During the day Khao San Road is full of tourists of all nationalities and all budgets, wandering around buying cheap cotton bags or t-shirts emblazoned with naughty slogans. Now with paved roads and chic coffee bars, it is much more respectable than it seemed to Alex Garland in 1996.
In the years I have lived in Bangkok I have seen it lift itself up, dust itself off and become part of the modern and diverse range of offerings on the Bangkok tourist scene. I used to avoid it like the plague, always associating it with backpackers who sat around in cheap dives all day comparing the countries they had done so far. But now I actually venture there once in a while and especially at night as there is an excellent selection of restaurants, bars and clubs, all placed cheek by jowl creating the ideal bar-hop for a lazy person like me.
I think my favourite thing about Khao San Road is the different experiences it offers. There are certain friends I go with who meet up at the Silk Bar and sip wine all night on the terrace as the mass of humanity passes by. Then there are other friends who meet me by the kebab stand before we head to the wonderful kombi van in the parking lot of the local petrol station. It has plastic stools set up outside its makeshift bar and serves a bewildering array of cheap cocktails all night. Smoking can be hazardous at this one however.
Read on to find out more about bars and clubs in Khao San Road:
This is one of my favourites and sits in prime position about half way down the street. With blaring lounge music, a funky interior and imperious waiting staff, you know you are living the high life when rendezvousing here.
This rooftop bar has an Arabic atmosphere with plump floor cushions and shisha pipes. It also offers a small but well appointed DJ room which really gets going after the cocktails have hit their mark in the chill-out zone. This is a popular place for those looking to party until late, or even wind down after other clubs have wearied dancing feet.
This place offers a very nice retreat from the chaos of the street, with crisp clean lines emphasizing its up-market pretensions. It is also popular with Thais, so is an ideal venue for hob-knobbing with the locals. The drinks are expensive but the pool tables are great fun.
This place has been around for a long time and is located downstairs in a basement. I seem to end up here at some point in every night out in Khao San as it provides great dance tracks after 11pm and caters for just about everybody. It is noisy, dark, airless and yet fantastically alive.
With a huge dance floor, snazzy laser beams and lots of trance music, this is the favourite hangout of those who dream of Ibiza. It is great for a boogey but can seem a little cavernous unless you are with a large group of friends.
Khao San Road is great fun and should keep almost everyone entertained. Personally I like living elsewhere and just visiting for a night every now and then, as I think I would find the all-consuming frenzy too much on a daily basis. But what it does offer for women is a refreshing lack of obvious girly bars. It reminds me of nothing so much as my university pub and club days where people really were just looking to meet up with friends and have a fun time.