KHAOSAN ROAD

Khaosan Road or Khao San Road (Thaiถนนข้าวสาร) is a short (410 meter long) street in central BangkokThailand constructed in 1892 during the reign of Rama V. It is in the Banglamphu area of (Phra Nakhon district) about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

“Khaosan” translates as “milled rice”, a reminder that in former times the street was a major Bangkok rice market. In the last 20 years, however, Khaosan Road has developed into a world-famous “backpacker ghetto”. It offers cheap accommodation, ranging from “mattress in a box” style hotels to reasonably priced 3-star hotels. In an essay on the backpacker culture of Khaosan Road, Susan Orlean called it “the place to disappear”.

Despite its reputation a diverse group of travellers can be found on Khao San Road.

In this small area one can observe the interactions and groupings of disparate characters such as well-educated young Westerners on extended leave from affluent society, high school graduates on gap year travels, Israelis fresh out of military service, university students on holiday or sabbatical leave, young Japanese in rite-of-passage attire, ordinary holidaymakers, (ex-) volunteers from various organizations, and the like.

— Anders Sørensen, Annals of Tourism Research

It is also a base of travel: coaches leave daily for all major tourist destinations in Thailand, from Chiang Mai in the north to Ko Pha Ngan in the south, and there are many relatively inexpensive travel agents who can arrange visas and transportation to the neighbouring countries of CambodiaLaosMalaysia, and Vietnam.

Khaosan shops sell handicrafts, paintings, clothes, local fruits, unlicensed CDs, DVDs, a wide range of fake IDs, used books, plus many useful backpacker items.

 

If Bangkok is a city where East greets West, then Khao San Road is the scene of their collision, the place where they jostle for superiority and poke one another in the eye. With travellers from every corner of the modern world, sleek clubs playing sophisticated sounds, eclectic market stalls, converted VW cocktail bars, and foods tamed to suit the Western palate, it may seem clear who won the fight. However, whether you’re a hard-up farang (foreigner) or open-minded Thai, its irrepressible energy and carefree vibe makes it well worth a visit.

Don’t be worried that the place has lost its soul though. Dig beneath the thin veneer of progress and you’ll see the place has retained the raucous, gritty charm that made it famous: the sprawling neon signs that light up the street at night are still here, as are pushy tuk-tuk drivers, street vendors peddling everything from fried insects to croaking ornamental frogs, and drunken revellers, lost in the neon glare, staggering its length late into the night. And lets not forget the common and yet still compelling sight of bewildered new arrivals hunting frantically for a place to rest before sundown, or of strutting Thai beauties prowling the streets in search of a new ‘tee-rak’ (loved one). Most importantly of all, the air of youthful abandon which permeates the place 24/7 is still here, unashamedly and comfortingly intact despite the seemingly unstoppable influx of fast-food outlets (Starbucks, McDonalds and Burger King) and incongruous shopping malls. In fact, though most use it as a convenient spot to re-configure after a bout of island hopping, or as a base from which to launch an assault on the city’s temples and markets, it’s true to say that Khao San Road has become an attraction in itself, albeit one with a raw, uncouth, cosmopolitan feel that isn’t textbook Thai.

Khao San Road has plenty of places for partygoers to choose from. This long entertainment street offers numerous bars and restaurants serving drinks at cheap prices. After the sunset, many mobile bars will take over the roadside, selling buckets full of cocktails. This is one of the most popular precursors to start the night before heading out to sample some of the nearby clubs. More options become available as the night rolls on. The Club and Lava Bar are where all the electronic beat lovers gather, while Shamrock and Brick Bar offer both live music and DJ’s with hip and hit tunes. Gazebo Khao San is not to be missed; the Moroccan theme bar was voted as one of the Great Bars of the World by Lonely Planet readers. Gazebo is trendy and laid back but also offers a disco room for those looking to dance.

Getting to Khao San from either Victory Monument, Siam, or Silom should cost less than 100 baht by meter taxi. Bus numbers 157, 171, and 509 from Victory Monument (Rajavithi Hospital bus stop) pass Ratchadumnoen Road. You can get off at Khok Wua intersection (one stop away from Democracy Monument). Khao San Road is only a short walk from there. Once in Khao San, the easiest way to explore the area is on foot. If you’d like to go on a fun and exciting tuk tuk ride, it is recommended to fix the price for service before hopping on.

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Eating – be it spicy Thai food, delicious Indian curries, classic Western dishes or special treats available from street stalls – is one of the most rewarding aspects of a visit to Khao San. Be sure to try phad thai and spring rolls with veggies and glass noodles available from the many ambulant stalls. They are tasty, popular, and of course, cheap.

Khao San has several fine-dining venues. If you’d like to sample some spicy Thai dishes, try Tom Yum Kung restaurant next to D&D Inn. More choices are available. International franchises like McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Subway can also be found in the area.

Where to Stay in Khao San Road If you are looking for budget accommodation when in Bangkok, Khao San has just what you need. With countless standard hotels and inexpensive hostels or guesthouses, you would be right to assume that Khao San is a backpacker’s paradise. Whatever your budget, you can easily find a suitable room here. Our list of hotels on Khao San Road will guide you through the A-to-Z, along with some special deals. Also, don’t forget to check out www.thailandbookings.co.uk for last minute offers for accommodation at irresistible prices.