Soi Lao is a virtually unknown among visitors to Patong’s Bangla Road due to its narrow and nondescript entrance and total lack of bars or clubs. It is, however, quite a popular alley with the local Thais, who come to enjoy great, cheap Thai food away from the crowds.
Hidden in plain sight, roughly opposite Soi Freedom, a lit-up sign pointing to the public toilets at the end of the small alley is the only real notice that the place even exists. It also gives Soi Lao its common nickname of “Soi Hong Nam” (and sometimes also the English translation: “Soi Toilet”). Some maps show the street by the more appealing but just as accurate name of “Food Alley”.
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The food is the main attraction in Soi Lao, with a modest choice of stalls selling genuine Thai food at genuine Thai prices available. The first shop you come to in the five-metre-wide covered alley – K&K – claims to also serve European dishes and a lot of the signage is in English. Further down the street is another outlet of Chiangrai Seafood, which you will also find in the Number One Seafood Patong complex at the end of Soi Tiger. As with its sister store, you will find plenty of fresh ingredients on display, packed in ice at the front.
You will mostly find Thais sat at the tables down one side of the alley, with only a few clued-in expats or the occasional tourist who discovered the place while on the way to relieve themselves. The result of this is that the main target audience for the chefs is the locals, so the food is as true a taste of Thai food as you are likely to find anywhere near Bangla Road. The prices, too, are the typical low prices of genuine local cuisine.
Past Chiangrai Seafood, you will find a space commonly used as a motorbike parking place, followed by the toilets which give the place its nickname. These cost 10 baht to use and are about as clean as you could expect of a public convenience on Bangla Road.
If you want to find Soi Lao, look out for the tour operator’s stall next to the illuminated “Toilet” sign on the southern side of Bangla Road (that’s the left, if you’re looking towards the beach).
- Location: Next to Soi Patong Resort, through a narrow alley near a sign for Toilets