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Bangkok, Thailand’s fabled capital, is frequently the first stop for round-the-world (RTW) trippers and certainly features heavily in many long term travelers histories but what is it that draws in the hordes exactly?

Well, first off Thailand is cheap (not as cheap as it once was but you can still eat a 3 course meal in a snazzy restaurant for under $10), then there’s the culture, the cuisine, the climate and of course there’s Khao San road. Khao San road, which now represents a series of streets, is a place in downtown Bangkok where backpackers and tourists are immediately drawn to from when they first touch down in the airport.

Partying on Khao San Road
Khao San Road - the backpackers' mecca

 

Like any self-respecting backpacking hub, Khao San road (pronounced Cow San road but more often referred to as Ko San road) caters to every tourists need and unfortunately that can be half the problem! Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve been roughing it in India, or grinding out the corporate hours in your home city – Khao San is a welcome respite and your sure to have a memorable time. When I refer to the good, the bad and the ugly –Khao San has all it all. In abundance.

So what’s so good about Khao San? Well, it’s a great place to meet people especially if you’re a solo traveler, there is an endless supply of new friends to meet and greet and people are very open to random conversations. You’ll also easily find people to continue your travels with – North to Chiang Mai, South to Malayasia or East towards Cambdoia or Vietnam so if you’re looking for travel buddies, you’ve come to the right place.

Also, it’s cheap – cheap food and cheap booze, a huge drawcard for the thousands of backpackers who descend upon Khao San weekly. The party atmosphere is great and every night there’s something going on so if you’re ready to cut loose, Khao San is waiting for you. Furthermore, if your backpacking attire is looking a little rough around the edges from too long on the road this is one of the greatest places in the world to replenish your struggling wardrobe. Diesel jeans, havianas, quirky tshirts – Khao San has everything, and for a snip of the normal retail price just don’t ask about the authenticity of your new goods 😛

So that’s the good, sounding pretty cool right?! Yeah and it is, even more so if its your first time but it’s not all cheap whisky and $2 Raybans… Let’s look at the not so good, the downright bad and the ‘inyourface’ ugly side of Khao San. Sure it’s cheap, but with the cheap booze and dark lighting comes a different kind of bargain so if seeing scantily clad ladies propositioning you (or your boyfriend) each evening then steer clear. I’m trying to stay off my high-horse here because I love Thailand with all my heart (hence me ‘settling’ here temporarily) but the sheer volume of sex tourists who blatingly flaunt their new found catch for the evening is overwhelming. Admittedly Patpong is worse for this but Khao San isn’t far behind. I don’t want to get into the discussion about legalized prostitution but what I will say is that I find something wrong (offensive?) with an overweight, shirtless 50-something stumbling around like he’s never tasted alcohol before clutching his teen ‘girlfriend’. Leave that for the hotel please mate – no-one wants/needs to see it.

Hearing another Thai hawker approach me with “Alright mate, you from London?” in a thick cockney accent does my soul no good either. Thai culture is a precious thing and one that we should appreciate with their good natured hospitality, warm hearts and endearing smiles – why then people insist on adopting an accent and a personality from another country is beyond me, but as anyone who has traveled through Thailand I’m sure can testify it’s not cool, but then that’s Khao San for you – love it or leave it.

Ok, that’s my rant over (almost). Maybe I have been in Thailand too many times and the tourist scene has jaded me but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on Khao San. By all means, check it out, party hard, meet some cool peeps but don’t stay too long guys – remember it for the good times not the bad or ugly ones.

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42 thoughts on “The good, the bad and the ugly of Khao San road, Bangkok

  1. Pingback: #travel App: Trips by Lonely Planet | everyworldheritage.site
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  3. I live here in Bangkok! Khaosan was good many chilling spaces and bar, but sometimes I don’t like those sellers who come in and attack for selling things!

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  5. Hey there my husband and I are going to Thailand in Feb of 2017 and I wanted to know if there are any places to get toiletries example:: hair products, personal hygiene??

