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  • Khao San Road, Bangkok: A Brief of History and Things To Do

    Khao San Road, Bangkok: A Brief of History and Things To Do

    Why is Khao San Road famous? Perhaps the history, its old city location, gritty and colourful nightlife, the bohemian ambience, and appealing (and some unusual) food offerings. It is definitely famous for offering affordable accommodation, earning the tag of Bangkok Backpacker Central.

    This well-known road is only 410 meters long, with loads of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, spilling into side roads. It is an ideal base for exploring the nearby Old City (Rattanakosin). More on that shortly.

    A brief history

    Construction of the area commenced in 1892. ‘Khao San’ translates to ‘milled and polished rice’; as you can probably guess, rice was an essential trading commodity. Bangkok developed rapidly, with roads replacing many waterways. In the late 1960s, as backpackers started discovering Thailand, Khao San Road continued its busy marketplace vibe. 

    In 1982, Bangkok celebrated its 200th anniversary in style, sprucing up canals, monuments, and temples, including Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, and hosting many sporting and cultural events. 

    With accommodation in high demand, and popular Sukhumvit Road accommodation full, some Khao San residents offered rooms to guests, as they were close to the focal point for festivities. Guesthouses and entertainment venues blossomed within the next few years, changing this area forever.

    By the 1990’s Khao San was firmly ensconced on the Backpacker Trail of South East Asia. Fake CDs, DVD’s and even IDs, inexpensive food, drinks, entertainment, clothing, and souvenirs lured backpackers. The Beach, an adventure film released in 2000, included Khao San Road, albeit a film set, further cementing Khao San as a must-visit.

    Around 2016/17, the Government tried to ‘clean up’ the area and control street vendors with mixed success. Up to 50,000 people visit daily to experience the ‘freedom and fun’ of Khao San. 

    The 2020-2022 pandemic and the closure of Thailand to foreign visitors decimated tourism, with most operators closing up. With the country’s reopening, things are heating up again in Khao San. Thailand’s legalisation of Cannabis for medicinal purposes has resulted in new ‘weed’ focused business ventures, venues and offerings popping up around Khao San. 

    Things To Do

    Nightlife

    Khao San is busy day and night. It is a cacophony of music, hawker calls, flashing neon lights, crowded streets, overflowing bars, and throbbing nightclubs. 

    Eating

    Whilst many restaurants and cafes offer delicious Thai and international cuisines, street food is also plentiful. Deep-fried spring rolls, Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, roti, grilled pork, Coconut Ice-Cream, Mango Sticky Rice, and all sorts of Fried Bugs, including scorpions, can be found.

    Shopping 

    You may unearth some treasures from shops and stalls selling handmade jewellery and Thai handicraft on Khao San Road, Phra Athit Road, Rambuttri Alley and Susie Alley. Though mass-produced, inexpensive clothing and souvenirs still have pride of place in Khao San.

    Royal Precinct

    The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Queen Sirikit Textiles Museum on the Palace grounds are highly recommended. Wat Pho, with the stunning reclining Buddha, is close by. 

    Museums

    Museums feature various aspects of Thai history, artefacts, and artworks. Museum Siam is interactive, whilst the National Museum Bangkok has nearly 20 different rooms, and the Ancient Artillery Museum is viewed from the street. 

    Parks and Gardens

    Phra Sumen Fort and adjoining Santi Chai Prakan are peaceful, Sanam Luang is popular with runners and walkers, and Saranrom Palace Park has all sorts of sports.

    Markets

    Pak Khlong Talat, the Flower Market is eye-popping, the Amulet Market Talat Phra Chan has millions of charms, and a little further away is Chinatown and Little India. 

    Massage

    There are undoubtedly many massage parlours within the Khao San precinct. Make your way to the streets around Wat Pho to experience a traditional massage from Wat Pho Massage (and ancient medicine) School. 

    Getting There and Around

    BTS Skytrain and MRT are not in this area, making it more challenging to access. Here are a couple of options:

    • Catch a riverboat to Phra Athit Pier.
    • If you can navigate the bus system, go for it. 
    • Take a Grab, taxi or tuk-tuk.

    Once you have arrived at Khao San, you can walk around or get a tuk-tuk to different attractions.

    If you are considering moving to Bangkok and the Khao San area, Aspire Pinklao Arun-Ammarin, has some affordable and well-designed condos. Our Bangkok Property Market Round Up has some excellent information if you are investing in Thailand or planning to live here.

    Thailand Blog Neighbourhood Guides Khao San Road, Bangkok: A Brief of History and Things To Do