Khao San Road, Bangkok

Bangkok and I have always been on/off. My problem with it mainly all comes down to the fact that backpacker mecca (Khao San Rd) is disconnected from the rest of the city. I blame the notoriously hard work tuk drivers for making you regret the second you start negotiating prices, or even the BTS Skytrain for not extending the extra mile or so. Turns out all I needed to discover was the number 15 city bus that runs to Siam Square and even Mochit for just 7 baht.  Who knew? You now.

You might argue that if the location of Khao San Rd annoys me so much, I should relocate. However, herein lays my guiltiest secret of all, about somewhere it’s not really cool to like; I hold it quite dear to my heart.

Some argue that it epitomises everything that’s evil about backpackers and the world. Namely mass tourism and the bastardization of paradise. To this I say, it’s ONE 300meter road in a big wide world of ‘off the beaten track.’ Calm down haters.

Fact is, if you aren’t absolutely fascinated by life in the little microcosm you need to get off your high horse and into the gutter. Literally

For those who have never had the pleasure, picture Silver Street Doncaster or McDonalds near Oceania Leeds on any given Saturday at 3am. It’s vibrant, neon, energetic, broken, filthy, ruined, squalor. The view is as follows:

7Eleven, second hand book stall, Rayband knock offs, silk suit makers, tattoo parlour, brothel, Pad Thai noodles, Chang beer singlet stalls, guesthouse, Irish bar. The next 20 meters: 7Eleven, second hand book stall. Copy and paste.

I’ve been here enough times to have a favourite 35 baht Thai green curry stall down the road by NapPark. Same with the favourite dress stall at the end just next to the fruit shakes, and with the secret 300b guesthouse that sits down the rabbet warren backstreets near Starbucks. I suspect however that this still makes me a rookie. This place is the original veteran. There’s a sign outside M.K Tours quoting 50 baht for the airport bus. It’s faded but still readable from Khao San’s 1970’s heyday no doubt, despite the fact that the buses are all 130b now.

I arrive, as always with this place, at dawn.  I’m sure the long distance buses do it on purpose; they want you to see it at its best (or worsted?) It’s 4am, 40 degrees, it stinks of garbage, and it sounds like slurred karaoke. Ironically it’s not actually that good a night out. There are so many clubs and bars there is almost too much choice. As a result, no one is quite sure where the ‘in’ party is, so they all take to the street to watch the curb side street dancers and drink the 150 baht cheap whisky buckets.

The vantage point extraordinaire has to be a streetside deckchair outside of the fish spa massage place in the thick of the action. I’ve developed a preoccupation with what masseuses always gossip about whilst they work, presuming that most of the time that no one around them speaks Thai. In one of the busiest parlours there are at least 30 staff on duty, dragging in drunken passerbies for 100 baht foot massages. Even though they dial it down to skeleton staff in the early hours, you can still walk by here at 3am and get one done. It seems like shifts run for 24h a time. The masseuses (male and female)  never take their eyes or ears off the world of gossip going on around them, as their eyes judge the half naked, deadlocked/pierced western skanks that stagger along the road with Spy wine coolers clutched to lips. Or maybe they are my eyes, and I am judging. Sorry ladies, but the nearest beach is 3 hours away, and a bikini top does not make for an outfit. The streets are lined with markets full of beautiful clothes. Buy some!

Love KSR or loath it, it’s magnetic it its traction. Buyers, sellers, couples, one night stands, old, young, travellers, kids, hippies, flashpackers, down and outs. That’s unlikely to change anytime in the next 40 years either, but just in case, visit now, before it’s cleaned up and ruined!

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Connecting to %s : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

January 2012

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