The Experience that is Khao San Road

The Experience that is Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the gateway to Southeast Asia, which means this is the first stop for many young and often inexperienced travelers planning a trip to the region.  It has almost a spring break type atmosphere and just about anything goes, before I go into detail about “anything” lets take a quick look at history. According to wikitravel  the word khao san itself means milled rice and is an attribution to the historical role of this street in the rice trade. The first business to open on Khao San Road was a small hotel aimed at serving civil servants from the provinces who came to Bangkok on business. The hotel was followed by Sor Thambhakdi, a shop selling monks’ accessories. Four similar businesses moved in after, and Khao San became known as a “religious road”.  Let me tell you that the only religious thing about Khao San Road anymore is how people drink religiously when they visit.  Nonetheless, Khao San Road is a must-see in Bangkok.  You might not choose to stay at one of the  cheap guesthouses in the middle of the action, but you may want to do one of the following:

Top Ten Things to do on Khao San Road

1. Drink, I’m not condoning binge drinking here, but this is definitely the place to grab a local Chang beer or a bucket.   A bucket is just that a sand-pale style bucket filled with liquor it’s typically whiskey (the local Sang Som) and Coke,  but you can pick your poison.

Beer and liquor are on offer from bars and street vendors up and down Khao San Road where it is accepted to walkt down the street with an open beer.

2. Stay awake, Khao San Road never sleeps so you can visit anytime day or night.  The morning is the quietest and at night everything comes alive.  Once the bars close by 2:00 am or so, the patrons will flood the street moving the party outside.

3. People Watch, this goes hand-in hand with staying awake as night offers the best people watching.  Herds of young backpackers roam the streets intermingled with street vendors, lady boys and tuk tuk drivers.  It’s hard not to stare at all the crazy characters hanging out.

4. Buy Art, there are some very talented artists that sell their paintings and photographs on the side of the street, it is definitely worth checking out.  Remember to bargain and you could take home a fantastic painting for under $20.

The paintings available from street vendors are impressive and affordable

5. Shop, Khao San Road is the bohemian capital of Bangkok, so if you are looking for patchwork skirts, a buddha t-shirt or want to get a singing bowl you will find it on Khao San. Make sure you bargain because all the vendors are willing to “make good price for you.”

6. Get a Tattoo, Bangkok in general and Khao San Road specifically is known for the talented tattoo artists and there are several shops on Khao San.  You can choose to have a machine tattoo or a bamboo tattoo, where they painstakingly push the ink into your skin with a piece of sharp bamboo.  Sounds like torture to me, but if you want the real deal Khao San is the place to get it.

Our friend Xavi with his tattoo artist. The tattoo artists on Khao San Road are the best in the business, so you can relax they've probably tattooed your Mom.

7. Eat Pad Thai, you can’t walk five feet without running into a pad thai street vendor on Khao San and for 20 baht (about 75 cents) it’s the best meal in town.

8. Ride a Tuk-Tuk, the drivers are aggressive and they won’t be hard to find as they all line up down Khao San Road.  The prices are cheap, but be sure you are clear with the driver where you are going because they will inevitably try to take you to a tailor or jewelry shop where they get commission or gas coupons for every customer they bring in.  On the other hand if you want something tailored they will happily bring you to the best place in town- and probably the most expensive.

9. Sing-Along, every bar on Khao San Road has a cover band of varying quality where you can have a beer and sing along to Johnny Cash, The Eagles and Bob Dylan among others.  It seems that every band has the same soundtrack, but they’re all your favorites.

10. Meet New Friends, being that Khao San Road is the mecca of cheap guesthouses any traveler on a budget will be staying there, which makes it easy to meet new friends.  We met a fantastic couple from Spain, a professional photographer and pilot from Canada and even got an invitation to stay with a friend in Bali, Indonesia.

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» dad :
Mar 2, 2011

am sure your la crosse training/experience has been/was beneficial on Khao San Road…..probbably best your doing this deal today and not 10 years ago, me thinks…….almost sounds like mardi gras silliness……we play baseball at target field 5 weeks from today, hard to imagine as we continue to stare at the mountains of snow……as always be safe…..and as i shared with nick, which he quickly blew me off, you have enough tattoos and your mother did not get one while there……love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, college can only prepare you so much for the crazyness of Bangkok. But yes, I did channel my former self from the La Crosse days to survive a few nights on Khao San Road. You will be relieved to hear that I have no tattoos from our time in Bangkok and neither does thinkCHUA, but the artists are talented.

» Donna :
Mar 2, 2011

Sounds like a party to me! Sounds like a party your dad would have liked back in the good old days, eh? :-) But I want to know what pad thai is … especially if it’s cheap and good! AND I want to see some of those sunset/sunrise pix you keep talking about! Am enjoying traveling by proxy, and three more weeks and I’ll be in the air to the old country myself. Should know tomorrow if I’m going alone or will have friends along. Keep having fun! Donna

LOCAVORista Reply:

Donna, pad thai is a noodle dish made with a spicy peanut sauce and can be whipped up in just two minutes. It’s delicious and easy to make too! I’m working on getting Bangkok photos up ASAP and their will be some photos with temples at sunset- something to look forward to. Excited for your upcoming trip, it will be fun to hear about your adventures.

» Mom A :
Mar 3, 2011

I hope that this is at least a little bit like what we will get to experience when we meet you in your travels! We are going to do our best to be in shape for anything!

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{ Mar 18, 2011 - 09:03:54 } Living If | 36 hours in Bangkok
{ Sep 3, 2012 - 06:09:44 } Living If | Kathmandu, Nepal

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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