So you’re a budget traveller/backpacker and you’re heading to Bangkok—surely you must have a stop at Khao San Road on your agenda, right? The legendary road has been a hub for backpackers for decades, with hostels and cheap bars designed to lure in price-conscious travelers. So should you go out of your way to make a stop at Khao San Road when visiting the Thai capital?
Khao San RoadWhere: 1km north of the Grand Palace
Hours: All day, every day, but most of the action happens after dark
Get there: Phra Arthit river taxi stop
We decided to hop over to Khao San Road one evening after visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Khao San Road is a fairly short distance from these attractions, so we decided to make the less than a mile trek north to take in the famed road and look for dinner and drink.
I’m not quite sure what my expectations were, but whatever they were, Khao San Road didn’t live up to them. In theory, I’m down for a hub that offers travelers cheap food and drink, along with basic socializing with other travelers, and that’s the premise behind Khao San Road.
However, there was just an odd feeling up and down the street that made it feel less like a hub for well-seasoned travelers and more like a carnival, with various stands and shops designed to prey on unsuspecting travelers. We stopped at one stall for some 30 baht Pad Thai, and observed a couple of Westerners doing everything they could to entice passerbys to come into their “Free Comedy Show.” Maybe it was on the up and up, but the whole affair made me feel some unfortunate souls were going to be out large sums of money that night—and they’d be lucky if that was the extent of the scam. Also, the risk of being solicited for other “propositions” on the road is quite high. While that didn’t happen to us, there are plenty of stories of that kind of activity on Khao San Road, and you could easily see where such things might be going on.
In short, “Sketchy AF” is the best way to describe Khao San Road. So, what should you do if you aren’t interested in being ripped off or propositioned? Disappointed in Khao San Road, we began to walk to adjacent streets, and were pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere we found there. Rambuttri Alley, the next street over, offered a much more relaxed vibe, with plenty of street cafes and bars where you could have a beer, talk to other travelers, and let your guard down and without worrying about falling into a scam.
Feeling much better, we popped into a couple of bars and downed a few Changs while chatting with some of the other travelers. Finally! What Khao San Road promised we found on Rambuttri Alley. Be advised if you walk the length of the alley you might find yourself in suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. We were about to turn back, but followed the signs that pointed us back toward Khao San Road. We were a little uncertain about where these signs were leading us, but eventually they did return us to the main road and back into the crowds of visitors.
So if you’re in Bangkok and feel the need to visit the famed backpackers hub of Khao San Road, go ahead and make the trek—just watch out you don’t fall victim to a scam, and quickly head over to neighboring Rambuttri Alley for a much better experience.