Ask any backpacker who has visited Thailand, and they are sure to have a tale or two from Khao San road. Be it tales of bad tattoos, tower beers, or buckets, everyone has been sucked into the bubble known as Khao San road for at least one night.
Having just arrived to the country, I met up with a friend who had already booked our hotel for the night. I was told we would be paying $7 USD a night to stay at a place called “Khao San Palace,” which was great to meet other travelers and had a rooftop pool. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having heard stories of bed bugs and theft, but the hotel was actually above my expectations. The rooms were relatively clean, the pool was a nice break from the humidity and heat of the streets of Bangkok, and rooms that were locked stayed locked. But the room is not what defines Khao San.
Our plane didn’t land in Thailand until 9 p.m., so we arrived to Khao San right as evening festivities were beginning (this is relative because “festivities,” seem to never stop here). The nearly quarter-mile road is absolutely bustling at night with street vendors selling anything from Pad Thai, to scorpions, to sex show travel accommodations. Lights from nightclubs, hotels and restaurants define the skyline, glistening like the stars that are drown out by the light. Alcohol and club music are a tempting concoction that see foreign travelers get sucked in for more time and more money than they were hoping to spend in the city. With each step there is something new to buy or suck you in for a longer time.
The thing about Khao San road is that, though fun, it is the definition of a tourist trap. Travelers looking to try and integrate and learn about the culture can find no hint of this anywhere. The only Thais on the street are those vending or driving tuk tuks. People walk down the street with open containers, and most nights end with hazy memories of why your wallet is so much lighter.
If you are looking for a crazy night out, Khao San Road is the place to go. Travelers from all over come to this party mecca to leave with a good (but fuzzy) story, and everyone is looking to meet new people. My verdict? Visit Khao San for no longer than two nights, then get out as quick as you can. Drink beer on the street, eat a fried scorpion, visit “The Club,” then go get yourself some actual Thai culture.