Khao San Road and why I’m not ashamed to love it!

by Poi on August 11, 2011

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If you’re coming to Bangkok, chances are you have read up on the different areas of town. Most people have heard of Khao San Road and all the reviews that go with it and usually decided before they’ve even arrived whether they like it or not.

So far living in Bangkok has been great and I’ve enjoyed everything about being here, especially the time I’ve spent on Khao San Road. In fact some of my favourite memories have been on that little street.

Our first impression of Khao San Road could not have been better, we arrived just in time to celebrate Songkran. As anyone who has ever been lucky enough to take part will know, you could be anywhere and have a great time over Songkran but for us visiting Khao San always brings back memories of a crazy couple of days, if only it could be like that everyday.

Songkran Khao San Road Thailand

Poi during Songkran on Khao San Road

So what is Khao San Road like normally? Sure, it’s a little annoying, having people try to sell you a silly hat or a suit you’re (hopefully) never going to wear and constantly trying to be drive you off in a tuk tuk, often to one of the famous ping pong shows they’re also promoting. 

However, all of this makes for pretty spectacular people watching, whether it’s laughing at the group of lads walking down the street, can of Chang in hand, all of whom have been suckered into buying a hat at three times the price, just to not be the odd one out. Or  the dad, who for once is happy his wife and kids are there so he’s not being targeted for all the bar staff offering the ‘strongest buckets in town’. Instead all he has to deal with is the endless army of women selling musical frogs. Meanwhile all around people are pulling faces at their first experience of street food and as much as I would like to tell them not to buy the salty pad thai on Khao San Road, I would be forever out of my seat.

But what’s the alternative, I could get into the role of expat living. I could head in to Siam or Suckhumvit in jeans and my latest designer shoes and have a more civalised night out in a few of the many upmarket bars and clubs. But here’s the thing, I hate those sort of places, I always have, just looking at the clubs online make me cringe.

Cheap drinks with backpackers on a stool that’s set a bit too far into the road sounds much more appealing to me. One things for sure you aren’t going to hear the people on Khao San road complaining about work that week.

Whenever I’m on this exciting street I can’t help but look around and wonder where all these people have come from. Have they just returned after months of exploring SE Asia with their new friends? Or are they the lucky ones who have only just arrived and have probably the best few months of their lives ahead of them.

Khao San Road is the starting point for I don’t know how many backpackers each year and I believe you can sense it, the excitement in the air can be felt all around.

That’s just the atomsphere I want everywhere I go, excited and carefree.

Have you been to Khao San Road before, what did you make of it?

To check out more water fight pictures from Songkran check out our NPTB Facebook Fan Page

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Caz Makepeace August 11, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Totally agree. We lived around the corner from Khao San and we loved going there and spending time for all the reasons you mention. There is a great vibe there and filled me with lots of travel juices!
If you love it go there and enjoy it and don’t pay any attention to the off the beaten path cool cats!

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

I knew you loved it there Caz, we are lucky enough to live pretty close as well.

Down with the cool cats!

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Gillian @OneGiantStep August 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I loved it there too. I liked that everything you might need is right there out in the open – and it’s so easy to meet people…just pull up one of those low stools and have a chat with the person next to you!

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

Thats one of the best things, everyone is so friendly and just happy to be there. Plus if your flip flops break, no problem….

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George August 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Just having a look around your blog and keep up the good work guys. I’m going to be doing something similar a year from now when I graduate. At the moment I’m in Oz though anyway I got the bug. Looking forward to your next post.

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

Cheers George, glad to know you’ve got the bug and we look forward to hearing what plans you come up with!

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Mike August 12, 2011 at 11:07 am

Yep, I enjoyed Khao San Road. Fun people watching and interesting stuff wherever you turn. However, since you brought up musical frogs, I just have to say – I HATE those things.

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

I would love to know how many they sell a night, I can’t imagine they are ver high on many backpackers wish lists…

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Diane August 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Hey you two, glad its still all upbeat for you both. So come on tell me what a musical frog is – do I need one? lol

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm

haha the musical frogs are little wooden frogs with a stick in their mouth you can pull out and rub over their back to make a frog noise, no use to anyone….

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures August 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I soooo want to do this one day!

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Dooooo it! I’m sure you will!

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crazy sexy fun traveler August 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Already looking forward for visiting San Road in October 🙂

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm

So you should be, it’s quite the experience!

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Total Travel Bug August 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Songkran looks like so much fun! I absolutely loved Koh San Road too. So many people hate it because its so mental but that is defo why I loved it!

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Poi August 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Exactly there is so much going on it’s always fun, I love the fact we can go there anytime knowing it’s going to be lively!

And yes, Songkran was so much fun, looking forward to next year already.

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Bob Crunch August 13, 2011 at 1:42 am

Great article. That was pretty lucky to be there during Songkran. It sounds like it was a lot of fun.

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Poi August 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Yeah Songkran is great, we were never not going to be there after looking forward to it for so long!

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Ryan August 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

It sure sounds like the place to be, as long as you can avoid the drunk chang guys with the silly hats. Keep on having the time of your life.

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Poi August 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Thanks Ryan, we’ll try!

