Rawai, a seafront village in southern Phuket, is an excellent place to experience Thai food culture. A long street by the beach offers a broad choice of bars, restaurants and what Thailand is all about – street food sellers, with their stalls attached to motorbikes.
Tuk tuk? Taxi? Watch for you sir? Tshirts! – we didn’t hear much of that in Rawai. Some occasional boat? questions happened, but the atmosphere there is much more laid back and lazy than in other upmarket tourist areas. People just sit under their “taxi” signs, waiting for clients.
Whole families come there to have a picnic under the trees. No matter what time of the day it is, you’ll easily spot many of them.
Rawai Beach itself isn’t the prettiest or used for relaxing sunbathing, it’s mostly being used to moor boats: long tail, fishing and speed. It’s a starting point for trips to Phuket’s neighboring islands hence the hordes of tourists coming by buses. But people just come and go for those trips, not knowing there is a great food to experience in Rawai.
At the end of the beach, near the pier we also found a Sea Gypsy village and market with fresh fish on offer. If you happen to be in the area and you cook for yourself, that’s the place to do your grocery shopping.
– Just look around, they all seem to be locals. – my husband said to me during one of many strolls along the beach, pointing at waterfront tables packed with people eating from colourful plates. We walked by a few times, having a glance at what they eat, what smells good and finally we decided to give it a go. Not sure how it works and where the food actually comes from we picked a place.
– Please, please – young girl showed us a small, concrete table, with hard concrete chairs around it. She gave us their menus, fortunately for us with pictures and we had a hard time picking what we want. Even the faded images and sometimes funny English translations didn’t discourage us. Placing our first order, we quickly realized the best method – point at a dish you want, add a simple word as “one” or show it on palms of your hand and use only simple English. “Medium spicy” was too complicated, but the girl gave us a choice of words she knew – no spicy, spicy or little spicy. Yes this, little spicy, one, please. And little beer (which, by the way, is 500ml, if you order big you get 640). Done, order has been placed.
Maybe food wasn’t the greatest, but with the whole experience of seating amongst locals, on a broken chair or just on a mat and not being sure till the end what exactly you’ve just ordered is just wonderful. That’s why we ended up eating this way quite a few times for lunch and dinner.
We also quickly solved the problem where the food is being cooked. It was easy – just look across the road. Those little building, that you wouldn’t ever come into for a meal? Yes, they cook your food there. Never judge a book by its cover, right?
But the restaurant building is just for cooking and keeping money. The main waiting staff “station” is right next to the waterfront tables. That’s where they keep menus, clean glasses, plates, cutlery and napkins.
Lunch or dinner for two with drinks costs about 400-500 Baht (it’s about $15). But the experience and memories you’ll get from there are just priceless.