Recognisable by their constant picture taking, incredibly wide eyes and freshly-washed hair (Bangkok’s often the first destination for those travelling Southeast Asia (SEA), and Khao San Road is a first port of call), you’re bound to spot a newbie a mile away. They can be found remarking over just how cheap the pad Thai is, getting measured for suits and dresses that will never turn up and struggling to find a taxi who’ll take them to the Grand Palace for less than 500 baht, despite it being just around the corner.
You get them in every city in SEA, but you can find a lot of them here. Typically, they arrived in the 90s and practically never left. They can be found in the same bar and on the same stool as the one that felt so welcoming all those years ago. They’ll have stories of love and heartbreak and do nothing but complain about their adopted home, but for whatever reason they’re reluctant to call it quits on the Land of Smiles. They can also be found on any of the street off of Sukhumvit, and have been known to travel in groups.
You know the ones – often inexplicably Australian – they’ll be sporting singlets of beers from cities they’ve already been to (Bintang lager, from Bali – naturally) and just in case you didn’t already get the picture that they love a good old knees-up, they’ll be found slamming the buckets and daring one another to eat a scorpion on a stick. They didn’t come all this way to walk around a few dusty temples, and fair play to them – whatever floats your boat.
If you look on a map, Khao San Road actually is in a pretty decent location – close to the temples, and not too far from the shopping centres, it makes for a decent base. That is, however, if you’re prepared to put up with the thumping music, loud crowds and extortionate, meter-less taxis near by. You’ll notice them telling everyone who listens how loud it is, how they question the hygiene levels of the street food and how the brands on the market stalls actually aren’t real at all. If only they’d read Culture Trip to find out about Khao San Road beforehand…
Usually British and almost inevitably sunburnt, they’ll be found slamming the beers in the sports bars to try numb the pain of their now-red skin. With a Chang for breakfast and a Singha for lunch, you’ll inevitably hear them singing football chants up and down the street, with their arms around other confused foreign tourists encouraging them to sing along. They’re harmless enough, and extremely welcoming, and will usually end the night by finding a kebab and taking the afterparty to their eight-person room. Banter.
Somebody didn’t get the memo about Khao San Road being a backpacker hotspot, and despite it not really being the place for it they’ll still pout, pose and posture in their designer outfits that will probably cost more than they’ll spend on the trip. When a shirt inevitably gets a bucket spilt onto it, or a dress sees a mishap involving pad Thai, they’ll learn their lesson and re-book a hotel closer Sukhumvit or end up donning the same garb as everyone else. Elephant pants, anyone?
Khao San Road isn’t just popular with travellers and expats – you can count on there being a number of friendly, welcoming locals enjoying the revelry too. With some bars playing classic Thai rock hits by bands such as Carabao and Big Ass, you’ll find them singing at the top of the lungs, having a good time and knocking back the spirits like there’s no tomorrow. They’re friendly and welcoming, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of conversation that it’s actually possible to have despite not speaking one another’s language.
A harmless bunch, the backpackers can be found telling everybody about their incredible adventures so far, though usually, they’re too busy talking about what they’ve already done to enjoy the here and now. Yes, they may be wearing elephant pants, have braided hair and a strange body odour, but you’ll definitely learn a thing or two from them and you’re bound to feel like best friends by the end of the night – and you may even become travel buddies.