Khao San Road
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.
Khao San Road Nightlife
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.
What to See in Khao San
Located in the circle of the Old City (Rattanakosin), Khao San provides proximity to a myriad of classic and cultural attractions. You can begin your walking tour from Khao San to Phra Sumen Fort and Sathi Chaipakran Park on Phra Arthit Road. The fort was built to protect the border of the Old City over 200 years ago. It’s one of only a few that still remains. From here, you can walk on the waterfront boardwalk to get to the famous Royal Ground (Sanum Luang), the Grande Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Taking a local boat to explore more shimmering temples along the banks of the Chao Phraya River is possible, too. Although there isn’t much to see or look at on Khao San Road, it’s still one of the most perfect spots to enjoy people watching in Bangkok.
Where to Eat in Khao San Road
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.
Shopping in Khao San
Khao San doesn’t have any big shopping complexes like those found in Siam and Chidlom – Ploenchit. But that’s not to say there is nothing to buy. In fact, Khao San is a good place for street shopping and bargaining is acceptable. A day-and-night shopping bazaar along both sides of Khao San sells almost everything you can think of. Shoppers can expect cheap T-shirts, secondhand travel guide books and novels, hip wallets, wooden puppets, as well as souvenir items and counterfeit merchandise like CDs, DVDs, or even fake student ID cards. Also, there are a few quality tailors and jewelry stores on Thanao Road.
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.