"The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Kao-San Road..." reads the opening page of Alex Garland's "The Beach". I first read the book about 5 years ago and I saw the movie immediately following it. Since then I've always been fascinated with Khao San Road. A few people I know have been here, reporting back how it has lost its charm, while some still perceives it as a place to really kick-start one's backpacking trip across Asia. Romanticism aside, Khao San is nothing but a stretch of short road, circling towards another street that houses hostels, hotels, restaurants, souvenir and tattoo shops, food carts and almost everything that will cater to a backpacker's needs.
It's like a piece of the world on this lowdown street. People from all over walks around like we are all citizens of one country and if you're friendly enough you'll surely find yourselves drinking later on with some of them. Of course, there will be the over zealous, trying hard to be those crazy guys from "Hangover 2" who will get drunk and be rowdy, but most are just chillin and relaxed. It's always better that way, if you do not mind the backpacking novel's reference or its pop culture impact.
Me and my friend Ariadne settled into our lovely guesthouse, the Shambara just beside an alleyway located along Khao San Road. Her friends went to Krabi Island while we opted to stay in the city and instead visit Ayutthaya. After settling our things, we took a walk along Khao San Road and had a feast of Pad Thai and had us 1 bottle of beers each (Ariadne had Singha while I had the Chang).
You can find a lot of things to do along Khao San Road. I hanged out at one of the bookstores there and was surprised to find some amazing reads, like the earliest works of Paul Theroux and Graham Greene. Running out of Bahts, I resisted from buying a copy. Later, I regretted not snagging my self Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar", which, if I had the smarts to compute it right then, It would've only cost me 300 pesos.
Ariadne had a piece of her braided and later on got a massage which costs 100 Baht for an hour of foot massage, 150 Baht for the whole body and other types of massage. Around sundown, the street was bustling with some bars providing live music and we passed by one where the performer was belting out a mad but decent sounding Creedence Clearwater Revival song.
The street is filled of t-shirts with cool designs that I ended up buying four pieces at around 200 Baht (270 pesos), leaving no room for books and other souvenir Items. You can also get yourself fake ID's, from the many fake ID stalls, which reminds me of our very own University Belt area. I would have love to get myself a University of Munich ID, but I didn't asked how much.
I also met up again with Alexandra at Khao San, she was on her way home to Slovakia after spending the last year traveling around the world. She would stay there for the holiday and last I heard she was back on the road again, this time to South America. So, we met there at our pre-agreed time in front of Burger King at Khao San Road. I met Alexa the first time when she visited Manila also on the later part of 2011, but that time we hardly talked as I was shy and she speaks in English. But this time, I came prepared with pocketful of 'English' words, so we ended up talking more.
|I love Ariadne but she loves Khaosan|
I introduced Alexa to Ariadne and her friends and like me they were fascinated with what she's been doing which is traveling. Ain't we all wanted to do that? Alexa has been doing it and being surrounded by people who are doing the same thing at Khao San Road, my travel lusting reached an all time level. I kept looking at the groups of people passing by and going around Khao San and wondering to myself, the places they've been to or just about to head out for.
|ako, Alexa, Joy Pia, Jackie, Ariadne, Joe|
On our last day, Joe, Joy and Jackie have returned from their trip in Krabi island and has joined me and Ariadne on our last day in Bangkok. We only had the night to enjoy Khao San Road and we spent it by having dinner along with another kindred soul Ayan, who was also concluding a solo trip that took him from Malaysia, Laos and Thailand.
|Joe, Joy Pia, Jackie, Ariadne, Alexa, Ayan|
I saw no map of a secret beach and guess what, I'm not Leonardo diCaprio either (but I could pass up as a Benicio Del Toro haha), but I was so blessed to have experienced Khao San Road. To be able to feel what it was like being in a place where travelers starts their epic journeys, while some ends theirs. I was just a passersby who calmly took a mental note of what it was like on a maiden trip of a longterm backpacking across Asia and I was thrilled and gutted with inspiration to plot my own in the coming months.
My friend Alexa have experienced it, a few other people I know have done it. The individuals who came from all over the world and who walked the street of Khao San with me, most of them have done it while some are just about to. I know deep in my ragtag heart, that someday I will pack my backpack with the intent of threading Asia and there's a great chance I will start my own epic journey on this seemingly short stretch of a road, that just so happens is the place where thousand other kindred souls kick-started their own journeys.