Ran Ahaan Phitsanulok

Opposite Nakorn Payap International School, off the Ring Road near city hall, is a large rambling building on the left, with car parking at the front and sides. You will recognize it immediately, because it will be full. Very full.

On our lunch visit, it also looked as if the entire Thai Army, Northern Division, had just parachuted in. There was one very compelling reason for this battalion of soldiers, a 30 baht lunch. All you can eat lunch at Ran Ahaan Phitsanulok costs 30 baht, up to 2 p.m. If you would like to drop in for an evening meal you’ll pay a little extra. Nine baht to be precise, as the all you can eat buffet is 39 baht from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.

The building is a huge airy open-sided affair with rustic wooden ‘park bench’ style settings as well as the more conventional tables and chairs set up along both sides. At the front is the entrance where you pay your 30 baht and you get given your plates. They’re not quite Wedgewood, but at B. 30, does it matter? Fork and spoon you pick up from a cutlery station and these items are made of the thin instantly bendable type. One fork stab with any force and it folds immediately. Fortunately this makes them easy to bend back into shape as well. You have been warned!

The food buffet stations are in the middle of the building, and the hard working chefs are at the rear. Generally it seems that they are duplicated to supply the two wings of the building, but they were not exactly the same on our lunch dates. The buffet stations incorporate two salad bars with sweet corn, cucumber, lettuce, carrot boiled eggs, tomatoes and more. There are also two stations with stir-fries and 20 curries including spare ribs, stir fried vegetables, deep fried pork, many curries and assorted noodles. Soups are catered for too. Rice stations are also there, being the staple that it is, but the rice is presented in four different styles. Thai spicy salads (som tums) are also offered in its own stations, where you can ‘mix and match’ to your heart’s content. If that is not enough, there are ‘kanom Thai’ (desserts stations) as well. Cold water is freely available too. Beer is also available, but obviously not in the 30 baht coverage!

I almost forgot, in the middle of the ‘left’ wing there is a small karaoke station, where various performers got up to entertain the hungry multitudes. I felt a little sorry for them, as feeding was more important than listening!

We went as a group of four, with three Thai folk and me. While the Thai three quarters knew exactly what they wanted and what they chose, this was not the case for Miss Terry. Some dishes I was familiar with, but the beauty of the all you can eat buffet style was that I could choose just a small portion, and if I liked it, went up for more, but if I did not, I could move to the next station. When confronted with such a dazzling array of dishes it is difficult not to be overwhelmed if you are not Thai, but a slow measured approach is the way. I enjoyed at least 75% of what I chose, and those which did not suit me were passed over in search of others that were to my liking.

This is the place to take a bunch of people and explore the culinary side of Thailand at very little expense. You will also find that locals will advise you on the various sauces or salad dressings that should be taken with your choices. Finally, there is a toilet block on the right at the rear, fairly agricultural, but functional and has western pedestals! What more do you want for 30 baht? Recommended for a fun lunch, or lash out with the extra nine baht and go for dinner!

Ran Ahaan Phitsanulok, off the Ring Road near city hall, opposite Nakorn Payap International School, huge parking lot and hundreds of seats. No need to book! Cash only, no credit cards!