Culinary Adventures
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Eating in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan

KOH PHANGAN, THAILAND. Haad Rin is the Full Moon Party beach and it’s known for it’s party atmosphere. It can be a bit crazy at times but if you’re here to party, you might as well be right in the thick of it. The Koala celebrated his birthday here and what a way to end our 65 day South East Asian adventure than with a birthday and a Full Moon Party.

The food is generally on the expensive side but there are a few bargains to be had. There is a lot of variety with cuisine from most parts of the world represented. We stayed right on Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan and it is not a mecca for foodies. Not even close. But there’s food and you do what you can to get by.

Buckets, booze and beach.

Yes, this is a food post, but you can’t do a post about Haad Rin without first mentioning the drink. The drink of choice on the islands are buckets. Buckets are actual plastic pails that hold about 1 litre of liquid. A hip-flask of your choice is emptied into it along with a couple of cans of soft drink (soda) and some energy drink syrup. There are many bucket sellers along the beach and it’s usually ok to negotiate a price. If you’re buying more than 1 bucket, then you really should try and haggle. It’s all in good fun and there is a real festive atmosphere.

Vodka (Smirnoff) was the expensive choice although if you ask, they usually have a cheaper local alternative. But the most popular must be SangSom Whiskey. While this Thai booze is called a whiskey, it is actually a rum and goes well with all the regular whiskey/rum mixers. SangSom was my booze of choice and a bucket with SangSom, lemon and lime ice tea and redbull would cost between 100-150 baht / $4-6NZ / $3.30-$4.90US. Each bucket comes with ice and a straw for each person sharing.

I wouldn’t recommend smashing buckets all night on your own. Thailand is hot so if you don’t drink at a reasonable pace, the ice in your bucket will melt and you’ll be left with a sickly sweet, warm cocktail. 2 people per bucket is about right. Try not to think of 1 bucket = 1 cocktail. It’s 1 bucket = 1 hip-flask.

All you can eat Thai BBQ

The night before the Full Moon Party, we gorged on a traditional Thai seafood BBQ Buffet. The restaurant we went to was Cho Chang 2 and is really basic. 109 baht / $4.40NZ / $3.60US per person. Thai BBQ is a lot of fun, fairly healthy and pretty easy if you know what you are doing. We first came across this style of cooking in Laos and loved it ever since.

The staff sets up the cooker for you: Charcoal is set alight and a metal cooker placed on top. At this stage they either put a kettle on the table and they pour the soup or you do it. The kettle is left on the table should you need to top up the moat during the meal. Soup is poured into the moat ring for poaching and a metal dome in the middle cooks your food BBQ style. Ideally, 1 cooker is suited for up to 3 people. 4 people per cooker is too many. There’s just not enough real estate to cook 4 people’s food at once. More real estate means you can cook more food at any one time.

You collect raw ingredients from the buffet and cook whatever takes your fancy. Seafood and meat is cooked on the dome while vegetables, noodles and eggs (chicken and quail) are cooked in the outside moat. A range of dipping sauces to try although this particular one didn’t have satay sauce.

You begin cooking with a lump of fatty meat (must be collected from the buffet) which you place on top of the dome. Let it sizzle for a bit and grease up the dome with the released fat by rubbing the fat across the cooking surface. The fat can be replaced with a new piece once the fat has been rendered. The old crispy/chewy bit of pork fat is either discarded or gobbled up by an enthusiastic eater.

As the meal progresses, all the cooking juices run off the dome into the moat. The most amazing broth can be enjoyed at the end of the meal.

Buffet style is a great way to try stuff you wouldn’t normally order. If you don’t like something, stray cats at your feet will happily take care of that for you.

I really enjoy this style of eating, but it’s not the best kind of food to eat in 30°C weather. Back home it’s usually a winter time social dinner and for good reason. We had to have a lot of cool drinks to cool ourselves down at the steamy, sizzling table. More drinks means less space in the belly for food.

Seaview Sunrise Resort

We stayed at Seaview Sunrise on the quiet end of Haad Rin Beach. It was a great location and our room in the garden area was set back from the beach and nice and quite. Handy to Mushroom Mountain too if chocolate flavoured hallucinogenic milkshakes are your thing. Our room was basic but had a fan, hot water, our own bathroom and a little deck.

It’s pretty common perception that you don’t enjoy the food at your resort, but the food at Seaview was surprisingly good. The Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) I had there was so yummy I had to have it twice. While I don’t think the plate of spaghetti was very authentic, they had a perfect sweet, spicy, savoury combination and lots of prawns and squid hidden under the pasta.

Back home, I’m not much of a salad orderer, but on holiday, with all that we eat and drink, sometimes a salad is just the thing you need to keep from falling apart. Of course, with daily fruit shakes that we were having (mostly mango shakes for me) we could almost justify all the rich food and epic drinking.

The prices at Seaview were ok for a resort restaurant and we spent a lot of days just chilling out in the communal/dining area. There is a crappy pool table, tables and chairs and of course the mandatory low tables and triangle cushions of the Thai islands and free Wi-fi.

A typical day at Haad Rin:

  1. Wake up late.
  2. Go for a swim.
  3. Eat breakfast.
  4. Read, sunbathe, nap.
  5. Go for another swim.
  6. Have lunch.
  7. Read, sunbathe, nap.
  8. Start drinking beers.
  9. Have dinner.
  10. Start drinking buckets.
  11. More buckets and maybe a mushroom shake.
  12. The End.

Tom Yum

on our first night in Koh Phangan. Small but good. Our meals were brought to the table by a sweet little girl who took her job very seriously.

On our last night in Haad Rin, we visted Bongo Bungalow for dinner. The Koala had a Shrimp cocktail pizza and I had the Tom Kah Kung (Shrimp). What can we say, we love shrimp! Tom Kah is a mild coconut, galangal and lemon grass soup. Nice flavours without the heat of chili for a slightly pathetic foodie the night after the Full Moon Party. Nearby, we experienced the best 1 hour massage of the entire 65 day South East Asian adventure. I wish we had noted down the name of the shop, but we didn’t. Good luck on finding it! As you can imagine, massages are in demand the night after the Full Moon Party and many places were completely booked out. We were lucky to have found an opening that night.

Haad Rin Tips:

  1. Nothing opens early so you might as well sleep in and get breakfast a bit later.
  2. For those not staying in Haad Rin, an entry fee (around 100 baht) is required for the Full Moon Party. Avoid the gate if you are staying in Haad Rin.

Haad Rin Highlights:

  1. Full Moon Party.
  2. Buckets!
  3. Drunken Noodles at Seaview.
  4. BBQ Buffet.
  5. Mushroom shakes when they’re going.

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