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Khao San Road Bangkok
Literal Backpacker’s Mecca
Khao San Road

Khao San or Khaosan – the legendary backpacker’s domain and headquarters is simply put a shopping and dining tourist heaven where a thriving community caters to every need of the budget traveler. For over 30 years this has been the base camp of choice for backpackers all over the world exploring Thailand and Southeast Asia.

It's just a little wonder that everything backpackers could ever need or want can be found here: cheap guesthouses and budget hotels, internet cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, marts, street food stalls, massage parlours, travel agents, gift shops, snooker clubs, bars, photo and bookshops, tailors, laundry, chemists, tattoo shops and much, much more. All brought off with the spirit of neverending party and vibe cosmopolitan atmosphere that makes people happy and brings smiles.

Khao San Road at Twilight
Khao San Road at Twilight

During the day Khao San Road is quite a different marketplace altogether compared to the evening extravaganza, even so, the prominent diners and coffee shops rolling nonstop videos are constantly occupied at all times - the food, snacks, and refreshments are yummy and cheap. This is where backpackers meet and plan their travels. A daytime market can be easily skipped, though at night it's worth a look as it transforms to a veritable array of urban and stylish clothes, bags, shoes and accessories which are laid out for you to pick up. Hot vintage clothing and the bags are gorgeous. Don’t bargain too hard and always stay friends, as the prices are basically reasonable and occasionally even cheaper than elsewhere including the illustrious Chatuchak (also known as Jatujak or J-J) Weekend Market.

People on Khao San Road
An exuberant tourist community in the heart of Bangkok



Khao San Road Coffee Shop
Khao San Coffee Shop

Songkran on Khaosan Road

In recent years Khao San Road has become popular with local residents, especially artists and art students. The road hosts a number of pubs and bars, where people of many nationalities meet and discuss their travels. Khao San and the streets nearby are also Bangkok's center of dancing, partying and splashing water during the Thai New Year (songkran in Thai, pronounced 'sonk-kraan') festival that rolls around from April 13th to 15th.

Songkran festival is the most celebrated enthusiastic public holiday in Thailand. Celebrations of traditional Thai New Year a.k.a. the Water Festival continues for 3-straight-days non-stop. The tradition of water pouring is meant as a symbol of washing away sins. As part of the wild and wet festivities, to protect from evil spirits, Thais rub people’s faces with the natural white pasty powder mixed in water. Being the longest Thai holiday taking place in April which is the hottest month of the year, this signature festival is genuinely amazing and best experienced in the Khaosan area.

Songkran on Khao San Rd
Songkran on Khao San Road

Water fights on Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri are mixed with one big wild and noisy celebration and a carnival atmosphere. Thousands upon thousands of adults acting like crazy. Music is blasting, people are dancing, drinking, and having one massive ecstatic street party. Decoratively painted elephants walk the streets. Everyone armed with water guns of all kinds. Children throw ice-cold buckets of water all-around even at policemen. If you are out on the streets, you are a fair game for being soaked to the skin. No one gets left off.

Shop on Khao San Road
Shopwindow On Khao San Road

Tourist Hotspot

One Thai writer described this less than the one-kilometer-long road as "a short road that has the longest dream in the world". The street certainly attracts some bizarre characters the world over and is definitely one of Bangkok's most vibrant streets. Any visit to Bangkok is incomplete without a glimpse of Khao San. An experience that could only be compared to a visit to a zoo. Such a variety of wild, untamed humanity on display, that if you come to Khao San Road to do only one thing it should be 'people watching'.

Khaosan means 'milled rice' in Thai. Before it became a tourist hotspot, the street was a major rice market in the Old City (during the early Rattanakosin period) since 1782, when Bangkok was set up as the Thai capital. At that time, Europeans called Bangkok the 'VENICE OF THE EAST', as it was laced with canals, and waterways were the most important means of transportation and trading. Traces of the Rattanakosin period such as age-old architecture and traditional ways of life are still more evident by the river (mae nam in Thai) and canals (klong in Thai).

Food on Khao San Road



Chabad in Thailand
Fascinating Scenes in the Vicinity of Khao San Road

Location

The road which is shorter than ½ km situated in the heart of Old City in Banglamphu district, a short distance north of the Grand Palace and the Temple (wat in Thai) Phra Kaew. Close by is the Phra Arthit Road, running along the Chao Phraya River and the area of hidden historical charms: the ancient Phra Sumen Fort, the small tranquil Suan Santichaiprakarn Park, the trendy hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars popular with hip young Thais. In the evenings, there are often free activities like music, juggling, breakdancing, hip-hop or rap taking place.

Banyan Tree in Soi Rambuttri
Huge Banyan Tree in Soi Rambuttri

In the vicinity of Khao San Road, just around the corner is a u-shaped Soi Rambuttri where one would find lots of restaurants and yummy street food stalls. You have the same vibe as in Khaosan but it is more laid back. Large Banyan trees along the Soi provide not only a unique ambiance but also a cooling shade cover. Several spas, body massages, decent Hotels, and guesthouses offering budget accommodation are found there as well. It is also a location of Chabad House with the only Kosher restaurant in Bangkok.

Map of Khaosan Vicinity
Map of Khaosan Vicinity

Khaosan Road Conflict

In mid-summer 2018, all of a sudden, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), in an attempt to clean up the area, announced that Khaosan street vendors would be removed from the thoroughfare. It vows to impose a ban on all commercial activities on road pavements which for decades have been filled with food hawkers, small shops, stalls, etc.

According to the BMA, stalls can operate only between 18:00 and midnight. The Khaosan Street Vendors Association (some 300 vendors) rejected the move in defiance of the police. Last-minute negotiations between the BMA and vendors proved unsuccessful as neither side has been willing to compromise.

One street hawker who has been on Khaosan Road for more than 30 years stated:
"We will not move... Our stalls are an important part of this street's identity."
The president of Khaosan Street Vendors Association told reporters:
"Independent stalls helped develop this street over the last 30 years until it became an important Bangkok landmark... Now, the government won't even listen to us."
Many tourists visiting Khaosan told that they don't understand why new rules were needed:
"This street is known for the night market and that's why backpackers come. So it won't be the same."
"The shops are part of the atmosphere and allure of the street... It would be a shame if all this is gone."
The saga continues...

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