The infamous Khao San Road. For most people, even if they have never been to Thailand, one of the things they have heard of is this tiny street in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok. Whether you have only heard of it or whether you or your friends have visited already, one thing is for sure, when you get to Thailand you may, at some point, spend a few days there. It is smaller than you imagine; all this talk about it, and when you see it, it is basically like any other small street in Bangkok, except it is one crazy place.
It is flanked on both sides by a myriad of bars and restaurants, most opening from early in the morning to very late in the evening, so whatever you want to eat, drink or do, you won’t have to walk very far to get your kicks.
There are jewellery shops, massage parlours and spas, 7-11’s; restaurants from all corners of the globe, Thai, Indian, middle eastern, western. Stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes; music and books; quirky souvenirs; beautiful candles and prints; and electrical goods.
You can have your hair cut or braided; you can get a tattoo, real or fake; you can get a manicure; there are locals and tourists, taxi’s, tuk-tuks, dogs, cats, geckos, and even the odd squirrel, who scampers along the overhead cables of the chaotic electricity system. The place is a constant hive of activity.
As with many places, Khao San Road looks different during the day than at night. During the day it is much more relaxed. Everyone is just going about their business. Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers trying to get their next passenger, tourists getting massages, locals eating lunch, people shopping. Indeed, while the sun is up it has a much calmer feeling. But once the sun starts to go down and the neon lights come to life, the place begins to fill up with the night shift; the merrymakers and the partygoers. The music gets turned up, everywhere! It is an attack on the senses, your eyes are drawn to the many things going on, your nose picks up the wonderful, and not-so wonderful, smells and you feel a sense of excitement, or anxiety, as you take it all in.
As you enter any one of the various drinking and eating establishments, the staff greet you with the customary “wai”- a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. Thai people are very polite and generous and, as they tend to your requests for whatever you would like to eat or drink, engage them in conversation and you will make a friend for life.
Bangkok is such a huge city but wherever you end up, be sure to visit this small part of this wonderful city; there is something for everyone on this little street.
Going on holiday? Taking a long haul flight? There is no getting away from the dreaded jet lag. The disruption of the body’s normal circadian rhythm, as a result of flying, can make it seem like you haven’t slept in weeks. You feel spaced out, almost delirious in your actions and speech, and it can last anything from one day to several days, depending on whether you travel from east to west or west to east. Here is my (tongue in cheek) guide to getting over it.
1. Don’t fly with a hangover or have little sleep the day before a flight. Instead, do the boring, ahem, I mean sensible thing and invest in a blindfold, a neck cushion, ear plugs or a blow up pillow or all of those things. 😉
2. Night flights can be better because you would naturally be sleeping during the night. Once they have fed and watered you, the window shades are down so it is fairly dark, so you should be able to get some sleep. Unless, that is, your neighbour has decided to read the whole way and has the light on above you. 😉
3. If you are struggling to drift off lay your head on your fellow passenger’s shoulder. I am sure they won’t mind. 😉
4. If you can’t sleep, and said neighbour does mind, take advantage of the free booze. That always helps! 😉
5. Make sure you drink plenty of water before landing, that free booze will make you very dehydrated. 😉
6. Get up several times during the flight to walk around. This helps to reduce the effects of jet lag although will increase your neighbour’s annoyance, even if they don’t show it. 😉
7. Set your clock to your destination’s local time. The confusion, when you are working out how long it is until you land, will make you sleepy. 😉
8. Once at your destination try to stay awake until your normal bedtime. Even if that means showing your parents, friends or relatives 500 + photographs of your trip, to the point of them falling asleep. 😉
9. The day after landing, sleep until you can sleep no more. 😉
10. If all fails, just continuing drinking until you collapse into oblivion. At least you will have had a few hours kip before arriving. Just don’t blame me for the horrendous hangover you will have. Believe me, I have been there! 😉 😉
The trip around the khlongs is a must do when you are in Bangkok. I have done this a few times with friends and each time is like the first time. There are many things to see and be amazed at.
