The Khao San Road is the centre of backpackers from all over the world.
Always high activity on the backpacker planet
Low-priced all-round care for transit passengers on the Khao San Road
It is only about 400 meters long and yet the most famous street in Bangkok: the legendary Khao San Road. For decades it has been the undisputed centre of international backpacking tourism. In the meantime, the entire quarter around the actual road has adapted to the needs of Western individual travellers in terms of both offers and comfort. It is said that whoever lands on the Khao San Road has left Europe, but has not yet completely arrived in Asia.
Nicholas pulls on his self-rolled cigarette, rinses it with a strong sip of beer and, with his forehead folded, looks at a European couple who are strolling down the street with their two small children. “You couldn’t have imagined something like this 15 years ago,” he mumbles shaking his head. This means the Khao San Road – probably the world’s most famous street in Bangkok, which has been the absolute centre of international backpacking tourism for decades. Since the mid-1980s, the approximately 400-meter-long street in Banglampoo, Bangkok’s central district, has been the place to go for experienced globetrotters and young backpackers on their first individual trip.
In the early years there were only a few small guest rooms on the still dusty Khao San Road without any comfort. The road was an insider tip for idealistic backpackers who met here on their way through Asia and exchanged experiences. In the meantime, the Khao San Road had to pay tribute to the billion-dollar tourism industry and so the face of the backpacker mile has changed massively. The development over the last seven years has been particularly rapid. Where small, charming guesthouses and kitchens used to dominate the scene, by 2013 modern guesthouses with swimming pools and branches of the big chains Mc Donald’s, Burger King, Subway and Starbucks are almost part of the inventory.
Those who walk the Khao San Road today will primarily find two groups of travellers. One of them is Nicholas, an Englishman in his mid-forties who mourns the good old days and can’t understand that the increased comfort now also attracts families with small children to the road that was once known as a little wicked. The fact is, however, that the first generations of backpackers made their beloved road their own what a convinced individual tourist avoids more than anything else: a classic tourist attraction that should be part of every sightseeing tour through Bangkok.
The second group are those travelers who still see a fascinating place in the Khao San Road. These are experienced tourists who have taken note of the loss of any romantic adventure, but for whom it would never be possible to descend anywhere else in Bangkok than at Khao San Road. They feel at home here, know every corner and are greeted personally by the bar owners every time they return. That’s how much family is appreciated.
In addition, one increasingly meets unusually young backpackers who have often left Europe for the first time in their lives to explore exotic Thailand. For them, the Khao San Road is the perfect introduction to this other world, because it absorbs the culture shock wonderfully. The whole area around the road is now completely annexed by western tourists and completely tailored to their needs. Here you can expect an inexpensive all-round supply of ATMs, Internet cafés, laundries, air-conditioned rooms with TVs, stylish bars that you could also find in Europe and countless restaurants with all kinds of dishes from home. And everyone speaks English here anyway.
Accordingly, the Khao San Road is often referred to as the “gateway to Asia”. This is partly because Bangkok is the undisputed hub for many Asian travellers and the road is used by many backpackers as a place for a short stopover. On the other hand, this also underlines the character of the Khao San Road as its own subuniverse. True to the motto: “No more Europe and no more Asia”.
Julia and Sonja from Hamburg belong to the group of first-time travellers whose logical destination was the Backpacker Mile. Like many others before them, they brought here a book that has become a kind of Bible for millions of backpackers: the travel guide “Lonely Planet”, the Thailand edition of which is now also available in German. “The Khao San Road simply has to be seen. I think it’s great to meet so many people from all over the world here. Especially for us this is very useful, because you can easily get many interesting stories and valuable travel tips. Here every day is a small party. And here you get everything your heart desires,” says Julia and her girlfriend nods in agreement.