Why I Always Go Back to Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
ALL-TIME FAVORITE BLOG POST FROM 2010 RE-BLOGGED:
Why Backpackers Love Khao San Road?
I arrived from the airport to my second home in Thailand, the criss-crossing of crazy streets is parallel to the kind of nightlife that is only here and nowhere else in the world, it's never ending. Khao San road, my home away from home.
Even before you get here, you have probably heard about too many good and awful stories of Khao San. The famous opening sequences of Richard’s odyssey in finding the most perfect “beach” in the movie of the same name. Although, the scene was actually shot in Phuket(which is pronounce as pu-ket), it showed a tremendous ordeal on what to expect when you arrive. Chaos, madness, too many travelers opting to hang out with fellow travelers. Rats, cockroaches, $1 fried rice, travel agencies galore and home to the most famous line of all… “Hey, you want a tuk-tuk?”
Oh yes, the good, the bad and the ugly. How can you blame it? After almost two decades of existence since the first few travelers set foot in the land of smiles, it has grown into a monster economy booster for Thailand. Walking around khao san road is pretty much a treat in itself. Where else can you see drunk Russians and their local thai men flings? Where else can you see aussies walking barefoot in a rat infested street ( they call it mickey mouse here)? Where else can you see walk ins at 4AM looking for the cheapest possible guesthouse to stay, side by side with yesterdays arrival? I say only in Khao San where loneliness is impossible to exist. Where too many travelers in one major street is a major understatement. Where friendship knows no boundaries.
I first set foot in Khao San road rougly two years ago back when I first traveled from Singapore to Malaysia and then Thailand. Bangkok was my last stop after nearing a month’s travel around South East Asia. I got my first touch of Khao San when I arrived via train from Surrathani. For anyone looking for 200 baht rooms, this is where you will go. This is the highest concentration of anything cheap and backpacker-ish. I arrived in the middle of the day, first impressions will last you forever. And even if I just recently went back a few days ago, I can still remember vividly how it looks like the first time. Lonely farangs drinking their semi-cold Chang beers alone in a bar, women who were obviously still relishing post full moon party with their tattered shirt filled with paints waiting for the long line to have their dreads untangled or yet re-worked. The banks were closed when I got here the first time. It was national holiday, the sister of the king died. And everyone was weeping in tears. The sorrow can be felt just by looking at the eyes of people passing on drinks and food to their fellow men as they await for the vigil to be happened that night. Looking very much Thai literally,someone handed me a bottle of water and Pad Thai in those ketchy banana leaves. I was wearing a black wrinkled tee and everybody must have thought I was very much a local paying tribute to the beloved. I continued walking in the heat of the day. I successfully found one money changer and changed handful of dollars and some more Malaysian ringgit bills I didn’t use because I pretty much wanted to exit Kuala Lumpur as soon as I got there. That’s a different story. I checked in my room at a hotel in Soi 1, a few blocks away from Khao San Road. A room where the lock is always not working, where I always need to talk to this lovely young girl cleaning the guesthouse every fifteen minutes. I caught her the next day painting her face with pink tints.
There’s a whole world out there in Khao San, from shopping well edited merchandise, to listening to really cool trance music buzzing in their made in china speakers and the too many restaurants and bars littered along this edge of the world.
Less than a year after, I came back with a few people I traveled with but pretty much wanted to leave at first sight. A brawling incident, dirty stalls selling hand made (literally) banana pancakes, and policemen walking back and forth. I couldn’t blame them. To each his own. And Khao San Road to be honest is a hit or miss. Love it or hate it. Stay or leave.
A few days ago i found myself walking along Khao San Road like it's my local neighborhood, it brought back memories of how it has become so homey, I don’t blame people when they don’t want to leave Khao San. A cool hang-out for people who love to party, a special place where travelers from around the world converge all in praise of how beautiful the country is, where a few dollars can last you a few days. Where travelers either start or end their journey in Thailand or South East Asia. Where goody goody bankers chat up with freaks of all kinds. Street performers, binge drinkers, lady boys, and local young teeners showcasing their latest fashion. Its all here.
A lot of people may say otherwise and think khao san road is bullshit. Where commercialism is slowly eating up its once glory and where it leaves a bad impression for travelers as crazy, disrespectful, rowdy individuals. But can you blame it with millions of adventure hungry travelers stopping by Bangkok every hour, everyday, every week of the month and the year. Would you rather sleep on the street or a shitty hotel? Would you rather eat at 7-11 all the time or maybe try those hot new cooked pad Thai for cheap? We get what we ask for. And i don't think we have a right to complain eh?
I say this, if you don’t like Khao San Road, sure you can stay around Sukhumvit and or Lumphini, heaps of other places around Bangkok. But from my last experience, when I tried traversing across Bangkok, hoping to find the next khao san road somewhere out there, what I experienced was the trashiest most unbelievably impolite treatment I’ve ever had. I was almost thrown out when I paid more than I should have. So I hopped on a taxi and went straight to Khao San. A few minutes later with my next bottle of Big Chang and a good conversation with new arrivals to Bangkok, I spent my last few days trying to understand why sometimes people begin to hate what they used to love. It's not that easy you know. With all the wrong reasons and maybe a few right ones, I love khao san road. Where honesty is the best policy. Where I feel more safe than sorry. Where I make friends from around the world. Where I get drunk on my first night and felt really good because it was worth it. Where you will never feel homesick because it feels like home…
Bangkok is a good few days stay, a week the most, but if you ask me, I will always go back to Khao San Road where I know I am home.