post, but eventually, we did find a market. Whether this is the one that was on the map or not, I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you that we were two of the only four tourists at the market, and the experience was unreal!!!

Everything was fresh, cheap, and mostly unidentifiable for us. Makeshift tables to display wares were fashioned out of plastic crates and newspapers. Makeshift restaurants were set up in corners of stalls. People were yelling to each other, laughing, playing show and tell. I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to be staying at a villa with a kitchen so I could have an excuse to buy a stack of stuff to cook up! This, to me, is why I travel. I’m not there for the 5 star resorts or the fancy, air conditioned shopping plazas. I want, I need to be thrown head first into the reality of the place I’m visiting. I want to get a taste of it, literally and figuratively. I want to smell the seafood and hear the yelling in native tongues and see vegetables that I don’t recognise! I was stoked to have been able to work out eventually which market this actually was, because I have every intention of visiting it again on my next trip!

Does anyone else have any recommendations for random markets not overpopulated by tourists that they’ve found on their travels?? Would LOVE to hear about more!!!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Eat here: Nong Ploy Restaurant, Koh Samui, Thailand

Nong Ploy Restaurant
157/19 av2 | Chaweng beach road, Ko Samui 84320, Thailand

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

To be completely honest, when I first stumbled on this place in September 2012, on a work sponsored trip, I didn’t even think to find out what it was called, as I didn’t think it’d be possible to ever find it again; while the rest of the group was either at the bar drinking, or in their rooms taking a nap while waiting for the torrential rain to stop, I decided to be an idiot, go out in the rain, and find something to eat that wasn’t hotel crap. I wondered down the main street, then down an alley way, then another, then back to the main street, and so on for about 15 minutes, as the rain was easing. My stomach started grumbling and I decided to stop at the next place I saw. This was it. Thai food for 40 baht a plate? That’s about AUD$1.30. I’d have been crazy not to!

I ordered the pad thai, and it was unreal! I told my husband all about it when I got home, that I got amazing prawn pad thai for $1.30 down an alleyway in Koh Samui. He laughed and shook his head – standard lunacy to be expected of me.

 

ANYWAY, fast forward to January 2014, and husband and I (along with one of his mates) are in Koh Samui. My second trip, the boys’ first. I fondly recall my rainy stumbling to the wonder that was that “little place with the park bench seating and bright pink table cloths.” Let me preface this next bit by saying that I have NO sense of direction what so ever. Give me a map and throw me in the middle of Rome, I’ll find you the quickest path from A to B, no worries. But ask me to get from my house to the milk bar around the corner from memory, I have no freakin idea. So when I told the boys I wanted to head in the general direction of where I thought this place may be, my husband laughed, but indulged me – after all, we were in Koh Samui and had no where we needed to be!

Cue random meandering, a few false alarms at alleyways that looked kinda maybe sorta familiar, and then giving up and walking into a place that looked decent because we were so bloody hungry. I dragged my feet behind the boys, feeling dejected, when I finally looked up. Holy crap, the place I was looking for was right next door. I (pathetically) squealed a little and ran straight over, leaving the embarrassed boys to deal with the waiter who had menus in hand (sorry!).

 

Everything was still exactly as I remembered it, which is why you should eat there if you find yourself in Koh Samui and can manage to find it! The food is insanely cheap and ridiculously delicious, there were quite a few locals eating there, it’s got that relaxed beach-side, picnic-style, box-of-tissues-instead-of-napkins kind of vibe, and it’s the quintessential Asian street food experience, in a restaurant setting!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

P.S. hopefully this helps anyone visiting..

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