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Bangkok/Khao San Road

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Bangkok : Khao San Road
Revision as of 16:30, 21 October 2005 by 213.235.241.83 (talk) (Get in)
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Bangkok/Khao San Road

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Khao San Road Market

Khao San Road (ถนน ข้าวสาร Thanon Khao Saan; also spelled Khaosan, Kao Sarn, Koh Sarn and many other variations) is, technically speaking, a small street about three blocks long located about a block from the Chao Phraya River in the Banglamphu district northwest of downtown Bangkok.

Understand

Backpackers and budget tourists are drawn by some of the cheapest accommodation in Thailand - most guesthouses charge around 150 baht a night and a bowl of noodles is 20 baht or less - and great bargains on tour and transport.

The first business to open on Khao San Road was a small hotel aimed at serving civil servants from the provinces who came to Bangkok on business. The hotel was followed by Sor Thambhakdi, a shop selling monks' accessories. It was followed by four similar businesses, and khao San became known as a "religious road".

Word soon spread about the easy lifestyle and friendliness of the locals. Friends told friends, and before long the owner of the house started to charge 20 baht for food and lodging. The first commercial guesthouse, called Bonny, opened with six small bedrooms.

On a more practical level there are also pharmacies, internet cafes, money changing booths, ATMs, shoe stores, laundry, and optometrists.

Accommodations and restaurants are hard to recommend, since places spring up and disappear on a monthly basis.

Get in

Khao San Road is fairly easy to get to from anywhere in Bangkok. Taxis, buses, and river ferry are your main options. The hourly airport bus, A2, arrives and departs from the corner of Khao San Road. Buy a ticket from the booth at the airport, or on the bus. A meter taxi should cost no less than 200 baht, if using the toll roads (known to Thais as Toll way) which costs up to 60 baht. Traffic during the day can make the toll roads very worthwhile, as it will save time and money.

A tip for budget conscious travellers arriving at Bangkok airport is to band together with fellow back packers and catch a meter taxi from the departure terminal upstairs as this will save you from paying a 'airport waiting fee' (around 50 baht).

See the Bangkok section for info on arriving in town.

See & Do

There aren't any historical sights to speak of on the road itself — head south to Rattanakosin for that — but the Banglamphu area is just an interesting place to walk around for a glimpse of Thai life.

The Banglamphu park, just beyond Khao San Road, has a great view of the Chao Phraya river and the ultra-modern Rama VIII suspension bridge.

Sites walking distance from Khao San Road include: The Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Po, Sanam Luang Park, Chao Phraya river, Democracy Monument and The Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong). See Rattanakosin for details.

Buy

  • The Banglamphu market is a good place to pick up cheap Thai knock-offs of everything from jeans to Italian sneakers, as well as a few posh Thai silk stores. Food stalls also abound in this area. Khao San road is also home to many wholesale silver jewlery stores.
  • Aporia Books has a good selection of both new and second-hand English titles, and offers a much more pleasant and organized environment for browsing than the other second-hamd book shops on Kao San Road. Address: 131 Tanao Road (road that runs at 'T' junction with Kao San Road - opposite end from bus stop where airport bus stops) Tel:6292919.

Eat

Khao San Road offers one of the most diverse food selections anywhere in Bangkok. Since the street sees such a varied nationality of travelers, several ethnic foods can be found here. Street carts that line Khao San Road sell decent phat thai (fried noodles), quail eggs, roti (like a pancake), falafel, hummus, various bugs and some sell just cocktails.

However, it's worth noting that much of it is specifically geared for backpackers — even the local phat thai, especially the 10 baht variety, economizes on the ingredients and uses soy instead of the traditional tamarind sauce. Those looking for truly good food would be advised to head elsewhere, such as to Sukhumvit.

As Khao San leaves its backpacker roots, standards (and prices) are rising. International outlets Burger King and Starbucks have moved in during 2004.

  • Siam Oriental Restaurant, lively atmosphere, serve international and Thai foods. "Chicken satay" is recommended to try.
  • Tom Yum Gung, the restaurant, is highly rated and great place to try some tom yum gung (spicy shrimp soup).
  • Gulliver’s, on the west end of the road, is a decent sports bar with mid range pricing a good offering of Western food.
  • Sidewalk Cafe, a great outdoor people watching spot with a large menu.
  • May Kaidee's is a funky vegetarian restaurant on the road behind Aporia Books on Tanao Road (the road at the opposite end to the temple and where the stop for airport bus is located) of Khao San.
  • No.One is an other vegetarian restaurant located behind Aporia Books on Tanao Road.

