The travel snobs, particularly the 'online' ones, pretend to shun Khao San Road yet secretly they make a bee-line there every time they arrive in Thailand.
Firstly what's bad about it? Well it's crowded, infested with touts, some of the rudest staff, some of the most pathetic travellers ... did I say crowded? Give me some room to breathe!
Well that's Khao San Road. Yes I rarely go there - and only when it's a trip to a specific establishment. But I do go to Banglamphu (or 'Phra Nakorn'). That's the name for the district surrounding the eponymous street.
Particularly convenient is the Soi Rambuttri/Phra Athit area. That's the area to the west, behind the Wat, by the Chao Phraya River.
Here you have the wide open space of the Wat, you're close to the river which is convenient for transport, and you're within walking distance of two dozen landmarks on Rattanakosin Island. And you've got your cheap eats, sleep, travel agents and local markets.
Back to Khao San Road itself: One myth is that this is dominated by 'farang'. Absolute rubbish! Local Thai customers began to outnumber the foreigners ten years ago and now in the evening it's 80% locals (mostly students).
If it's your first time to Bangkok try the area around Khao San Road. It's the best spot for exploring the palaces, forts and Wats of Rattanakosin Island.
Check up on Thai manners and customs – this will earn you more respect from the locals. Keep up some dress sense – how you dress in Thailand is quite important. Don’t go topless without checking out if it’s acceptable where you are – usually it’s frowned upon. You’ll notice that Thai women (even sex workers) are very modest in public –they usually swim fully clothed.
Check out table manners – Thais tend to eat from communal dishes in the centre of the table – don’t pour everything onto your own plate! Don’t knock the royal family – even in jest. Don’t point your feet at people – the body is seen as hierarchical and the feet are the lowest part and should not be waved about (this is like a “fingers up” sign). It’s not necessary to “Wai” people - the Thai greeting - as you’ll probably get it wrong. If they Wai you, you might wai back. Remember, this is the Land of Smiles and you will find everything goes much better when you have a smile on your face - whatever the situation.
Brand new holiday three-bedroom teak wood home in Bangkok Taling Chan district.
Around are traditional houses with orchards, gardens, peace and clean air.
Suit family with children and animals as the place is safe and has a terrace under the elevated on stilts house.
A much better option of staying in Bangkok than the town centre, with its noise, pollution, traffic jams and crowds of tourists.
In a Taling Chan home-stay you will immerse yourself in a traditional lifestyle and learn a little bit about Thai culture and customs. Walks through the fruit orchards and flower groves make a very challenging experience.
You can feel here like living in a traditional thai village - yet five minutes walk is 7/11 shop, cash machine and a daily street market. A short ride there is a famous traditional thai floating market in Taling Chan by the Chakphra Canal.
There are several nice homestays in that area - old thai teak wood houses on stilts just overlooking slowly moving canals. You are in the middle of verdant and vast, lush gardens.
There is nothing comparable to it in the whole of Thailand - a dream student home stay or a holiday accommodation.
172/9 m 11 Kanchanapisek
Caretaker - Mr Nan +66 896619266, fax +6628063629
Owner/Booking - +44 7957473617
It's by Thanon Wongwan Rob Nok (Outer Western Ring Road)and by the Klong Bang Tal - 5 minutes drive to Southern Bus Terminal (towards Kanchanaburi, Cha Am, Hua Hin, Phuket, Krabi and Malaysia) on Thonburi & 15 minutes to Chao Phraya River, Khaosan Rd, the Old King's Palace & the Wat Pho. Air con Bus 516 from Khaosan Rd/Kings Palace area (25 minutes), bus 127 from PATA department store (15 minutes). There is also a frequent direct air con bus 556 to Suvarnabhumi Airport (1h).
check it out on google maps:
Right in the midst of a major shopping district is a real piece of Thai-ness - the colourful Erawan Shrine, interestingly dedicated to Brahma rather than Buddha, and complete with incense and Thai dancers. Well worth a detour on the way to the shops. It's open from 6am until 10pm.
Junction of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Roads (diagonally opposite the Central World Plaza mall); Chit Lom Skytrain station
This rather lovely old building is a former royal palace, and it positively oozes character. If you're planning to see the grand palace, do that first, as you'll then get free entry here (it doesn't work in reverse). Modest dress required and there's a mandatory guided tour, but don't let that put you off. As a bonus there are twice-daily demonstrations of traditional Thai dancing.
Rajavithi Road, Dusit; www.palaces.thai.net/night/index_vm.htm
If you want to get away from tourist zones, take a longtail boat up the canal to Ramkhamhaeng.
It's a major university and the streets around it are thronged with market stalls for great food and 'alternative' goodies.
There are a few cafe/bars with live music and the students will be keen to practise their English on you!
A lot of people spend their time on Khao San road but it is not a true representation of Bangkok. Pick up a local free listings magazine and try some of the bars the Thais go to. There are plenty of nice restaurants and bars around Silom and Sukhumvit roads.
BTS Saladeng for Silom or BTS Nana, Asok or Phrom Phong for Sukhumvit.
A beautiful example of a traditional Thai teakwood house, brought down from the north of the country and rebuilt in the grounds of the Siam Society.
Unlike Jim Thompson's House, this museum is concerned with everyday life, and has plenty of exhibits to give you a feel of rural Thailand 100 years ago. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, entry is 100 baht.
Just off the Sukhumvit Road on Soi 21 - a short walk from Asok Skytrain station and right next to the Sukhumvit metro stop.
For a truly exceptional night in Bangkok try Lumphini stadium for some Muay Thai (Tuesday is the best night). Don't pay the tourist rate, the 600 baht seats are the best in the house - you're right among the locals rather than a couple from Blackpool.
Lumphini stadium, Rama IV Road www.muaythaionline.net/features/thaistadiums.html
Set aside plenty of time to visit the Royal palace and Wat Phra Kaew, it’s not just that this is one of the city's major tourist attractions and therefore full of visitors, but that there is just so much detail to take in.Your senses will be crowded with the vivid flood of colour from the fantastically decorated buildings and statues, the sound of bells along the rooflines and the smell of incense.The Emerald Buddha - a figure of great reverence in Thailand – dressed in one of his gold costumes (they are changed dependent on the season) is housed in a wonderfully decorated royal chapel.The palace, by contrast to the classical Thai architecture of Wat Phra Kaew, is almost a Western looking pavilion (it was designed by a British architect) topped with Thai spires. It is currently being renovated so any photo opportunities are rather scuppered by scaffolding.There is a very strict dress code for the Wat and palace complex. You should wear long trousers or skirts that are below the knee and shirts with sleeves (a shawl/wrap over a sleeveless top will not do). If you don’t adhere to the dress code you can borrow suitable wear from an office near the entrance.
Entrance off Thanon Na Phra Lan. Nearest Boat Stop: Tha Change. Open: 8.30pm-3.30pm. Entry Fee: 250 baht.
Not so much a house but a collection of old teak structures lovingly assembled by a rich American eccentric with a Boy's Own Adventures life story. Now a museum, it also contains a range of Asian artefacts in a setting far more appealing than a museum. If you leave here without wishing you too could live in it, travel in Asia is not for you.
6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Road Tel: 216-7368, 215-0122 Walkable from the Stadium or Siam Square skytrain stations
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