Khao San Road. Road in Bangkok, Thailand

Khao San Road

Road in Bangkok, Thailand

Khao San Road Photo © Robert Brands

Khao San Road

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	Khao San Road
Khao San Road. Photo by drburtoni
Referred to as the ‘the center of the backpacking universe’ in The Beach, a cult movie starring Leo Di Caprio, Khao San Road is quite possibly the most known street in Bangkok, if not the whole of Thailand. It may not be center of the budget-conscious universe, but it’s certainly the most popular hangout in Bangkok for overlanders, who head here to find travel partners, share ideas, and gain insight from other wanderers.

Khao San Road’s reputation has swayed over the years, going from simple market-filled street to being the epicenter of youthful debauchery and, nowadays, to a somewhat respectable hub for budget-conscious travelers. Whether you choose to stay here, or anywhere else in the city, a visit to Khao san Road is an absolute must. While many think the road represents all that is so incredibly touristy about Thailand, others believe this is as authentic as the country gets. Everything about Khao San Road is very genuine: the good, the bad, and the utterly entertaining.

Khao San Road - Khao
	San Road
Khao San Road. Photo by Ludovic Hirlimann

What it Offers

Khao San Road at night
	- Khao San Road
Khao San Road at night - Khao San Road. Photo by shankar s.
‘Milled rice street’ was the heart of the city’s rice trade until hippie travelers started settling here in the mid-1970s. Although the street was known for years as a reveler's hub, it nowadays offers a plethora of options for both the budget and mid-range travelers. It’s certainly still a meeting place for young, like-minded party goers, yet the fervent expansion of the city center, and colossal increase in the amount of visitors to Bangkok, has resulted in a few more ‘cheap and cheerful’ hubs springing up all over town.

Accommodation & Food

Khao San offers a wide range of accommodation, from mattresses on a barren floor of a hostel for $ 2.00 USD a night, to lovely 3-star family-run guesthouses with hot water, breakfast and real, lockable doors included in the low price. Being a favorite spot with foreigners also means that Khao San boasts a wide selection of food choices which is ideal for first-time visitors. If you’re unaccustomed to the spice and taste of genuine Thai cuisine, savoring some westernized meals may not be a bad thing after all. If you’re on a culinary adventure and wish to dive right in, simply ask for ‘ped maak’. Trust us, you’ll love it.

A recent spike in a more upmarket clientele has seen a consequential rise in quality and prices on Khao San Road. You’ll find some rather lovely restaurants here (if you prefer a more sanitized dinner on your first day) as well as a plethora of western delights like pizza, sushi, kebabs and good ol’ fish and chips.

Landmarks & Attractions

Khaosan Road doesn’t actually boasts any specific attractions, but that’s rather convenient considering people-watching, shopping, and feasting will undoubtedly take up most of your time here. Centrally located, Khao San Road is indeed a great base if you’re in town for only a few days. You’ll be just a 10-minute bus ride away from the Bangkok sightseeing trifecta (that would be the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, two blocks away from the Democracy Monument and, more importantly, won’t have to stumble home too late from a big night out in town.

The Khao San Tourist
	Trap - Khao San Road
The Khao San Tourist Trap - Khao San Road. Photo by Sonja Pieper

Shopping

Most of the gear you’ll find on Khao San Road is youth-oriented, for very obvious reasons. Unless you’re 20 years old, love fake designer gear in size 6 you may not find this to be a particularly great shopping street. Having said that, this souvenir haven is very convenient if you need to collect a dozen knick-knacks for friends back home. Expect most of the stuff on sale to be colorful, kitsch, fun and, for the most part, quite useless. Shop here in the evenings and you’ll find more interesting garb, with local designers and craftsmen and women setting up stalls and flogging their creations at super cheap prices. Look out for special weekend stalls, which are set up by locals from nearby hill tribes. Their crafts are quite unique and may well make some of the most unique souvenirs in town.

Khao San Road, Bangkok
	- Khao San Road
Khao San Road, Bangkok. Photo by dachalan

Nightlife

However gentrified Khao San Road may appear during the day, the illusion quickly dissipates with the flickering of the very first neon light after sunset. If there’s any sleaziness left in Khao San, after dark is when you’ll find it.
Khao San Road - Khao
	San Road
Khao San Road - Khao San Road. Photo by Aaron van Dorn
The road is home to a plethora of bars and pubs, all working toward one common goal: to get the young foreigner as wasted as possible, in order to facilitate his partying with his hard-earned holiday funds. This is when the food and souvenir stalls are replaced by beer and cocktail stands, complete with plastic roadside stools and outdoor amplifiers. Inside the many bars, you’ll find music and crowds to suit all tastes. Not to be outdone, restaurateurs of the slightly more upmarket joints have caught on the act, now offering late night drinks and loud music to try and lure the slightly more discerning nighttime visitor. It works a treat.

You’ll no doubt also come across a large number of youngens who cruise the street after having cleared the local 7-11 of its beer collection. They tend to walk up and down aimlessly for hours without actually going into any one specific bar. This very homeless-hobo-chic scene seems to be quite popular among locals and tourists alike.

An important point to make is that although Khao San Road does get rowdy at night, the scenes are nowhere near what they are in Patpong and Nana Plaza, so if you're in the mood for an eye-popping experience, best you head there instead.

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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Feb 16, 2015

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