Khao San Road Travel Guide
It doesn’t matter from which side you look on it, Khao San Road in Bang Lamphu is the most popular hangout for backpackers in Bangkok. New arrivals come to Khao San Road for bargain accomodation and to share travel tips and tales with their peers from all over the globe.Western tourists enjoy their cold beers and home made yoghurts. Young Japanesse backpackers bargain for Made-in-Burma souveniers. Street vendors are busy frying noodles.
This 300-metre street has become one of the world’s famous backpacker destinations ever since it was mentioned in the the backpackers bibel: The Loneley Planet. Skinhead Europeans dressed in Chinese-style trousers, red-haired Japanese tourists in vests, shorts and nose rings, and young women with braided hair are familiar scenes along the road. They are drawn by some of the cheapest accomodation in thailad – most guesthouses charge around 150 baht a night and a bowl of noodles is 20 baht or less – and great bargains on tour and transport.
You also find the cheapest bus tickets to anywhere here, but watch out, what looks to cheap can become the most expensive at the end.
(Any way, of the backpackers actually never leave Khao San Road . It doesn’t matter where they go in Thailand. Because Had Lamai on Samui and Had Rin on Pha Ngan or Maya Beach on Ko PeePee, or Ko Lanta are just extensions of this infamous road)
But it has real advantages, not only to find european sized shoes. Its also very close to major attractions in Bangkok including Grand Palace and Rattanakosin Island. There is easy access to boat tours on the Chao Praya River to take in the floating market to Klong Bangkok Noi and many beautiful temples.
Although the street is only 300 meters long, it is home to all kinds of services: beauty saloons, massage parlours, visa application services, and the ubiquitous fake press passes or student ID cards, available in 10 minutes. Khao San Road is expanding in line with its growing fame. The 300-metre strip alone is unable to accomodate some 8000 tourists a day. The business center of the road is expanding to the nearby streets including chakrabong and Tanao roads.
“I never believed Khao San would become like this. Just 20 years ago, people did not dare to walk along this road after dark, fearing the haunting nature of darkness,” says Noppadol Chivaranonaikul, 45, president of the Khao San Road Business Association.
“I should have bought the one-storey shophouse offered to me seven years ago for just 100.000 baht. Now the monthly rental allone is 70.000 baht.”
The first business to open on the 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. It was folowed by four similar businesses, and khao San became knowen as a “religous road”.
Things started to change in 1980 when the first Western tourists were invited to stay at a house on the road because the owner wanted to improve his English.
Word soon spread about the easy lifestyle and friendlyness of the locals. Friends told friends, and before long the oowner of the house started to charge 20 baht for food and lodging. The first commercial gusthouse, called Bonny opend with six small bedrooms.
Today the road is packed with more than 100 guesthouses with 4000 rooms, 125 food shops and restaurants, 144 various business centres, eight currency exchange booths, 12 Internet cafes, 20 travel agencies and hundreds of roadside vendors.
( Bank of Asia opened a Western Union booth, opposite the Siam Oriental Inn Hotel – in general this particular branch of Bank of Asia, is not supportive when it comes to customer service )