The Khao San Road in Bangkok is synonymous with “backpacker”. It has been the historical backpacker haunt in the city since the early 70’s, and it is lined with shops selling everything the modern backpacker needs. Today that seems to be 1) beer 2) fake CDs 3) fake student/press ID cards and 4) hair braids. We last saw the road ten years ago, and somebody had told us that we “wouldn’t recognise it – it’s now full of coffee shops and nightclubs”. Well, it doesn’t seem to have changed that much, although it is definitely a lot busier with the weight of thousands of international travellers wandering the streets. We’re amazed by how many there are in Bangkok – around this area they seem to outnumber the locals on the streets. The ambience isn’t helped by the roadworks going on at the moment, and every few feet there’s a hole in the ground where a new draincover will be, but currently its just a 4 foot drop to a stinking sewer.
Although the main roads are jam packed, and the pavements are just one long market stall, the side alleys still provide some respite from the noise and the traffic in the city. Its also the place where you’ll find good, cheap food during the day. In the evening food stalls seemingly cover every side street in the city, but during the day your choice is to find a café/restaurant, or one of the very small permanent stalls down an alleyway. Thailand is reputed to be cheaper than Malaysia, but we’ve found Bangkok costs about the same. Perhaps pinning the Malaysia Ringgit to the dollar has made Malaysia cheaper, as the dollar has plummeted since we’ve been travelling. Typical costs here are 30-40p for a meal on the street, or £1 in a restaurant, 15p for a bottle of Coke and 8p for a bottle of water. Our money is certainly going to start lasting a lot longer here than in the rest of the world!
We’re in Bangkok to arrange a whole host of things – changing flights, travel and visas to Laos and Cambodia, getting some broken things repaired – so we’re not planning to do any sightseeing this time around. We’ll be coming back to Bangkok 3 or 4 times before we finally fly out, and we’re saving the sightseeing until we do it with the BBC crew in the middle of next month. Today we sorted Laos visas – tomorrow we’ve got to try and rearrange our flights home, and sort out travel up to the Laos border.