You step aboard a long tail boat, covered, to provide some protection from the sun. There is room enough for 8-10 people, although every time I have been on this trip we have basically had the boat more or less to ourselves. The cost of the trip is between 500-700 baht and it lasts a good hour and a half and, after the tour has finished, you even get the choice of getting dropped off at a different pier if you are planning to do more sightseeing.
Once you cross the busy Chao Phraya River, or River of Kings, you enter the much calmer canals and backwaters. If you take the tour from Phra Athit, you will pass the Royal Navy base and the Royal Barge Museum, where the kings’ barges are kept when not in use. The barges are beautifully decorated with some sort of mythical creature at the head. The barges are used normally in religious and royal ceremonies which have taken place just 16 times during the reign of the current king.
At certain points of the trip the driver slows down so you can take pictures of the houses and temples on either side. Before the metropolis of Bangkok sprang up, this is how the Thai people lived, and many still do. It is interesting to see how they have continued their lives amidst the modern city that is all around them. Along the way you see families going about their daily business, whether that’s fishing, doing the laundry, or taking their daily bath. Some of the houses are nothing more than wooden shacks and some are modern villas, with a wooden gangplank to allow access to and from the residences. However authentic this style of living is, modern gadgets have crept in, and a lot of the houses have satellite dishes and post boxes. Something that has caused a little bemusement from two of my visitors in the past.
Further on, the driver slows again and a lady, in a much smaller boat, comes alongside the long tail boat and asks if you want to buy her wares. On her boat there are all manner of things to buy and she will even ask you if you want to buy a can of beer for your driver, at a hugely inflated rate I might add. He never says no! Somewhere in the past these women have learned that the boats bring foreigners who will probably buy something from her, and why not? I wonder if the driver and the lady are in partnership, but in any case it all adds to the experience of your day.
Further up, on a small jetty, you will find people selling loaves of bread. Strange thing, but you buy a loaf anyway wondering why on earth you would need a loaf of bread whilst on a boat trip. All becomes clear when the water starts to churn with hundreds of huge cat fish waiting to be fed. There are loads of them and your loaf of bread disappears in seconds.
Another creature that lives in these water ways is the Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator.) The first time you see one in the water you immediately think of a crocodile because it moves the same way in the water and they are as big as one. These things are huge, about 6 feet from head to tip of their tail, and you will see them sunning themselves on the stone banks where they live in close proximity to the people.
You can also choose whether to have a guide or not. The trips that I have been on have been mostly without one, which is fine as the driver slows down or stops when he sees you are taking photographs. But I have also been on a tour in a larger boat with a guide up front telling you what the different sights are. These are a little more expensive; around 1000 baht upwards. I remember, at one point of the trip the boat was waiting for the sluice gates to open so we could continue up the canal. While we were waiting, the guide felt compelled to tell us all the things that Bangkok had to offer. I chuckled to myself because she went from steamed rice, to tours, to the Rose Garden (a cultural show) and back to steamed rice again. She was like a walking advertisement. Bless her, it was all interesting stuff but she repeated herself loads either out of the uncomfortable silence that had loomed over our boat, or because she was generally proud of what her city had to offer. I like to think it was the latter.
Pick up a canal tour boat at either Phra Athit Pier or SapanTaksin Pier.
I love this neighbourhood. I have been here so many times and it is the one place that I will happily return to. This day my friends and I had a grand old time. What was supposed to be a day of coffee, eating, and ending the day with a bottle of whiskey to share, turned into a “let’s have a glass of red wine or five, and the rest of the plans go out of the window” day. Don’t you just love the spontaneity of things sometimes?!
We had a plan of where we were going but this area is a great place to explore and, as such, it always takes us a bit longer to reach anywhere because I am forever stopping to take photographs of something or someone.
Now what is this guy doing?
Ah, now I see..
So many different things to see
Some art at Chomp! The Comfort Cafe, on Samsen Road. A welcome lunch and culture spot. Before we got to Chomp our plans where somewhat still in place. But one wine in and this is where our plans went out of the window. 🙂
More walking around, more photograph opportunities.
The usual suspects.
Find out more about Phra Nakhon:
Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan, to give it its full name, is located not far from the Democracy Monument, in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district.
