Adventures, Life Abroad, Travel, Writing
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Back on the Khao San Road

There’s a part of Bangkok loaded with backpacking farangs, cheap street food carts, and plenty of opportunities to unload you of the burden of your hard-earned Baht. It’s the famous (and infamous) Khao San Road. And this place is the centre of the backpacking universe in South East Asia.

I knew I'd return.

I knew I’d return. Soi Rambuttri is better than the KSR.

It’s my fourth visit back to the Khao San area, the American’s eighth or so. It’s the type of place you always find yourself returning to, whether out of necessity or out of boredom. The neon signs welcome you when you first arrive to the Khao San, but they glare at you when you’ve overstayed your welcome. This is a place that is best experienced for only a few days before you move on to your next destination.

The Khao San has a reputation as a backpacker hub for good reason — everything you need is right here. There’s plenty of travel options to sort out your next move. There’s cheap massages to treat your aching body. There’s 7-Elevens next to 7-Elevens. There’s cheap pad thai, fruit shakes and banana pancakes from roadside stalls for 30 Baht (about US$1). After hours, bars pop up out of nowhere. If you’re in Bangkok and on a budget, this is your world for a few days.

Tasty, cheap street food. This Pad Thai cost 30 Baht (about US$1).

Tasty, cheap street food. This Pad Thai cost 30 Baht (about US$1).

There’s always something happening around here. People are just arriving into town, weighed down by their packs. People are moving out, their packs stuffed with cheap gifts for their mates back home. There are people just hanging out, having set up camp on a vacant gutter to people-watch and eat their treats from the many food carts. There’s faces I’ve never seen on the road before, yet I’ve seen them a thousand times. At once, familiar and unfamiliar. I love imagining where they’re all from.

Pop-up bars get more inventive with each return visit.

Pop-up bars get more inventive with each return visit.

As someone who is no longer 23 and constantly looking to party every available second of the day or night, I prefer the more mellow street of Soi Rambuttri. It’s very central, just around the corner from the main drag of the Khao San Road, but it feels as though someone just turned down the volume on just about everything: from the pushy tuk-tuk drivers seeking passengers to the local vendors hawking Thai fisherman pants. It’s more my speed.

The Khao San experience is also peppered with some of the familiar multinationals, like Starbucks and Burger King. Here, they don’t appear out-of-place. They serve a purpose, reminding you of the reassuring ways of ‘home’, with Thai twist. It’s little things like this that can make the world of different when you’re on the road.

Fruit shakes and pancakes.

Fruit shakes and pancakes.

I have found that whilst so much of the South East Asia I saw when I was here four years ago has changed.  But the Khao San Road has stayed almost exactly the same. The hordes of English-speaking farangs keep on coming, and the area (especially Soi Rambuttri) has lost none of its kitschy charm. It’s kind of nice to know that the Khao San Road and surrounds still exists as it does in my memory. There’s something about the Khao San Road that keeps me returning. But not for long.


  1. Thanks, this brings back memories of a trip to Bangkok many years ago. I especially remember a restaurant named Spice Kitchen that was in one of the downtown hotels. Great food!

    • It’s great to be reminded of someplace we’ve visited and have those memories flood back. It’s funny how little this area has changed, but my favourite vegetarian food cart is still here!

  2. I visited a couple of times, but found it nothing special or interesting. I think it is just hype these days. Travelers Disneyland. I saw more package tourist then backpackers/RTW’er.

    • I can see what you mean. Today, the area is full of older German couples, so I’m assuming one of those large package tours just arrived in town. But the KSR area has been a welcome change after no power for four days in Koh Samui! I missed my gadgets…

      • I bet, been digital free a few times during this trip (16 months so far). Not funny after the first 2 hours LOL. We are all addicts 🙂

  3. Pingback: Back on the Khao San Road | James, Bec & a Bag

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