Khaosan Road, Bangkok
Khaosan Road is a short street not far from from the Chao Phraya River on the northern side of Rattanakosin.
Many Thais will translate 'khao san' as 'clean rice' or 'white rice', so let's say that 'khao' means 'rice' and
'san' means 'milled'. Whether that means 'white rice' or just rice without the husk, I do not know.
The name does, however, suggest that the street once had something to do with the trading of processed rice. In
those days, there was a small hotel for itinerant rice traders and a few shops selling accessories for monks.
The first guest house, called 'Bonny's' opened in 1982 with a total of six small bedrooms. The area soon became
internationally famous for its low cost, high value for money and friendliness, which drew hundreds of thousands of
backpacker travellers a year, which in turn brought increased prosperity and commerce in all forms.
The whole area around Khaosan Road has profited from this situation and it is obvious to any visitor to the
Khaosan Road. There are hundreds of small budget shops, bars and restaurants, stalls, hotels and shops on the main
roads, in the alleyways and even in the gardens of the premises there.
All these businesses and all the people, foreigners and Thais, who visit for the very competitive prices, make
it attractive to thieves and con-men and women. This is unfortunate, but if the visitor takes a few precautions, he
or she should be safe enough.
The police and your insurance company will be able to offer good advice and the danger should not deter you from
looking around in Khaosan Road and the surrounding area.
Khaosan Road is pretty easy to get to from practically anywhere in Bangkok; you can use express boats, buses and
taxis, even if you first need to get as close as possible by Skytrain or the Underground first. So, for example, if
you want to get to Khaosan Road from the centre of Bangkok, you can take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station,
where you can transfer to the express boat pier at Sathorn.
Then ride the express boat all the way north to Phra Arthit pier, which takes about 35 minutes and costs less
than 20 Baht. Make sure to get either the orange flag line or the blue flag tourist boat, as the yellow flag line
does not stop at Phra Arthit pier at all.
The bus system in Bangkok is very complex, but as Khao San Road is not connected to the Skytrain, for some
destinations you don't have a choice. Some useful bus lines for travel to/from Khao San Road include the
There are no traditionally-famous local historical attractions in the form of monuments or buildings in Khaosan
Road, but there are a lot of old buildings for the observant pedestrian. Look at the old buildings (shops and bars)
that are partially hidden by the stalls standing in front of them. However, the main pastime of those who take a
beer or a bite to eat there is people-watching.
However, if you move off Khaosan Road, there are plenty of active, old Buddhist Wats (Temples) complete with
their contingent of resident monks in their red or orange robes, as they have been for hundreds of years.
If you stay on the Khaosan Road, you will most likely encounter more low-brow forms of entertainment like girly
bars and sports cafes, which will often be showing live football and rugby games, if you are missing your favourite
However, wherever you go on Khaosan Road you will enjoy the atmosphere of the international backpacker community
and budget travellers in some of the cheapest accommodation and cheapest bars and restaurants in Bangkok.
by +Owen Jones