Loved and hated in equal measure by different people, Khao San Road is generally a traveler’s first destination in Thailand after Bangkok Airport. It’s a small road near the Royal Palace, some interesting temples and forts – and it is very hard to describe!
Offering hostels, guesthouses and hotels with prices ranging from 250 – 2500 Bht it’s a fairly perfect place to have your first experience of Thailand.
The place seems to be two very different areas by day and by night, before the sun goes down there is a variety of craft stalls selling various clothes, bags, patches and everything you could imagine one would want for the bohemian backpacker look. There is also the most incredible selection of street food around the place, with pad Thai, chilli beef sticks and mango sticky rice almost everywhere you look. If you’re in the mood for a massage you can get a foot rub on the street for half an hour for 150thb or a full hour of Thai massage for 300thb at one of the dozens of places dotted around (contrary to popular belief you won’t instantly be set upon by people offering ‘other services’). It’s a great place to wander and plan your next move – the abundance of travel agents means that you can get some ideas and inspiration for your next trip if you’ve not yet planned that far!
By night the already lively road picks up even more! Some of the stalls seem to disappear to reveal bars and clubs behind them playing thumping music with crowds dancing into the streets. It’s an all night party around Khao San Rd with things generally not closing until around 5am and some bars proudly boasting that they never close.
Wandering around at night time is quite an experience, there are not just bars trying to attract your custom but also street food sellers – quite often selling scorpions on a stick to tourists – as well as the seedy and ever so disturbing drivers who try to attract you to a ping pong or any other kind of depraved sex show… (The worst we were offered to be taken to see was a monkey blow job show, seriously – no I don’t know either).
It’s quite interesting to read up on the history of Khao San Rd. According to a couple of local guide books, backpackers started to come to the area in the 1980s and would often persuade locals to rent them spare rooms, this is where the guesthouses which now are everywhere along the road began. The road was then made famous in the book and then film ‘The Beach’ and cemented its reputation as the Mecca of backpacking in Southeast Asia.
If you like a lively place but feel a little too old for the all night party element of Khao San Rd then the best idea is to stay nearby, over the last few years it seems that some more upmarket accommodation is available on streets just off Khao San Rd, on streets like Thanee (where we stayed most recently). This means you get all of the excitement of the area and can also actually get a nights sleep!
For a first visit to Bangkok Khao San is just one of those areas you have to visit! Even if it’s not the sort of place you want to spend too much time, to witness the full on energy of the place is something you have to do at least once!