    Thank you

    Zee

    1. Don’t worry I have seen visitors with children ages ranging from about 4 to a couple who had a pre teen boy and teen daughter in tow in Khoa San road today and every one seems very friendly. Let common sense prevail and you will be ok.
      I was here 15 years ago and it was friendly and fun then as it is now.

  6. Hi, we are going to Thailand for the first time in June, my husband, myself and 2 teenage kids. We will stay the first 2 nights in Bangkok and, without knowing much at all about the districts, have reserved a hotel in Khaosan Road. It’s a 3 star hotel and has decent reviews on Tripadvisor. Now I’m in a complete panic! Is it safe? Should I cancel and find somewhere else? Where?

    1. This author is not correct at all, you have nothing to worry about. Been there dozens of times and rarely do you see what he mentions. It’s simply not that kind of area. No idea what he’s basing this on..

      1. it’s safe, but i wouldn’t bring my kids there, especially after sunset, it’s a pretty debaucherous place

      2. Khao San Road is safe for tourist , if you stay in decent hotel then no problem . Food and communications are good. All tourist places are nearby beside the river. Try to visit floating market

        1. Floating market sucks… early wake up to go 1 1/2 hrs to there in order to getjammed with tourists to buythe exact same souvenirs u can find anywhere in Bangkok.. simply not worth the time especially if u over for short visit like us

  7. Hi. My friend and I will be in Bangkok in march. Ive read your blog about Khao san rd which really helpful. Thank you. Now my question,is there any floating market near the area?

  8. Yep, Khao San Road has it all… sleaze, booze and greasy food… something about it I loved though and I still find myself back there for at least one night everytime I visit… perhaps I need to expand my horizons a little! Where else do you like to party in Bangkok?

  9. “In that respect it’s no different to any wealthy (aesthetically challenged) european male with a comparatively beautiful girlfriend, in that she has chosen to offset his appearance for his wealth.”

    haha. come on! not all couples have to be equally attractive for it not to be some sort of farce.

    1. hey rob,

      you’re right mate, altho generally speaking (and of course there are exceptions) their attractiveness is generally in the same ballpark, right?

      My point was more of a case of getting westerners off their high horses when they criticise dudes for getting a gorgeous asian missus because of their money, when it’s happening in their own country. It just dosesn’t happen as much because the disparity of wealth is less. I don’t like it here, or at home but i want people to be aware of their context before they pass judgement. Thanks for pointing that out though mate, you’re completely right

      johnny

      1. completely agree with what you’ve just written there. it also sucks that there is an automatic assumption from travellers that a white guy with an asian woman is in a shammy relationship. even my friend who doesnt fit the mould of the fat old western man whatsoever (he is 27,speaks her language proficiently and a good lucking fucker to boot) gets stared at by travellers wearing smug “knowing” looks when he walks down the street with his thai girlfriend who is actually older than he is.

        I think that perhaps so many travellers feel they have an obligation to be more morally aware when they are away from home, to tippy toe around the places they visit for fear of causing offence. of course when visiting other peoples countries and experiencing their cultures you should absolutely do this. in all my visits to thailand i have learnt to accept (along with the thai people) that there is thailand and that there is khao san, had rin etc.
        I think because of this crazy mix that returning to khao san is always fun – but leaving can be just as much so. i never judge – thats just the way that it is.

        1. love love love this comment Rob, thanks for this. I hear ya with that first paragraph too – i’m not quick to judge, and having lived in Thailand for almost 2 years in total i relate all too well :S

  10. hello frds

    khao san road is the amazing place in this world
    please visit this place once in his life

    take care frdz

  11. Nice to see that you do have different opinions about Prostitution anywhere in this world. Unfortunately people don’t want to realise it.

