Pak Bang Food Center is this fork’s top seaside dining destination in Phuket.
I take almost all family and friends visiting Phuket here. It is very family friendly and loved for its location right on water and stunning views of Rawai beach.
It helps that most of the time the seafood vendors at Pak Bang delivered solid meals.
Years ago I was delighted in Koh Samet the first time when our table was below the high tide line. It was so cool having the ocean lap at our feet while we consumed a seafood feast that cost next to nothing.
Seafood always tastes better the closer you are to the sea, everybody knows that.
Beach restaurant start up costs can be low (except maybe rent or extra fees), and tourists coming to Phuket wanted to eat near the sea.
Regulations weren’t enforced until recently and everyone knew these restaurants have little proper sewage, grease or grey water treatment. Some toilets are smelly and a challenge to use during the dry season. The sad reality is at least some of it ends up in the ocean over time.
Now Pak Bang Food Center, like many other casual seaside dining restaurants in Phuket, faces an uncertain future.
As others like it close down we lament the possible loss of an important part of the quintessential Thai seaside dining experience.
More than half the customers at Rawai’s Pak Bang Food Court are domestic Thais, either Phuket locals or visitors from Bangkok.
Plus resident foreign families or lucky travellers who use smart phone apps to stumble onto a really cool place to eat.
Over the years this fork has eaten at every Pak Bang restaurant more than once and I have enjoyed many great meals there. Sometimes it can be hit or miss, but who cares?
Eating there always reminds me why I am so lucky to live in Phuket.
Fresh seafood, ice-cold beer served in minutes with waves breaking under the restaurant at high tide.
Now most Pak Bang restaurant operators face an uncertain future for obvious reasons.
One said it was local Rawai authorities that were in control of the situation, which I guess its possible since I see the village headman eat lunch there almost daily.
He forced a half smile and said: “We were told us we can stay, and that made us happy. But we have to cut our restaurant dining areas by half so it doesn’t extend as far over the sea”.
I said forking exsqueeze me? We are talking about a couple metres at most for the larger outlets.
A good compromise solution? Maybe, at least they get to stay in business and have an access road that could be blocked off as a ‘walking street’ for tables. If they start cutting half a dining area how easy would it be to tear down the lot?
Change is good sometimes. But so is finding a compromise to preserve what makes very casual seaside dining in Phuket so chilled and unique.