Another disappointing lunch on the tour boat? Time to take action and bring your own meal. Below, we show you where to go for the perfect picnic food
Most tourists spend their days in Krabi taking in a few sights on a tour: perhaps a cruise around the spectacular Phi Phi Islands; snorkelling in the tropical paradise of Ko Rok; or a kayak trip in the canyons of Ao Thalane. But while the places visited themselves are magnificent, the food produced at lunchtime, with a few rare exceptions, nearly always fails to live up to the occasion.
In fact, if one compares them to the beautiful surroundings in which they are served, tour lunches are surely the culinary equivalent of Sunderland: bland and uninspiring. Insipid, cold fried rice served in a polystyrene box, anyone? Care for a portion of watery green curry, or the dreaded chunky onion, pineapple and ketchup concoction that is ‘sweet and sour’?
Why tour food is like this is a subject of weary debate among the people who have to work on the boats and eat it every day. After all, Thailand is a foodie’s paradise. They usually conclude that operators are simply trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator – if you make the food as bland and tasteless as possible, then you are not likely to upset any of the 20 or 30 individuals on each trip, each with their own particular eating habits. This makes sense, but in practice trying to please everyone usually means you end up pleasing no one at all.
The solution? Take affirmative action. With a little careful planning, discerning customers can simply boycott the group repast and BYOL (bring your own lunch). Far from causing offence, or being looked down upon, you will be the envy of your fellow tourists, as well as gaining cred from the guides – you will notice the crafty Thai staff normally eat a separate, far tastier lunch prepared specially for them.
You have to get up a little earlier than usual in order to prepare for this – or better still, order the night before, so the food is ready to be picked up in the morning – but it will all seem worth it when you are ravenous and out on the islands. This is, of course, the only option available when chartering a longtail boat from the mainland coast – none of the local islands have any food or drink facilities, so a picnic lunch is a must.You can usually order food in any restaurant that is open for breakfast – try Cafe 8.98 in Ao Nang, or Easy Cafe in Krabi Town, both of which do excellent sandwiches and salads. Or hit the road: Thai street food makes for perfect picnic fare.
If you are near a village or town, in the early morning you will find stalls selling khao mok gai (yellow chicken and rice, a sort of mild biryani), khao man gai (chicken on rice), fried or grilled chicken, even som tam (green papaya salad) and sticky rice – both plain and sweet varieties. All will be packaged to take away. Even on the beachfront on Nopparat Thara, some stalls will set up early so you can grab some rice and tasty curry, prawn tempura or even a grilled fish.
Tours will provide cold drinks and fruit refreshments for you so there is no need to bring these; if you are going independently, you may like to consider buying a bag of ice from 7-Eleven in which to store your bottles and cans on the boat.