“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Khao San Road. Khao San Road was backpacker land.” – Bangkok, Bitch, p.5, Richard (source: bookrags)
The name “Khao San Road” (or “Khaosan Road”) is mentioned several times in the book “The Beach” by Alex Garland, which has been adapted into a movie entitled and starred by Leonardo diCaprio (The Beach/2000). In the book and the film, Khao San Road is portrayed as a road that becomes a heaven for backpackers from around the world.
Such opinion is not wrong, but also not entirely true. Khao San Road is known as a paradise for backpackers who visiting Bangkok. Over there you can meet backpackers from all over the world, and they all merged into one in the ambiance of Khao San Road. But today, as Khao San Road develops as one of Bangkok’s popular tourist destinations, this place is no longer known as a mere backpacker paradise.
Today, you can find various types of tourists gathering on Khao San Road, from backpackers, budget travelers, to travelers who are more accustomed to luggage than backpacks.
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Khao San Road itself is a street name located in Phra Nakhon District in Banglamphu. The history of Khao San Road dates back to 1892, when the road began to be built during the reign of Rama V. The name ‘Khaosan’ itself can be translated as ‘rice mill’, since it was once an area where rice was traded.
The first business that stands around Khao San Road is an inn, which original purpose is to provide a place to stay for those who want to do business in the area. Then after that, came some shops which sell accessories and religious souvenirs, so Khao San Road was also known as “religious road”.
Over time, there were other shops selling various things, as well as other commercial hotels, followed by the emergence of other facilities such as restaurants, bars, and so on. Rumor about Khao San Road which is often visited by many tourists is due to its “quite complete but cheap facilities” is continue to grow, until finally in the last 20 years this Khao San Road then known as a backpacker paradise in Bangkok.
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Khao San Road Attractions
“The Khao San Road is a decompression chamber between east and west. It’s where you learn to breathe car fumes and tropical air for the very first time, or else carefully rearrange your memories before you catch your flight home” – taken from The Beach (movie)/2000
Currently, Khao San Road is known as a backpacker’s paradise in Bangkok. But in fact, what is the real element that makes this 410 meters road is so attractive to backpackers and also other tourists in general? Let’s get to know Khao San Road from the whole situation of that road.
Khao San Road may not be as long as other streets in Bangkok. But in this road studded all that sought by tourists, especially backpacker and budget traveler.
There are various cheap lodging, middle-class lodging, various restaurants, massage places, bookstores, tattoo shops, souvenir shops, you name it! In other words, this area is studded with various facilities needed by backpackers and budget travellers. Interestingly, those various facilities are generally available with a very, very low budget, aka cheap.
At Khao San Road, you can also find travel agencies who can help to plan your travel agenda while in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand.
Even if you suddenly impulsively want to travel to another country, you can also buy tickets on the travel agent, and they can help with visa processing (which may not apply to all countries). Again, everything that you can get with affordable service fee, and that’s what makes Khao San Road very attractive for backpackers and budget travelers.
Another attraction of Khao San Road lies in its location. The street is just over 1 kilometer from the old city of Bangkok. Automatically, some of Bangkok’s most popular attractions – such as the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Bangkok National Museum – are also within pedestrian distance (if departing from Khao San Road).
This fact makes Khao San Road as the ideal basecamp for those who want to explore the old town, or if you want to visit various other attractions that are located not far from the old city.
Last but not least, Khao San Road is also famous for its lively nightlife. It has several nightclubs and bars that can make party goers happy. Not only that, the street ambiance on Khao San Road at night is quite lively.
Food vendors will flock to open kiosks on the street, and attract pedestrians to just sit around to chat with other travelers. Sometimes there are tourists who buy alcoholic beverages from the local mini market, and then hold their own party on the street; Making the night atmosphere of Khao San Road inseparable with the word ‘festive’.
Things to Do at Khao San Road
Don’t know what activity should you do at Khao San Road? Check out the following recommendations:
- Awake All Night or Join in Various Feasts
Khao San Road is always crowded all day. But late into the night, the crowd at Khao San Road will be crazier. The atmosphere will be more alive, more festive, and of course wilder.
If you are a frenetic lover, do not waste your night at Khao San Road by sleeping in the hostel. Wake up, and join in the night festivities at Khao San Road. Well, the majority of clubs will be closed at 2:00 in the morning. But party festivities sometimes continue on the streets.
You can mingle with new people, find new acquaintances, meet people from different backgrounds (from lady boy to pastor), or even become one of the stars in a party atmosphere at Khao San Road. Some travelers even recommend that you keep awake until the morning, because at that time you have the opportunity to see the monks who were walking to the nearest temple.
- Walk Around Khao San Road Area
The road distance at Khao San Road may not be too long. But along the way it is filled with a variety of interesting facilities, ranging from hostels, travel agents, to clubs and bars. The atmosphere during the day and night was quite different. If in the daytime the atmosphere is relatively quiet, then at night Khao San Road will be more alive because of many sparking fluorescent lights along the side of the road.
If you are looking for a real Khao San Road experience, strolling down Khao San Road can be a fun option. Who knows you will find another side of Khao San Road that has not been found by other travelers.
