Khao San Road is the final stop on my recent Vietnam – Cambodia – Thailand backpacking journey. It is the most famous street in the world for backpackers. Not to mention, it even became famous in Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie “The Beach”.
I’ve learned that back in the years, Khao San Road was a quiet residential community. When Thai government began promoting tourism to the country and the overwhelming response from around the world was astounding, tourists descended on the Thai capital and hotels sprouted everywhere. Needing a cheaper place to stay, backpackers and shoestring travellers stayed in residential houses on Khao San Road. The locals realized how much money they could earn in this business. Soon enough, these guest houses and hostels multiplied along the road. Pubs, restaurants and massage parlors followed and that’s how Khao San became a backpacker’s ghetto.
Everything is cheap in Khao San; cheap accommodation, cheap food, cheap booze even massage. The road is pulsating with life; wide awake day and night. Young backpackers from all points of the compass and all walks of life meander down the street trying out variations of street food (even the exotic ones like crickets, maggots and tarantulas), looking for the cheapest booze and shopping for great finds. At 5pm, the street is closed to traffic for omnipotent vendors selling everything from cheap shirts, sunglasses and backpacks to leather bags, accessories and souvenirs. Shops sell the same type of merchandise and it’s better to go around first to get the best deal. Tell the vendor that you’ve seen the item elsewhere at a lower price, I’m sure the they’ll bring the price down =)
Not to be missed is Soi Rambutri, a street that runs parallel to Khao San Road. Lined with leafy green trees, the lane has been enriched with quite a few cool bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating. Take note the clothing and accessories found on Khao San can be bought on this street for a fraction of a price. I have one favorite shop, the T&K Collections in 72/2 Rambutri. It sells unique Bohemian accessories, sandals and vivid retro prints in shocking pinks and azure blues on dresses, wallets and handbags.
Other than the fact that backpackers find this place a gold mine as everything is cheap; the place also brings them to a different era – the hippie trail in the 1960’s and 70s, the when the idea of backpacking all started. A walk in Khao San gives you that experience of being a genuine hippie; in fashion and in values. Boho chics walk around in colorful tunics, hobo bags, large faux-coin belts, bleached denim short and aviator sunglasses. The guys in worn out jeans, play their guitar beside the street while drinking beer. The street is also filled with money changers and travel agencies. These travel agencies book tours to the floating markets and all other tourist spots in Thailand. They even have half-day and whole day trips depending on where you want to go.
Some despises Khao San because of its carefree atmosphere, but that’s the reason why we go on a trip, to leave the stress, the troubles and worries behind. The young ones fall in love with its charm. Personally, I love it and I will surely go back. Khao San is a place to enjoy, to celebrate the goodness of life, to meet people and talk about travel experiences, to share your travel plans with, to learn from other cultures, to compare your government with theirs, what makes it more exciting is that you meet like-minded people. For me, Khao San Road– is like a meeting place; a mecca for carefree souls, not a place for my long-term residency but a visit once in a while is a slice of heaven. =)