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Scores of hostels, atmospheric retro coffee bars and live music all around: Khao San Road is a bustling street where there’s always something to do, and not just for backpackers. Wander around the street market, have a foot massage or eat fried noodles – all on the same street pavement.
From second-hand books to bus tickets, Khao San has everything a traveller could need. Over the years, this street close to the Royal Palace has been massively renovated. Restaurants have been given tasteful interior designs and hostels fitted with air conditioning and even rooftop pools. But life on the street has remained the same. The blend of dirt cheap and cosy comfort makes Khao San just about everyone’s favourite place.
Khao San is famous for its street market, and the fact that Thai students like to shop here says a lot about the prices. Whether you’re there for the necklaces, hammocks, clothes, CDs or cocktails, haggling is the done thing. A complex game of asking the price, laughing politely and complimenting each other increases your chances of getting a bargain. A rule of thumb is that speaking softly often brings better results while negotiating. Ultimately, the friendly nature of your conversation with the stallholder dictates your overall impression of the market, whether or not you leave with a new purchase.
Visit Khao San late in the afternoon, if possible, so you can also sample the evening atmosphere. Just before sunset, handcarts begin to arrive on the shopping street bringing barbecues with sizzling saté sticks, squid and corn on the cob. Other mobile snack bars have spring rolls and noodles with prawns on the go. Relaxing music wafts from the terraces, inviting you in for a Thai beer. As more and more people flock to Khao San, runners on the street hand out flyers for nightclubs, which open their doors around midnight. Bands set up their equipment in many cafés, ready to play western covers and Thai music long into the night.
At the end of the street you’ll find the Wat Chana Songkhram temple complex. Monks reside here between the stupas and drum tower. In the prayer hall with its Buddha statues, flowers and ebony tusks, Thai visitors light incense sticks and candles, and scatter lotus flowers in front of the largest Buddha statue. The atmosphere within the temple walls is calm and time seems to pass by more slowly here. The abundance of trees makes this 200-year-old temple complex a welcome oasis in the busy city.