Khao San Road

khao san

Khao San Road is a travelers’ institution, a piece of backpacking history. Not so long ago this was THE hub of Southeast Asia, the ultimate intersection where travelers spent a few days rejuvenating on mango lassis while they exchanged travel tips and stocked up on the latest boot-legged cassettes. The street was lined with postcards, Nepal bags, some jewelry from Thailand’s northern tribes, and a few pharmacies. Any backpacker worth anything had been to Khao San. The street gained international attention in the 2000 film adaption of “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and more importantly Tilda Swinton). Perhaps the focus was a little more than Khao San could handle.

Today Khao San feels like the place where manic Fort Lauderdale spring-breakers have crashed into the drugged-out Ibiza crowd. Embarrassingly goofy development interspersed with cheesy souvenirs pushes Khao San to the top of the old legends gone bad list. Music blasts from the bars, as girls stuffed into sausage-skin mini-skirts struggle to maintain balance while they flirt with gym rats over a beer-bong. Old timers desperate to recapture the “good ol’ days” look like they are going to burst into tears as aggressive touts thrust puta t-shirts into their faces. And yet, somehow, beneath the sleeze, there is still some attraction to Khao San.

The street is a show. A group of martial arts experts kick and punch as passers-by with dilated pupils struggle to focus. A small child busker, a clear prodigy, plays a traditional Thai xylophone attracting a huge crowd of onlookers. Traditional drummers hammer out impressive rhythms as two Brits, who have clearly had way too much to drink, attempt to dance – or are they simply trying to regain their balance? And somewhere in the distance, in one of the clubs above the street, a Thai performer sings his bizarre rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads”…

Counti roa’
Tay’ me ho’
To da play
I belon
West Vagina
Mounting mama
Tay’ me ho’
Counti roa’

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