Not Just a Place for Backpackers Anymore
Khao San, a tiny sliver of road in a quiet district of Bangkok, is well known for its cheap hostels and affordable guesthouses. It is a area in Bangkok where budget travelers can grab cheap eats with the availability of fake University degrees and drivers' licenses made right on the streets for sale.
Today Khao San road has struggled to retain its classic charm and rustic character. It seems like progress is winning over with newer and pricier hotels, restaurants, and bars open for business. Today, standing side by side with cheap, clean guesthouses are budget and affordable full service hotels complete with a McDonald's and an Irish pub to boot. And just as the neighborhood is changing, so are the faces and income of people who visit Khao San road to get away from the hectic noise and chaotic traffic that permeate central Bangkok.
Just a few decades ago you would mostly find tattoo bearing, dread-lock wearing hippies on a soul searching experience through Asia. Today, you'll find them rubbing shoulder to shoulder and drinking beers with retirees and group couples on a whirlwind tour of Thailand.
As totally different as these people are, they all have something in common. They've decided to stay in Khao San road not only because they can find cheap hostels and clean guesthouses, but because the neighborhood invokes a certain atmosphere of romance and charm, reminiscent of the old city life that Bangkok has seemingly lost or forgotten.
As much as the faces and people of Khao San road has changed, people of all age groups still converge on this perennial road.
A Taste of Khao San
Where to Stay in Khao San Road
Located just north of the opulent Grand Palace and the serene tranquility of Wat Pho, Khao San is just a stretch of 1km road filled with hole in the wall bars and restaurants, tattoo, and massage parlors as well as the cheapest eats on this side of Bangkok. At a vegetarian street stand, Pad Thai is still just 25 Baht presented on a styrofoam plate with a plastic fork.
But the true value lies in the quiet surrounding areas of Khao San road. The mighty Chao Phraya river is not too far west and it's best to catch the express river ferry at Phra Athit ferry terminal right next to Navalai River Resort, an affordable popular hotel in the area. A fare of 13 Baht will take you down to Central Pier (Saphan Taksin), and from there a short skip and a hop to Saphan Taksin BTS station to get to the central hub of Bangkok. You can also take the MRT (underground train) at Hua Lumphong, but the express river boat, in my humble opinion is the best scenic route.
If you do prefer the noise and action found in Khao San road, then your best bet is to stay right in it. There are many popular hostels, hotels, and guesthouses all around.
For Khao San road hostels check out:
- Charoendee Hostel right on 189 Khao San road. You have to enter a scary looking short lane, but don't worry it's safe. Once you get through you'll find that Charoendee is quite a charming place.
- Chada Hostel on 216/6 Khao San road is located right by the entrance of Khao San road with plenty of cheap food stands and bars available all through the night.
- Shambara Boutique Hostel on 138 Tanao Road. Okay so it's not exactly on Khao San but it's just right around the corner. It's an old converted house that has been fixed up nicely and becoming quite popular with budget travelers.
For hotels on Khao San road check out:
- Sawasdee Banglumpoo Inn located near the tail end of the road on 162 Khao San. Rooms here are decent for what you pay, about 850 Baht per night including breakfast for a tiny 14 sqm. standard room.
- Buddy Lodge on 265 Khao San road is one of those hotels with upgraded facilities such as a spa and fitness center. It's a place that probably turns a backpacker's face sour at when they find out it's 2100 Baht per night for a decent sized room, but I see plenty of families traveling on a budget staying here.
- Rambuttri Village Hotel is another excellent budget hotel not located on Khao San road, but rather on Soi Rambuttri, a popular lane with its bohemian gathering of backpackers and thrifty travelers. It's just a short five minute walk to Khao San road, so it's not far at all and a room here only cost 600 Baht with the use of a swimming pool.