Drink

Khao San Road has some of the cheapest bars in town, and these days even some Thais head down to knock back a few. A can of Beer Chang is 25 baht at 7-11. Worth a look are a few street side VW vans converted to mobile bars, serving cocktails made from cheap liquor.

  • Lava, Middle of Khao San. Go down the steps to one of the more modern and western own bars on the Road. Sunday nights are good.
  • Bangkok Bar,
  • Susies Pub, The pub that started it all. Owners of the is pub have branched out to owning Austin Pub, Tom Yung Gung, and The Club. Usually packed playing top 40s tunes.
  • Gullivers, A sports pub.
  • The Club, With a huge neon sign, you can't miss it. Interesting open design.


Coffee:

  • There is a relaxing, small coffee shop inside the book store on the 2nd floor of the Khao San Road shopping mall.
  • Most restaurants on Khao San serve freshly brewed coffee.
  • There is a branch of the chain Coffee World near the McDonald's
  • There is a very nice Starbucks in a converted house around the middle of the street.

Iced drinks:

  • Coconut milk, iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut is a cheap and good way to cool the body. Coconuts are available at all the restaurants on Khao San Road.

Sleep

Khao San Road is Bangkok's backpacker guesthouse center.

Budget

Keep in mind that anything on the main drag will be loud, and anything with exterior windows will get hot. Try walking a block or two off Khao San proper to find something with a little personality-- or at least a little quiet. The street past the police station end of the block (Soi Rambuttri) has reasonable little bars and restaurants that are starting to spill out onto the sidewalk. The road gets darker and quieter as it wraps around the wat (temple) grounds. The post office end also has a few original spots-- including a great veggie restaurant and cooking school.

  • Khao San Palace
  • My House Guest House Clean rooms and good food singles from around 180 baht per night
  • New Merry V
  • New Siam Guesthouse Clean rooms and singles starting around 150 baht per night (without airconditioning).
  • Rambuttri Village Inn
  • Sawadee House
  • Siam Oriental Inn, [1]. +662 6290312 Nice, clean and quiet rooms, all rooms with private bathroom, startd from 280 Baht only, fan and air-con rooms are offered. Facilities: Lively restaurant, quiet internet cafe, and professional photo lab.

The area just beyond the park has a number of small river-front guest-houses which can be an escape from the noise and chaos of Khao San.

Mid-range

There are several better class hotels in the area, with swimming pools, minibars, etc. The better one is the Royal Hotel, while the Vieng Tai is also a popular choice.

  • Buddy Lodge, tel. +66-2629-4477, [2]. Prices 1,600 to 2,500 baht. Right on The Road.
  • D&D Inn, tel. +66-62905268, [3]. A huge (for Khao San standards) hotel with a swimming pool, massage area and a very clean and efficient 24 hour internet cafe. Singles go for 450 baht (without window) 550 (with window), doubles and twins are 750 baht, triples (one double and one single) are 1,000 baht, while family and V.I.P. run at 1,350 baht. All rooms have attached bathroom, A/C, T.V. and the rates include breakfast and access to the swimming pool. NB: The hotel is undergoing massive renovation until Febuary/March 2006, which entails drilling and hammering until 8PM everyday. So, before accepting your room, ensure that is away from the area that is being renovated.

Get out

Cheap tourist bus, mini-van, and airline tickets are available at any of the dozens of travel agents in the area. Visas for other Southeast Asian countries can also be obtained on your behalf. Popular destinations include Chiang Mai in the north, Phuket in the south, Angkor Wat in the east (in Cambodia), and various islands off the coast. See also the One month in Southeast Asia itinerary.

Travel Warning WARNING: While convenient, honest to a certain extent (ie. if sold a ticket to Siem Reap, you eventually will probably get to Siem Reap) and seemingly cheap, many of the agencies operating here have turned scamming into an art form. The "VIP buses" you are promised turn into clapped-out minibuses, you are likely to be hit for extra charges for various dubious services along the way and many operators will intentionally slow down the journey so you arrive in the middle of the night and can be coaxed into choosing their guesthouse — invariably the crappiest place in town which just happens to pay the agency the highest commissions. Worst of all, since you have paid in advance, you have no recourse of any kind when this happens! It will generally be faster and cheaper to arrange your own tickets directly.

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