    1. it’s a contentious issue mate, that’s for sure. Ultimately you have to see where your beliefs lie and go with that, regardless of the consensus

  12. I’m reading this as I sit in the Coffee World cafe on Khao San Rd (good wi-fi at this cafe chain). KS road is good if you are just spending a couple of days in Bangkok. It’s close to the biggest cultural attractions of Bangkok, such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, and it is by far the cheapest place to stay in Bangkok.

    1. yeah James you’re absolutely right, I’ll be there in 12 days or so too, it’s so convenient – I guess we just have to remember not to expect the real Thailand by spending a couple of days there!

  13. hoi Johnny,
    If i ever visit Thailand i think i might skip that part. Must be a beautiful country, and i don’t want to get the wrong impression. Like in the Netherlands, the red light district in Amsterdam is also famous, but happely it’s not all like that in the Netherlands where i live.
    B.t.w. just uploaded my site about my travelplans and so on..
    greets and have a good stay, Jaap

    1. hey jaap, good to hear from you again (and nice site btw). You know i guess it’s quite comparable to the red light district in the Netherlands actually, sort of place that a tourist ‘has’ to go! I wouldn’t recommend missing it altogether tho, ppl will always talk about so i guess it’s good to be able to have your own say on how u think about it 🙂

  14. Sleaze? I completely agree but in a way it totally adds to the culture of the place! I loved the hussle and bussle of it all. As you said Johnny – maybe don’t drink too much if you are female!

    1. Hey Gisele,

      Thats my point, the sleaze adds to the culture of the ‘place’, i.e Khao San area but that’s not a fair representation of Thailand. Unfortunately so many people only see that side and it can paint an unfair picture of true Thai culture :S

      1. This is very true, but I would think you would have to be pretty narrow minded to think ‘ping pong’ bars were all Thailand had to offer in the way of culture! Just being in Bangkok (or any other region) means you can’t help but experience the sites, the smells, the people etc. which make Thailand great. I would LOVE to go back and see more of the North actually, spend more time in Chiang Mai. 🙂

        1. you got me with the last part Gisele 😛 I used to live in Chiang Mai and it may well be my favourite place I have ever been – def go there if u get the chance!

          You’re right about needing to be narrow minded to think that’s all Thailand has to offer, yet anyone who comes to Thailand, visits Khao San and Koh Phangan and declares there love for the ‘best country in the world’ could maybe be labelled with that narrow minded tag! I know that’s far from you average backpacker but they still do exist :S

  15. Hi Johnny. Yeah … it’s gone from being an alternative-types backpacker road to a mega-tourist hub of sprawling streets over the past 20 years. I still stay there occasionally and enjoy it for a simple RnR break of shopping, eating, drinking, watching TV, etc (having passed thru Bangkok maybe 20 times) but usually I stay at one the other areas and visit on day trip, like recently on my way up here to China.

    Alias … these days every western pleb is discovering the joys of Asia (and beyond); the world is changing too fast. Can only go, with the flow (or hide).

    MRP – age 44 & “with his shirt on” – the candy trail … a nomad across teh planet, since 1988

    1. nice sign off Michael 😛

      ‘discovering asia’ is a great thing to do, unfortunately Khao San road and a full-moon party don’t hit the nail quite on the head! But you’re right, for the RnR is serves a welcomed service

  16. Hey Johnny,

    Khao San Road is like Kuta… if your a traveler (as opposed to a tourist) it’s generally best avoided if possible. It can make the seasoned traveler a little disheartened at the way the traditional cultures get lost and the awful traveler stereotypes get taken on by the hawkers… Like those in Kuta who yell out, ‘howsit goin mate? wanna buy some fags?’… makes me shudder every time.

    Sash.
    Barefootink
    http://www.barefootink.wordpress.com

    1. Hey Sash, Yeah kuta is a bit of a shocker too :S I made a beeline for Lombok as soon as i got to Kuta! It was an improvement for sure. That being said, Bali has a lot to offer – just gotta not let yourself get dragged to Kuta i guess

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