For many backpackers who travel across Asia, Thailand is very often the first stop on their itinerary. With comparatively cheap flights to the country and its central location it’s often considered to be the ‘gateway’ to South East Asia. Fresh off the plane from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, many travellers head straight to Khaosan Road which is considered to be Bangkok’s hub for backpackers and international travellers.
My first ever taste of solo travelling began on Khaosan Road. I rocked up to Bangkok not knowing anyone in the city or what to expect – so I decided to do what many others do; I headed to Khaosan Road. By the evening I had befriended a Mexican, Ghanaian, German and an American and we ended up sat round a makeshift plastic table sharing travel stories over numerous bottles of Singha.
You are guaranteed to become acquainted with an eclectic mix of global citizens on Khaosan Road considering it’s a hotspot for international travellers. It’s quite likely that you will meet someone from you home country which can take the edge off a bit if you are solo travelling for the first time. British and European backpackers were certainly a ten-a-penny and I often heard people speaking with regional British accents when walking around.
It’s not just the global diversity of Khaosan Road that makes it a real mixing pot, there’s also the fact that you meet people from all walks of life; from ‘gap yah’ students to business owners, college dropouts to long term nomads – but differences don’t seem to matter so much on Khaosa Road. Everyone dons the same casual clobber, generally comprising of baggy vests, shorts and flip flops (usually brought from the stalls) and everyone is there for the same reason – to have a good time.
Khaosan Road is one of the city’s party hotspots and it not everyones cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it’s pretty far removed from what I typically enjoy on a night out. However I think that a night out on Khaosan Road is something that everyone should do at least once when visiting Bangkok. It’s a change of scene from Bangkok’s plethora of swanky strait-laced rooftop cocktail bars and it’s a place that you can really let you hair down and have some fun.
During the busiest nights the whole road becomes one long stretch of street party. If the party gets a little too off the Richter the police and military sometimes storm the road and send all the backpackers packing but it very often relapses back into party half an hour or so later, as we discovered.
There’s a whole load stalls on the roadside selling cheap clothing. From bikinis, baggy tie dye trousers and fake branded clobber. Haggling is all part of the experience.
Khaosan Road is a diverse dining destination. There are a number of street food vendors selling Thai food such as pad thai and Thai Pancakes. Western food is also readily available; from fast food chains to restaurants selling various Western cuisines. On the other end of the spectrum there are some incredibly weird eats on offer with a number of vendors selling caramelised insects such as scorpions and grasshoppers.
There are also a lot of roadside massage parlours offering traditional Thai massages for as little as £5 an hour.
Right before I was due to leave Thailand, a fellow British friend of mine happened to be passing through Bangkok. I was set to fly out to Malaysia and my friend was flying off to Cambodia the next day so we decided to have one final knees-up on Khaosan Road. Several hours and several bottles of Singha later we ended up sat round a bench with a bunch of drunk Americans, who successfully pressured us into eating some caramelised scorpions with them (which were actually remarkably okay). That’s what I like about Khaosan Road, it’s fun, unpredictable and light hearted.
Khaosan Road maintains a balance of things that are fundamentally Thai whilst offering some Western comforts. I guess you could describe it as a little slice of home away from home, an induction into the unknown, a place where for many, a journey of a lifetime begins.