Electric Chaos in Khao San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road is indeed "the center of the backpacking universe" as much as it is the center of electric chaos of almost everything of street culture in Bangkok. Even with eyes closed you can still smell, taste and hear the variety of atmosphere that made it internationally famous among travelers, especially the backpackers.
Yeah, sir! It's good!
My friend and couch host Toto called it the "backpackers haven". He did not coin the term. But judging by how the one kilometer strip is crowded with sweating Caucasians carrying humongous bags, noisy packs of Asians (mostly Koreans) and a mix of tired travelers lying down on massage chairs altogether in an array of bars and clubs, guesthouses, hostels, food and souvenir stalls, it truly is the wanderers Mecca.
The road, which is just around a hundred meters from Chao Phraya River, has grown smaller with the increasing influx of tourists that flocks around for cheap accommodations and tourist services.
"Lotsa' people down there."
Perhaps the movie The Beach which described the place as I quoted above, made Khao San Road more popular since its release in 2000. Since the KSR opened as rice market for Bangkok in the early 80s and bloomed as a party place in the 90s KSR has now evolved into a place that it is now. Besides the backpackers, local artists, yuppies, local peddlers of all-things-souvenirs and street foods now clog the road. 
Massage, anyone?
We went there for beer and of course to capture the energy of the place through our cameras! Toto, a Filipino photojournalist who is now enjoying his stint in Bangkok Post, knew where to take his camera-toting guest. Upon getting off the taxi he led me to a narrow and dim corner that connects to the main road. Feeding my eyes with varying perspectives I was almost tempted to immediately pull out my tool to shoot. I paused to enjoy my first glance of that small universe instead. Meaning: beer first before the shoot, that's how I meditated.
Money Kills! 
After our first bottle of Singha, a group of young Thais occupied a portion of the street fronting a bar filled with westerners to crack some break-dancing skills (and asked for tips later). First Photo Op!
Break-dancing for fun and for some tips
Tumbling for the finale 
Then we hopped to the next bar at the lobby area of Rainbow Guest House somewhere outside the main road where we met interesting people. They were not tourists. They were Burmese immigrants, or as my buddy told me, refugees seeking asylum in Thailand to escape the harsh history of long-standing civil war involving ethnic groups, rebels, pro-democracy groups and the government. Besides their good service as waiters and our brief conversation I will never forget the taste of the oily cheese pakora they served with a selection of dips and paired with another set of Singha.
The yummy cheese pakora (L) and Toto (on Free Burma! stance) and our new-found Burmese friend.
Then we hopped back to the heart of KSR for more street shots and a change of atmosphere. It was past midnight and the crowd seem to never fade. 
There we had more of KSR: the peddlers wearing ethnic Thai clothes, more food stalls, some beggars, hipsters, attendants in skimpy clothing inviting tourists for a massage, and tourists becoming more and more friendly as their alcohol intake increases.
Posters for souvenirs

"Street foods, chicken, egg, Sir? You want?"
I learned later that the place is also home to scammers offering overpriced services for accommodations, transportation and tour packages for those who wish to cross the border to neighboring countries. That was not my experience. My only advise is for backpackers to just be extra careful and be more independent in their itineraries.
The Rasta Mon!
 What else is in KSR? Name it: internet cafes, money changers, ATMs, 7/11 stores, massage parlors, travel agencies, laundry, tattoo shops, book shops and travel agencies. A lot more that the electric chaos has expanded to Soi Rambuttri and several other blocks.
A local artist offering a couple a charcoal drawing of themselves
"Want bracelets, sir? Souvenirs?" 
The next time you get there, feel that vibe that built the reputation of Khao San Road. You may or may not like it. But don't miss to be mindful of the dynamics of the place too as to how the locals (and the ethnic people and the immigrants) exist in this center of mass tourism filled with strangers. You'll be surprised that there's more to what is written in travel blogs and sites.
Beer Lao for the last bot! Cheers!
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How to get there: There are many ways to get to KSR depending on your point of entry to Bangkok. You may take express boats, trains, buses and taxis. For more useful tips, click Here.
Our point of origin is from Ratchadapisek. We took a metered taxi and in around 10 minutes we're already there. We paid 79 Baht.
What to wear in KSR: It's your choice. Remember that you'll be interacting with travelers who are too tired to change from their regular shorts and shirts. I went there wearing the same long sleeves and khakis I wore earlier that day in a meeting with colleagues from Mindanao, Philippines and with Tourism officials of Bangkok. I didn't mind. Nobody would care once you're there, anyway.

3 comments:

  1. Bangkok is one of the beautiful places; we never miss such kind of adorable places will soon plan to visit this places.This article inspired me a lot about this place customs,traditions and places.
    tourism

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  2. every word in this blog entry is so right. khao san is both messy and organized, chaotic and zen (try to be there during the first few hours in the morning). it doesn't make any sense, yet it is strangely for that reason that many have come to embrace, love and live it.

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    Replies
    1. the same reason confused souls like moi loves the atmosphere in KSR. Ayos, baktin.

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