Explore More: Khaosan Road Video

If there’s one lasting lesson that I have learned in my limited travels, it’s that the places most famous are often the ones least relaxing to spend time in. When a city, beach, resort, or even a road has been made legendary by history’s great travelers, it’s fairly safe to assume that it is now overrun by people attempting to recreate the stories which spurred their dreams of exotic adventure.


(WARNING: This video was meant to document the night life of Khaosan Road to the fullest. It contains 2 seconds of blurred nudity.)


I’m not discounting this type of travel…it’s just not for me. Some people love the highlights. They want to see what the big fuss is all about, and that’s a perfectly reasonable reason for them to travel to far away lands. Go for it, but expect to be surrounded by the throngs of loyal disciples of those same travel novellas and memoirs that are there for the same reasons. A small part of me also enjoys going to the famous haunts of authors, explorers, and photographers that I’ve admired, and this path often leads to places like Bangkok’s Khaosan Road.

IMG_1483During the day, Khaosan Road is a vibrant and lively area of the city, filled with great Thai street food, high-end retail knock-offs, tie-dyed everything, forged diploma and passport stalls, and spectacles of humankind beyond imagine. In the heat of the day, Khaosan is a place worth visiting and enjoying. We had a really great time with fresh smoothies in hand and countless stalls to browse. We ate good food, dodged tuk-tuks, contemplated various purchases, and meandered down many back alleys around the area. Next time we are in Bangkok, we’ll probably wander back to the area, too.

 

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At night, though, everything changes and nothing is off limits. The exciting street of the day turns into what I can only describe as “Backpacker Hell.” The exhausted masses- tired from endless bus rides, airport layovers, or simply on a gap year break with too much money and no inhibitions before they settle down for university- descend upon Khaosan with a collective mindset of “YOLO.” The street transformed into a collective mecca for the transient/hipster/backpacker/alcoholic crowd trying to lose themselves in a district of Bangkok that many have tread before. The party rages.

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All sorts of services and substances can be found easily on Khaosan Road, and they are offered endlessly. A simple walk through the jostling crowds will yield many offers for things you didn’t expect and maybe weren’t after. Like I said, some people go to Khaosan Road for these very reasons, but we didn’t. I don’t want to say that we were miserable or judgmental, because we really don’t care. It was fun to walk around and see the spectacle. For the people looking to get lost at night on Khaosan Road, I’m sure that they found exactly what they were looking for. We simply weren’t prepared for the Jekyll and Hyde transformation that took place around dusk.

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Whatever your experiences are while travelling, they are firstly always that: experiences. Some better than others, sure, but it’s great to see these places and witness such legendary debauchery. Daytime Khaosan is a perfect example of the shopping and street culture many people expect when they think of Bangkok, and I quite enjoyed it. At night, however, it’s a different animal.

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Thailand is a spectacular country but it’s most famous places have been famous for a long time. These places may not be completely overrun, but they are saturated with tourists and have befallen the fate of unrestrained tourist traps. These fantastically energetic places can still inspire and amaze you, but don’t expect these cities to retain the same feel as they held in the past. Enjoy them for what they have become, and adjust your expectations to include the effects of decades of people visiting for the very reasons you are there. To put it simply, it’s not the Bangkok you remember from old copies of National Geographic; it’s grown to meet the visitors with open arms and access to the vices Bangkok so famously satisfies.

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I’ll go back some day, but my expectations will be more realistic. In this realization, I ask:

  • What city has surprised/disappointed/perplexed you in your travels?

  • What effect has tourism had on these places?

Ryan

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8 Comments

  1. Matt Inman March 28, 2015 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately it can pretty difficult to find a place that truly hasn’t yet been heavily influenced by tourism. Travel is just a huge thing now and many economies depend on our tourism dollars to survive. They see opportunities and go for them which can make traveling a little less pleasant. Oh well. That being said, I think you can still find the gems even within the midst of tourist heavy areas.

    You just have to be willing to explore and go where your feet take you without expectation. Like you, I definitely check out Khaosan. But after doing so, I ventured around Bangkok and found some really cool, but unpopular, neighborhoods.

    • Hedgers Abroad March 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      I think that if you look, you can certainly find places that are a bit more secluded. We definitely found those places in Thailand but they were pretty difficult to get to. I agree that tourism has fueled a lot of these countries and has even turned around the economy for some.

      Just a couple of blocks north of Khaosan are a maze of tiny back alleys that we wandered through. It was a nice break from the busy street and we had a great opportunity to see a different perspective of Bangkok- one that was a bit more true to the city and people.

  2. Nathan March 30, 2015 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Loving these pictures! I actually never made it to Khaosan Road, now I kinda wish I’d just gone for a look.

    Hong Kong was probably the most disappointed I’ve been with a city. I guess my expectations were just out of line with what I experienced. I’d go back, though! Just to give it another chance.

    Thanks for the read!

    • Hedgers Abroad March 30, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      We would also go back if we ever had the chance, if only to try to see it with a different perspective!

  3. Meaghan Wray March 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    “Mindset of ‘YOLO'”… LOL, love it. I really love how you write your posts. This one in particular was informational, but also portrayed your personalities. That’s hard to come by, I think! Your photos are beautiful and give a unique perspective of the city. I’m with you on preferring to skip the highlights.

    • Hedgers Abroad April 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the compliments! We try to make our posts entertaining as well as informative, so we are especially happy to hear your thoughts! We had a really great time taking these photos and writing the post, but the area certainly is stressful at night. The highlights can be fun and exciting, but they drop off of our must-see lists pretty quickly after we have seen it once. The romantic images of faraway cities that we hold onto from NatGeo and movies from the past are long gone. Still an amazing city with a ton of energy, but you’re right, some things can be skipped for more genuine experiences.

  4. Dudes Aplenty March 31, 2015 at 12:24 am - Reply

    I used to live in Hongdae here in Seoul, South Korea. That area is not nearly as transformative as I think you saw in Bangkok, but it’s amazing the difference between night and day. I think it would be cool to talk about not what’s available in places around the world, but instead, try to focus on the range of things available during different times of day. I think those might be the real places people should be visiting.

    • Hedgers Abroad April 7, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Thanks for your feedback! Since we normally highlight individual areas, we didn’t want to get too far off topic by discussing other options in the city. Khaosan Road is certainly a dynamic area and offers many things but you’re right, some people should visit other areas of Bangkok.

      Hongdae is a really fun part of Seoul. You’re lucky to have lived there and I’m sure you can attest to the transformation of that area. Not as dramatic as Khaosan, but still lively and fun. The safety factors in Hongdae vs. Khaosan is also a huge difference.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. It’s always fun to engage our readers.

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