Trying to bond with the Khao San Road

I’ve been in Bangkok for almost two years now but I have so far failed to form an attachment to the KSR (apparently this is what the cool kids call it. I would not know. I am not this kind of cool).  When I go there I feel old and grumpy. I don’t want to spend my time surrounded by burnt and bitten teenagers in their beer label vests. Even the flash-packers drive me mad. I don’t care that you have enough time and money to spend three months ‘exploring Asia’, although that could be a teensy bit of jealousy talking. So far the best solution has been to avoid the area completely. That was, until my boss told me that I would be writing about it this week.

So off I trudged on a Wednesday morning, with only my Nancy Chandler Map as company. It’s a good time to visit the Khao San – pronounced like Cow not Koh, this isn’t an island people – even though I fantasize about all these dreadful people being trapped on one, Lost style… At 11am most of the drunks are still asleep, which takes away at least one layer of what turns me off this famous street. It did not stop the hawkers though. In my first half an hour there a beggar touched my arse and a tuk tuk driver gave me a Chinese burn. To be fair to the tuk tuk driver, he was also trying to pull me out of the moving traffic, but it still bloody hurt!

I walked around for an hour and a half before my first appointment (part of my job is reviewing hotels). I spent a lot of time worried about not being in the shade because it happened to be that magical time of the day during rainy season where the sun burns through the clouds and my skin. I couldn’t tell which restaurants looked better than others (all same same according to any Thai you ask) and I was getting rather depressed by the whole thing.

Then I stumbled across Wat Chana Songkhram, a temple at the end of the Khao San. It’s so different from the other wats I have visited, the monks were meditating in the windows of their lodgings, studying together in the classroom and speaking with the children at the compound school. It’s all rather magical, and so peaceful. What I liked more than anything was that there were no other westerners there. If you head down into the old town that never happens.

Thankfully I was not just saved by a temple discovery.  I have also found the following on/near the Khao San that go someway to improve my relations with the street:

  1. The coffee shop/bar called Fabulous. Yes, it lives up to its name. Delicious crepe cakes and honey toast. It’s just off Khao San in a really quiet courtyard. Inside is a bit like being on Friends.
  2. My friend Alex took me to Roof Bar. It includes one thing that people love about KSR, cover bands playing Oasis. However the drinks are slightly more expensive meaning the crowds are slightly less annoying. I had a fab time here, even though it’s bang in the middle of the street.
  3. Rambutree! How can such a street exist so close to the KSR?! I plan to go back and check out some of the great restaurants and bars on this horse-shoe shaped road.
  4. The street food. Step away from the Pad Thai people, and find the lady making fresh spring rolls in front of you, or the grilled chicken man. YUM.

So, despite the fact that I am not yet in love with this place, I can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. There is so much more to this area than the neon Burger King sign and the wooden frog sellers. I shall be back soon, I’ve been recommended Bombay Blues as an evening hangout. Maybe it can be number six on my list. If I go back again, maybe I can even make a KSR top ten. You’ve gotta have hope.

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3 thoughts on “Trying to bond with the Khao San Road

  1. I also discovered the temple complex when I was exploring KSR last week – a lovely surprise! I know what you mean about the KSR being depressing. While there is something exciting about it, I end up feeling almost tainted after spending time there, and I’m relieved to go back to my home in the suburbs.

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