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Gareth @ borebags.com August 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

There can be a lot of snobbery about the Khao San Road amongst the more seasoned travellers but I don’t care what they think. It is an awesome place to go out and celebrate with other backpackers, be it at the beginning of their trip, or the end. I’ve been there 4 times during my time travelling in SEA and cannot wait to return there again in 3 weeks.

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Poi August 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

Het Gareth glad you feel the same about the place – have fun!

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Ryan @ PauseTheMoment.com August 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

Liz and I spent only 2 or 3 days in Bangkok before heading up to Chiang Mai. Admittedly, we need to get back to Bangkok and explore a hell of a lot more next time around. During the time we spent in Bangkok, a lot of it was dedicated to strolling up and down Khao San Road, of course! The people watching on Khao San Road alone could easily be the highlight of your trip to Bangkok! We saw so many crazy sights during those few days… Next time we visit Bangkok we’ll be sure to stray from Khao San and see more of the city.

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Poi August 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

There is a lot more to Bangkok than Khao San but it’s a good place to start – especially for a drink 😉

When is next time??

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Kyle August 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I have not been…and now I’d like to go 🙂 Your experience sounds pretty freaking awesome. The way you described the spirit of the place got me into it!

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Poi August 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I hope you get to see it for yourself at some point and hopefully enjoy it as much as we do!

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Nomadic Samuel August 23, 2011 at 3:48 am

I absolutely love Khao San rd & I’m not ashamed to admit it either! 😛

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Poi August 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

Good for you! It’s a fun place.

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Diane August 23, 2011 at 4:20 am

So I need to get a useless frog as a souvenier! We’ll do Khao San Rd just for the experience! Us oldies can’t do with too much excitement! LOL

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Poi August 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

You say that now you wait, there’ll be pictures of you popping up on Facebook downing beer in November haha

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flipnomad August 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm

i love it too… i dont get bored when i stay in khao san and there’s so many things going on 🙂

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Poi August 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thats the thing, with the amount of people passing through it’s different every night as well.

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Traveling Ted August 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

My favorite time on Khao San Road occurred during American football Super Bowl Sunday. I found a bar on the road that played our Super Bowl at 6am. Met up with a bunch of Americans, watched the game, and was drunk by noon.

I had a few other memorable nights along Khao San. I love the energy of the place.

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Poi August 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm

That sounds like one hell of a morning and one of the reasons to love the pace.

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Theodora August 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I really don’t like the Khao San, I’m afraid. If it was a bit wilder or a bit sleazier or a bit more edgy it could be kinda cool. But it just feels packaged, tacky, touristy in all the wrong ways — like a little plastic strip of nothing in the middle of a city.

But that’s me. And I’m a curmudgeon.

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Poi August 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

That’s how we felt the first couple of times we stayed there.

However after spending a few nights there with Kirstys new colleagues we saw a completely different side of the place, there’s so many really nice nice bars that we didn’t spot just walking through.

Like behind one of the book shops and in the back of one of the mini malls, they’re hidden everywhere and not nearly as tacky as the rest.

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Jo August 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Just got back from a six week trip that we essentially started and ended on Khao San. Was fun to be back there for our last few hours in Asia, laughing at how white people were and how many girls hadn’t yet given up the straighteners. Sounds bitchy, but I’m allowed this one since my first days in Bangkok people followed me in the street to stroke my ‘beautiful white skin’ and half my pack was filled with hair products! I’m seriously considering moving to Bangkok and teaching when I graduate, and I’d have to be near KSR!

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Poi August 29, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I know exactly what you mean, it’s fun giggling at the newbie’s and wondering how they’re gonna look in a few months time!

Do it! We only live a few minutes away from Khao San and it’s great, close enough it’s easy to get there but no one outside out door trying to sell us hats 🙂

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paul | walkflypinoy.com September 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm

reading this made me even more excited about my six-month trip to SEA this year! will definitely stay in khao san road when i get to bkk. cheers! 🙂

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Poi September 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm

You should be excited and I hope you enjoy Khao San and all of SE Asia!

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Ally September 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Oh this street can be deadly. Or hard to meet up on haha
I love the excitement you describing when you get there!
I wrote that the first I went there, i clearly had NO clue about anything. No that I have one now, you never know what can happen there!

http://thefurtherthebetter.blogspot.com/2011/07/memories-from-bangkok.html

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Ronan October 25, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Reading your post reminded me of my two visits to Bangkok – one at the start of the noughties and one last year. I spent New Years Eve in a bar over the street with a load of backpackers and a guy on an acoustic guitar covering away in the corner. It was ace.

I love all the things that the off-the-beaten-track lot hate about it. It is wonderfully tacky, loud and fun.

I left in the early hours of the morning with a new Bruce Lee t-shirt and laser pen though!

Your post made me really nostalgic!

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Poi October 29, 2011 at 9:47 am

Well done Ronan for embracing Khao Sans tacky touristy awesomeness. LIke you say it’s just a lot of fun.

And of course you use both those items every single day now??

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Liv November 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I really enjoyed looking through all the daft things for sale on Khao San Road and chilling out with watermelon smoothies and people-watching!

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Tommy Lee April 15, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Well written,
I’ve never understood the reason to hate KSR, no hurt to love it but absolutely no need to hate it, i loved the cheap beer no doubt and KSR is my starting point. People says it’s a trashy place but for me it’s just the many faces of life. The energy is strong in KSR.

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