Khao San Road: Nightlife, markets, walking streets, cafes and more
Busy day and night, Khao San Road is a backpacker haven with a down-and-dirty image. But it has evolved into a bustling market and nightlife destination for trendy residents and travelers. By day, you’ll find it great for all things backpacker including cheap internet, books and travel deals. In the evening hit the walking streets, cafes, street side cocktail bars, boutiques and shop for almost anything imaginable -- from edible insects and trendy clothes. The legendary Khao San Road will satisfy your hedonistic party side with a great array of night clubs and street parties that never seem to end. All of this just a 10 minute boat ride from The Siam and a 5 minute yuk yuk to get home.
By Jason M. Friedman, AFAR Contributor
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Cauldron of Humanity on Khao San Road
Every city has certain areas that all visitors have to explore, regardless of their true value. Khao San Road is just such a place. Known as the heart of the backpacker world of Bangkok, Khao San Road has a little something for everyone. For the uninitiated, Khao San Road is probably one of the trashiest places you’ll ever visit, but that ultimately is part of its charm. Peep shows, bars, buskers, young backpackers and knock-off goods are all the ingredients that comprise the stew of humanity you’ll find there. If you’re a good haggler, there are some deals to be found but be careful. This is also the center of pickpockets and scam artists in the city, all ready to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. I usually get to Khao San Road by boat. To get there take the river taxi to Phra Arthit pier and follow the wandering hoards to the main attraction.
By Matt Long
Street Food at Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
When visiting Bangkok on a budget, the cheapest and the most authentic dining experience would be from street food vendors. It has been part of Thai culture long before fast food establishment. The food is fresh and cooked right in front of you. You can start your meal from one end of the street with appetizers. My favorite is grilled meatball on a stick. Followed by some noodle dish, of course Pad Thai. or varieties of spicy and colorful stir fry over rice. And ending the meal with desert or fruit. The whole meal wouldn't cost you more than $3. Many items would be on a stick for convenience. So you can walk and eat at the same time. Some places have folding tables and chairs set up on the pavement. You can eat and watch the busy lives in the street of Bangkok.
The Sensational Khao San Road
Khao San Rd. is an assault on your senses. Walking down the road dodging people, taxis, scooters and tuk-tuks, you first notice the sights. Colorful neon signs are attached to the sides of each building, jutting over the street in a canopy of marketing. Bars, hotels, laundry, internet, tattoo- you name it, you can get it here. The sounds: bars blaring funky dance beats as the patrons sit by the road on plastic stools and drink bottles of Chang beer or sip from straws plonked in a communal bucket of booze. There are tables by the side of the road selling copied CD’s of all types of music. Set up under umbrellas, they blare samples of songs to entice you into taking a look at their selection. People take over the road late at night, and scooters blare their horns to push their way through the milling crowd. The smells can be amazing: rice steaming, meat grilling. The smells can also be less than pleasurable: urine, vomit. The streets are lined with all sorts of things for you to taste: exotic fruits packed in a cart of ice, pad thai noodles frying on a hotplate, even corn on the cob brushed with butter. And the feeling of Khao San Road at night- it’s pumping with energy. People of all walks of life merge here to party or relax. It’s a crossroads of excited people that have just arrived and people on their way out, having their last hurrah. It’s totally buzzing and completely chilled out all at the same time. It’s like no other place I’ve ever been.
Watch People, Watching People
Bangkok’s indulgent backpackers may still have a hold on Khao San Road, but this festival-like street is a fascinating piece of modern Bangkok worth visiting. Best enjoyed at night, this is the place for an eventful evening stroll. Originally a rice market, the street transformed into a hippie haven and continues to change—many businesses have become a bit more upscale to focus on quality goods vs. quantity. Keep an eye out for stylish vendors with unique souvenirs like embroidered cloth, vintage clothing, hand-made jewelry, and artfully crafted objects. Then watch people, watching people—it’s a popular spot for Thais to check out the foreign crowd too! If you’re staying at The Siam, their boat will take you there, just ask the concierge.
By Allison Murray, AFAR Contributor
Khaosan Road is a backpacker haven in Bangkok, Thailand where many go to get their Thailand souvenir essentials and a taste of Thailand's diverse street food. There is one cart wheeled onto Khaosan road every day selling seasoned bugs from maggots, to crickets, to scorpions. They are a delicacy in numerous parts of Asia, and it is rare to see a foreigner brave enough to try them all. I had my go at about 5 different insects, and two were actually quite tasty. I can't say the same about the other 3, but that's when I went to another cart nearby for a plate of $1.00 pad thai to wash it all down! If you want to have a real go at Thai street food, Khaosan Road is a great place to start, and get acquainted with rather unusual snacks....
Pad Thai Guy
One of the highlights of walking Bangkok's famous backpacker enclave, Khao San Road, is eating pad Thai from a street hawker. Traditional Thai food has four pronounced flavor components: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. True to the rule, Pad Thai is the perfect combination of the four. The ubiquitous local dish is comprised of noodles, shrimp, chicken, eggs, chili, fish sauce, sugar, peanuts and sprouts. Pad Thai is always delicious, but the street stalls have an edge over restaurants in terms of taste and ambiance. As you walk down the street, savory aromas waft past your nose and satisfied customers let you know it's good. Whatever the secret is, pad Thai from the street vendors is one of the overlooked joys of Bangkok.
Khao San Road
Of the many wonderful and beautiful things about Thailand, I would put a night out on Khao San Road in Bangkok as number 1,476 on a list of those things (with the Thai people, and their kind and welcoming spirit, being a far and away number one). In fact, at times, it feels that there may actually be more westerners than Thai folk in the few city blocks making up this backpacker haven (made popular by Alex Garland). With that caveat in mind . . . it is still somewhat of a guilty pleasure. And, if you are going to indulge, why not do it aboard one of the many motorcycle rickshaws that frequent the area. The trick is, however, to find one that has accompanying strobe lights and a killer playlist pumping out of the makeshift soundbar.
By Tyler Whitty