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avant-garde_chauvintist wandering through the garden of ideals

Oh the people

THAILAND | Thursday, 24 July 2008 | Views [1300] | Comments [1]

There is this street in Bangkok called Khao San Road.  It's very famous.  In fact, when I told people about my coming to Thailand, to Bangkok, most often I was asked if I would be staying around Khao San Road. 

In the movie "The Beach", Leonardo DiCaprio's character stays on Khao San Road.  In reality, nearly every backpacker in Southeast Asia stays on Khao San Road. 

It means uncooked rice, and it used to be a market.  It still is a market, but one where everyone (EVERYONE) speaks English and the only rice served is cooked and overpriced.

Khao San Road is at once exhilirating and depressing.  Firstly, it's wildly encouraging to see so many people like yourself.  Everyone is carrying a huge backpack.  Everyone is unkempt to a certain degree.  Everyone is from other parts of the world.

Secondly, there are so many different kinds of people lurking around that when you really start looking, you find things that might remind you of a David Lynch movie (that creepy underbelly that he is so good at exposing). A list:

1. The Vietnam Vet -- There are many, many middle aged men here.  Most people think that they served in Vietnam and never made it home.  Or made it home, but didn't like it or couldn't cope with it anymore and came back.  Regardless, they are graying and dredlocked and barefoot and usually with a Thai girl. 

2. The Asian Wannabe -- Every variety of backpacker exists here.  The common thread being only the backpack.  There are those who are trying very hard to come to the center of their Asian-ness.  So they wear the local clothes, attempt to speak the local language, and carry no camera, no shoes, and no sense of being ridiculed.

3. The last category I will try to generalize is the most common.  Nearly every five feet on Khao San Road is a place where you can get your hair braided (a la Jamaica) or dredlocked (a la Jamaica) (they play a lot of Jamaican music here too...).  And so many people are walking around looking oh-so-obvious with their freshly braided or dredlocked hair, wearing a tribal printed t-shirt (that they bought at the shop next to the hair braiding place), and flip flops made of leather (that they bought on the beach). 

In essence, on Khao San Road, everyone is judging everyone else.  There are very few actual locals because most of them are trying to make a buck or two off of you (either through trinkets or sex).  There is very little that is authentically Thai (if that even exists anymore).  And there is very little that feels good about wandering around Khao San Road. 

It has it's reputation for a reason.  No money, no honey...

Comments

1

I laughed when I read this... sums up the backpacking scene in SE Asia very well.
We're featuring Destination Thailand from the WorldNomads homepage throughout September and this is one of the feature stories.

Happy travels,
Christy, Community Manager, WorldNomads

  crustyadventures Sep 1, 2008 10:18 AM

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