Every budget backpackers’ paradise is the Khao San Road. It is a short street of about 1 kilometre in Bangkok, Thailand. Name it and you have it for your backpack! Yes, travellers from all over the world swarm in here to find all kinds things starting from souvenirs, cheap second hand guide maps and books, T-shirts, sandals, silverware, hand made jewellery to inexpensive, budget accommodations for the night. It is street full of activity all around the year. It is a very busy and colourful street full of activity and a variety of shops,accommodation, clubs, bars, book stores and what not!
Vendors of different products put down their stalls and women dressed in ethnic clothes are vendors from the northern hill tribes move along the streets to sell their goods like ethnic jewellery, ornamental frogs and hammocks. There are not many big showrooms or malls on this road. It is more like a flea market and mostly consists of street side stalls. Usually, the bars of Khao San road are the best places to sit and enjoy people watching with a glass of cocktail! In the resent years, it has become quite famous for party life too. The pubs and bars become bright and filled with party people coming from all over the city to enjoy the night. These pubs and bars are also the place to listen to good Thai band music and some other Rock music bands too. Some bars have DJ’s while some have live music or both. As the sun sets, mobile bars line up on the road and serve cheap cocktails and a variety of drinks. Most of the clubs die down by 3:00 am in the Khao San road.
The best time to go shopping on the Khao San road is usually during dusk as the temperature becomes cool, favourable and pleasant for shopping and most vendors open their stalls only in the evening and the road gets busy. You can find souvenir stores, clothing, stationary, music CD’s, DVD’s, jewellery, craft pieces and handmade products here. The Khao San road offers a variety of spicy and delicious food from Thai, Italy, Japan, Korea, India, and other western dishes too are available in the street side food stalls. These are also quite cheap as it is the most important aspect of the Khao San road. There some international franchises opened recently such as McDonalds’, Burger King, Starbucks and Subway in this area. There a plenty of book stores and second hand book shops, though dusty, they have all kinds of novels and tour guides, magazines and so worth the few sneezes. There are many massage parlours too, where you can go and relax after all the stressful shopping and haggling. Moving on to the accommodations, Khao San is famous for its numerous budgets rooms and guesthouses. You can also find fine hotels and accommodations too depending on your budget. ATM’s are also available and there are many money exchange offices around too, which makes it easy. But most of the ATM machines accept foreign cards but there may be some exceptions as well.
Though there are no actual transport facilities within the street, trams, boats, taxis and tuk-tuks can be taken from nearby areas to reach this road and there are no tourist attraction spots or monuments to visit on this street as it is solely dedicated for budget shopping. So the best is to go on foot along the street while shopping. But a few places can be visited which are quite nearby. The Soi Rambutri is a street just behind this area. It is a laid back version of the Khao San road (KSR). It is almost the same with all the bars and restaurants but with less chaos and crowd when compared to KSR. One can visit the Bangkok National Museum having some of the collections of ancient relics and Thai artefacts, The Grand Palace which is architecture of sheer beauty and craftsmanship, the National Gallery which houses Thai artists’ works right from the 17th century onwards. Other places include the Wat Mahathat dedicated for study of Buddhism and meditation, Democracy monument, four equally spaced large wings situated around a small shrine as a symbol of democracy awakening in the country.
The most important thing to be kept in mind while visiting this busy shopping street is “haggling”. Yes, one must know how to haggle if they want to buy any good product here. The vendors usually start it off with a really ridiculously high price for any item. It could be in the multiples of tens or hundreds or even thousands. So make sure you know how to bargain to get the best out of this street. Most importantly, one must take taxis and tell them to take the meters as these taxi drivers try to make huge money without putting on the meter. It is also advised not to buy silver products and other expensive things on this road as the vendors make huge profits by selling them at relatively very high costs. Street smartness is a necessity to be a successful shopper on the Khao San road.