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March 13, 2012

Bangkok: The Khao San Road Experience

For a long time now, Khao San road has been the backpacker hangout in Bangkok – a short street packed with bars, massage parlours and street vendors, where you can buy a fake driver license, get a tattoo, and have a massage while drinking cocktails of rum and red bull from buckets (really, buckets).

A north-carlton reunion in Bangkok

We are staying across the city, at a friends apartment in Silom, but a day spent on Khao San is a must during out Bangkok stay.

We meet up with the perfect companions to take on a tour of Khao San road – our own young americans Craig and Ashley (Asha’s old housemated from North Carlton), who are heading through Thailand on the way back state-side.

Khao San Road Ray Bans Sunglasses

By days end I am won over to the charm’s of Khao San road. We meander up and down the strip, buying singlets, drinking towers of Chang beer, smoking sweet-apple shishas. Once the sun sets, Khao San road has plenty of street food – and we try to sample it all.

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Thumbs up to spring rolls and pad Thai

Spring rolls and pad thai are the favourites here amongst the travellers, but there are plenty of carts grilling all manner of meats over charcoal – and the smells wafting up and down the street are hard to resist. Other vendors sell banana pancakes, delicious looking chicken kebabs, mango and sticky rice covered in condensed milk.

Craig wins the award for being the most adventurous – I cant find the stomach to join him in eating fried giant locusts, buy we do share a stick of chicken hearts, which taste fantastic.

Khao San Road Food

Craig in his element - Eating fried insects, drinking goddam coconuts and, of course, chicken hearts on a stick.

With full bellies we have a $5 treat – a beer and a half hour foot-massage on the street. Foot massages in Thailand involved a lot more than the name suggests, with calfs, shins and even eventually shoulders and heads getting a good working over.

After a few beer towers and cocktail buckets, Craig has the great idea that we all should get Henna tattoos (temporary tattoos that last a couple of weeks). Everyone draws a name out of a hat, followed by a body part where that person’s name will be inked. Craig gets Asha’s name on his neck; Asha gets Craig on her chest; Ashley gets her name spelled incorrectdly on her boob; and I get Ryan on my felt forearm.

Henna tattoos Khao San Road

It seemed like a good idea at the time......

Sometime later the red-bull wears off, the beers catch up with us, and we hail a cab for home.

For a lot of travellers, this is the Bangkok they come to see. But as we hurtle through the night in a taxi back to our apartment in Silom – the heart of the new, modern and bustling Bangkok – the Khao San road ‘backpacker ghetto’ seems fabricated. For me the real, modern Bangkok is more enjoyable – but Khao San road deserves a visit, even if you choose to stay elsewhere.

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