The road itself was originally a rice market, but has developed in more recent years into a gathering place for backpackers making trips around Thailand and the rest of South East Asia. During the day it is usually fairly busy, with street vendors selling Thai food, shops offering personal tailoring services and wizards offering fortune telling (at a reasonable price, so they promised me.) The street caters to an international crowd, so there are many of the usual fast-food chains (Starbucks, Burger King) available for those craving some comfort food. For the more adventurous diners, you could try the barbequed insects and scorpions offered everywhere on Khao San Road. For some, this is enough to put them off eating animals forever. If you are one of these people, there is a superb Vegan/Vegetarian restaurant nearby called Mango. Just try the Massaman vegan curry, it’s absolutely sensational!!!
At night the road transforms into one huge party. The street vendors are joined by small stalls selling paintings, clothes, local fruits, DVDs, books, anything with tie-dye or Che Guevara, and countless other useful things for backpackers. It is especially worth a visit if you have any last minute Christmas shopping to do, as I discovered recently. The road is packed with bars of all varieties in the evening, with music blasting out from every one. The drinking culture of Khao San is infamous, and if you want a quieter and slightly more-civilized experience, check out Soi Rambuttri which runs parallel to Khao San. It also has many shops and bars but is a little less-crowded than Khao San; you can sit and enjoy drinks and a wide variety of live music while you ‘people-watch’ for the night.
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One of the good things about staying on Khao San (apart from the cheap accomodation) is how accessible some of the tourist attractions of the Old City are. A walking tour took me and my friends to the stunning Wat Saket, the beautiful Wat Pho and the majestic Grand Palace in one morning. This walk seemed like a bad idea by midday after a night out on Soi Rambuttri. For those more sensible than us, there are Tuk-Tuks and Taxis available 24 hours a day around Khao San (but you definitely need to haggle with the drivers.)
Although Khao San is often avoided by locals and ex-pats alike, I think it has its own charms. Everything there is interesting, fascinating even. Although it can sometimes be a loud and tiring experience, a visit to or stay at Khao San Road is never boring.