I have been to visit this temple with a friend a few years back but I decided I wanted to climb the steps again to see some of Bangkok from above the rooftops. And, let me tell you, the views are quite fabulous.
After paying the 20 baht entrance fee and receiving my ticket from a friendly monk, I began the climb upwards of some 300 steps, passing a couple of water features and rows of bells on the way. It’s not only the views that are fantastic, even the walk up to the top of the mount is beautiful, with gorgeous plants and flowers decorating the way; it really is a little oasis in the middle of all the concrete and chaos of the city below.
Previously known as Wat Sakae, the temple was renamed by King Rama I when Bangkok became the capital of Thailand after Ayutthaya. King Rama III built a chedi inside the temple but it collapsed because the soil could not support the weight. Over the years the collapsed structure got covered in weeds and created, what looked like, a natural hill; which was called Phu Khao Thong- Golden Mountain.
At the top there is a room with Buddha statues representing the days of the week and a central gold-leafed statue.
But it was the rooftop that I was aiming for, so up a few more stairs I went. The golden chedi, which houses a Buddha relic from Sri Lanka, and looking so small from ground level, looms over you majestically. At the four corners, guardian statues stand proudly.
From each side you can enjoy the panoramic views of the city; take in the Democracy Monument and Grand Palace to the west; Rama VIII Bridge to the north; Yaowarat to the south, and Sukhumvit to the east.
It’s worth the trip to Wat Saket, if only for the views.
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
Location: Between Boriphat Road and Lan Luang Road, off Ratchadamnoen Klang Road
How much do you really know about Bangkok? Did you know that from as far back as the 16th century Bangkok has had European connections?
Neither did I, until, one day, while I was researching about castles in Thailand for my blog, I stumbled across a map which gave information about European heritage in the city. I delved a little further and found there were over 60 locations around Bangkok that all have European ties. Palaces, bridges, galleries, museums, and people all have a very interesting history.
With this new found information, I decided to start my own little project. I put on my hiking boots, packed my camera and notebook, and went in search of these places.
This research has taken me over a year to complete. I have walked the many streets of Bangkok, sometimes retracing my steps to get the photographs I needed. Finding the places and taking photographs was, relatively, easy, but since then I have been compiling my research, designing, and self-publishing my first book:
A not so easy task, but one that has been extremely satisfying. It has given me the opportunity to, not only, explore Bangkok, so I now know the city probably more than many locals do, but I have also learned a part of history that I never knew existed.
I love exploring Bangkok; there is so much to do and see, and the idea behind my book is to allow you to follow in my footsteps, discover these places for yourself, and learn about Bangkok’s connections with Europe. It will be a useful guide to have in your pocket.
I have really enjoyed the process of creating my book; from the initial research, getting out and about in the city, and finally being published.
My book is intended for those who love to learn and like doing something a little different.
I hope that you enjoy it.
Phra Nakhon is home to many of Bangkok’s tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Po, the Democracy Monument, and the Giant Swing. You’ll also find two of the original fourteen forts that protected Bangkok in the past; Fort Phra Sumen and Fort Mahakan. But there are also many nooks and crannies to explore. For me, this area is the most interesting because it is home to many bookstores, cafes and art galleries that aren’t necessarily glaring you in the face. So much so, that if you don’t already know where they are you would probably walk right past them. And you’d be missing out. The most enjoyable way to search for these unsung places is to walk around the area. You never know what you might find. There are so many photo opportunities and you could easily spend a whole day just wandering around; just like my friend and I did towards the end of last year.
We started at Yodpiman Pier.
Next stop; Vivi The Coffee Place, for coffee, cake, and a river view
Walking east, taking in some more sights along the way
A little piece of calm and ice cream on Phraeng Phuthon Road
A temple and a three-headed elephant shrine
Back in the midst of things
Enjoy your walkabout! 🙂
Wherever you go in Bangkok there is always something interesting to see. Whether its people going about their daily lives or tall skyscrapers or some other fascinating building that catches your eye. There are endless photo opportunities and whenever I take to the streets I find something new each time. Every neighbourhood is different; some old, some modern but they all have their individual characteristics. I don’t think I could ever get tired of living in this wonderful city. It has so much to offer.