Khao San Road is the maniacal backpacker mecca in Bangkok that attracts youthful tourists who come looking for a bit of fun – and perhaps a little bit more!
Situated in the Phra Nakhon district of the city, a trip to Khao San Road is always going to be something to remember – at any time of the day. In fact, many backpacker hostels are actually situated on Khao San Road anyway, so you are never more than a few footsteps away from the madness! I chose not to stay in such close proximity to the madness, so I arrived here by the Bangkok Skytrain (BTS). Most of the hostels here are practically ghettos, but you get what you pay for, and there is a reason Bangkok is Backpacker Central in South East Asia: it’s because it’s the cheapest area!
Yet despite its somewhat deserved reputation as being a seedy party hotspot during the night, Khao San Road should be known for something else during the day: street food! This is of course another reason why backpackers of all ages congregate here – they are simply following the advice of their tastebuds!
First and foremost, I would say Khao San Road is the best place in Bangkok to try some Pad Thai. This is perhaps the ultimate noodle dish and it is a Thai invention. Perhaps the national dish. The great thing about Pad Thai is that it isn’t necessarily supposed to be great – it is a quick and easy street snack that is cooked up right before your eyes on the roadside. As long as it look hygienic, then go for it! You won’t be disappointed! There are many variations of Pad Thai, including the popular egg version, which is certainly a favourite of mine!
If you have been to Singapore and tried some Hainanese chicken rice from a hawker then you will love what is another of Bangkok’s best-known dishes: Khao Man Kai. This basically means “chicken and rice” and of course being Thailand it comes with a very spicy condiment (sometimes even fish sauce) with which to coat the chicken. Ever walked down Khao San Road on the hunt for street food but saw plenty of people sitting down eating? I would bet my bottom Baht that they were eating Khao Man Kai – and I bet it was cheap, too!
Khao San Road’s street food is recognised all over the world. Food vendors line up with portable trolleys and cook the food while you wait. One thing Khao San Road is certainly known for is its feast of the senses, and while loud music and risqué sights may be enough for you, it is unwise to forget the smells of the glorious street food here! You may not be familiar with the smells, however, as around ever corner there is a concoction of deep-fried creepy crawlies (i.e. scorpions and spiders) plus “foreign” cuisine, such as Mexican and German food. Who would have though that the average Thai would come to Khao San Road for a burrito or a box of sauerkraut?!
You wouldn’t be a true backpacker unless you sampled the famous Banana Roti in Khao San Road. It is true that these are sold everywhere in Thailand, but there is something so authentic about the ones that you can find from humble vendors in unremarkable street corners of Khao San Road. The vendors are good at what they do, too, and you will find an explosion of sweetness in your mouth with your first bite! I could live on these banana roti snacks all year.
Another thing Khao San Road is well-known for is its succulent roast chicken. Every country has its own cooked version of this poultry, and in Thailand it is known as Kai Yang. I have seen pieces of chicken being roasted on small, portable open fires in the middle of the pavement, as groups of people line up ready to splash the cash on the juiciest piece of meat available. I would perhaps say that Kai Yang is my favourite Thai street food, and it is good to know that it is sold so prominently on Khao San Road.
When darkness falls, it’s time to live fast and die young here in Thailand! There are clubs galore, that stay open until the early hours (some for 24hrs, as far as I recall), and of course the stereotypical ladyboys that prowl the streets looking for trade! The party scene here is extremely frenetic, and is clearly not for everyone. Yet if you can brave the alcohol and god knows what else (no drugs please, Thailand has the death penalty for drug offences), you will be guaranteed a great time!
Live Fast, Thai Young indeed!