The Khao San Road – the backpacker capital of the universe

I love Bangkok. I love it for many reasons. It has an energy that many cities in the world can only dream of. It’s got some of the friendliest people you will find anywhere in the world. It’s great for shopping too. Plus, it’s also got the only street in the world that is frequented by backpackers and backpackers only – the Khao San Road.

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Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that other cities in the world aren’t full of budget travellers because they are. London is heaving with them, as is Sydney, and after visiting Buenos Aires a couple of years ago I can tell you there are loads there too. But none of these cities have one street that is occupied by virtually nothing else other than budget travellers. This is what makes the Khao San Road so unique.

It’s located in the Banglamphu neighbourhood of the city which is a part of the ‘old city’. This is where a lot of the major sights are found. It’s also where you’ll find lots of budget accommodation, most of which is on or around this road. I was there yesterday evening and, after visiting for the first time in four years, it reaffirmed my opinion of it – there really is nowhere in the world like it.

It all started in 1982 when the Thai government decided to commemorate Bangkok’s bicentennial anniversary and celebrate the Buddhist calendar’s lucky year ‘2525’. Many of the festivities took place at the Grand Palace which is the city’s main attraction and is just 15 minutes walk from the road. Backpackers who wanted to stay near the celebrations couldn’t afford many of the hotels so turned to residents of the Khao San Road who rented out their rooms. The owners realised they could make extra money and opened guest houses. The road hasn’t looked back since.

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You can do pretty much anything on this short road with a long line of travellers. You can get foot massages, you can buy dodgy DVDs, you can get the dead skin nibbled from your feet in a fish spa, or you can splash out on a new wardrobe. Just remember to haggle and get a ‘good price’.

You won’t go hungry on the street either. Not only does every second bar serve food of some description, but the road is full of all types of street food (something Bangkok is famous for). So whether you want to try a pancake or pad Thai noodles, or a sliced water melon, you’ll be able to try it here.

There’s a buzz around the ‘Khao San’ at all times, but the place really comes alive at night. You can’t go ten yards without hearing music blaring from one place or another. Half way down you’ll hear live acoustic music come from above. This is where you should go. It’s called ‘Roof’ and is my recommendation.

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I’ve got one other piece of advice – don’t spend all your time around the Khao San Road when in Bangkok. There’s a lot more to the city than just this. But do spend a night there, maybe even two. It’s inevitable that you will, and when you get there, you’ll see why.

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