Stop by Other Roads Near Khao San Road
In the surrounding area of Khao San Road there are several roads that are also quite interesting to explore. Two of them are Soi Rambuttri and Phra Athit Road.
- Soi Rambuttri
Are you bored with the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road? Then try to escape to Soi Rambuttri for a while. This road is very close to Khao San Road, but has a contrasting atmosphere with Khao San Road. The street is relatively quiet, and gives a picture of what the atmosphere in Bangkok before modernity invaded the Thai capital.
- Phra Athit Road
This road is just 5 minutes walk from Khao San Road, but the atmosphere is quite different from the ghetto backpacker. Phra Athit Road has a quite pleasant atmosphere, with a number of shops that occupy the ancient buildings. There are also various cafes, restaurants, bars, and some places that regularly showing a variety of live music.
Visiting the Tourism Destination Around Khao San Road
Have you known that around Khao San Road there are some popular attractions? As long as you are at Khao San Road, you might as well visit all these attractions! Let’s review some of the following recommendations:
- The Grand Palace
Well, this Grand Palace location is not very close to Khao San Road. If you take a car, it takes you about 15 minutes (from Khao San Road), whereas if you walk it will take approximately 20-30 minutes. But as one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok, still, this place shouldn’t be missed if you are on Khao San Road.
- Wat Pho
Just like The Grand Palace, Wat Pho location is not very close to Khao San Road, but it is still interesting to visit – especially if you intend to visit The Grand Palace.
- National Museum
The museum is located not far from the end of Khao San Road road towards to the Northwest.
- Wat Phra Kaew
This temple location is inside the Grand Palace, and it is one of Bangkok’s most important and most popular temples.
- Wat Chana Songkram
This temple is located not so far from Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri, so it is ideal to visit while exploring the two streets.
- Democracy Monument
The Democracy Monument is located in the old town area, and just a few minutes walk from Khao San Road.
Try Various of Street Food
The deeper is the night, the more street food vendors are opening its kiosks in Khao San Road. You can easily find a merchant who sells various types of food, ranging from traditional Thai food, to snacks that are a bit eccentric like various fried insects. Ugh!
Cheap Souvenir Shopping
Khao San Road has a lot of shops that sell a variety of clothing and knick-knacks that are suitable for souvenirs. Similar with the majority of stores in Bangkok, the prices there were fairly cheap. Suitable for you who are looking for souvenirs in large quantities. Or, for other options, you can take a glance at Banglamphu Market which is not so far from Khao San Road.
Believe it or not, making a tattoo is one of the favorite activities to do at Khao San Road, especially since so many tattoo artists are scattered around this street. If you are tattoo lovers, you might consider to incist ‘souvenir’ from Khao San Road in the form of a permanent tattoo.
But if for one or another reason you can not or do not want to have a permanent tattoo, a temporary tattoo can be another available option.
Try Traditional Thai Massage
It is not difficult to find a massage place along Khao San Road. If you want to take a break from tourism activities, you might consider taking 1-2 hours to try out the traditional massages offered at Khao San Road.
Visiting Khao San Road by Boat
More details on this can be found in the access section.
Just like other areas in Bangkok and Thailand – and also in other crowded tourist spots, Khao San Road also can not escaped from those who wanted to scam the tourists. Although the numbers may not be too many, it’s always better if you could recognize some of the scams that have been reported at Khao San Road.
- Cheap Night Bus Fare Scam
Actually this fraud is not specifically occurred at Khao San Road. But because you can buy a various tickets, including night bus tickets to other cities, be extra aware with cheap ticket deals. Countless tourists had reported that they lost their luggage when they slept on the way by night bus.
- Beware of Street Astrologer
Some tourists have reported that they were approached by someone who claimed to have the skills of predicting the future, and a little pussy to predict you without any cost. Beware, because usually at the end you will be asked for a number of donations.
- Always Pay Attention to Your Drinks
There have been rumors of drug added on drinks ordered by tourists, which makes tourists lose consciousness and leads to the loss of wallets and valuables belongings. Although the rumor may not necessarily true, it would not hurt you just to remain vigilant even in the midst of a festive atmosphere at Khao San Road.
- Beware of Terrorism
Bangkok and Thailand are not particularly vulnerable to terrorism issues. However, given the Khao San Road is visited by many foreign tourists from various countries (which often become an easy target of terrorism acts), you’d better always stay alert when traveling in that area.
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In fact, Khao San Road is quite easy to access using various types of transportation in Bangkok, especially buses and taxis. Unfortunately, since Khao San Road (as well as the whole surrounding area) is not yet connected to the Skytrain, thus that makes you rather difficult to access Khao San Road by using Skytrain.
However, for an extra experience, you can try to access Khao San Road by boat. You can choose different types of boats that stop at the Phra Arthit Dock.
One of the cheapest options is to ride the Chao Phraya Express Boat (can be ride from various docks), but make sure the boat you select stops at Phra Arthit Dock (because not every boats stop there). From the pier, you just need to walk a few minutes to reach Khao San Road.
Photos taken from various sources without any additional edits other than the resizing process.
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