Travel Story; Day 1 Khao San Road, Bangkok
January 1, 1970
by Keryn Nelson
My first impression of Bangkok, Thailand
Had I asked my eight year old self what she thought she would be doing fourteen years later, more distinctly in February of 2014, “running through the streets of Bangkok” would have been a faint white orb of an idea floating twenty thousand miles away from her in the idea stratosphere. But we know how life tends to work itself out.
A friend and I had planned our two week trip a few months before we escaped Taiwan’s moist winter to resurface into the more familiar temperatures of the tropics (My friend being from Saint Vincent and me from it’s neighbouring island, Saint Lucia).
The entire trip would involve days of temple hopping, cycling with Kimono dragons, sailing down floating markets, rafting down rivers on bamboo while looking out for elephants among several other things, but those first few hours on Khaosun Road have burnt themselves a spot in my memory for good. (I hope)
Our chosen Guest House was a NO-NO
We had gotten to Thailand a little more than 24 hours prior and I remember being drowsy from flu medication which I had doused my internal organs in during a desperate attempt to restore my health for our trip. My Thai classmate, someone who I consider a close friend had picked us up from the airport and helped with getting us to the “vintage theme” guest house she helped us book for the 7 days we would be staying in Bangkok before heading south. (I couldn’t resist here to highlight the stretch those guest house owners had taken calling their establishment ‘vintage’, something I believe the average person would think to mean ‘charmingly old-fashioned’, for them it meant ‘broken down and dusty’. Although we had not initially been bothered by their embellishment in our attempt to remain positive, the owners there are notorious for ill-treating clients, shutting off their water, removing tissue paper from bathrooms, remaining unbothered by their bedbug problem, amongst other things; things we would only come to learn the hard way. But that’s an entirely different tale. Baan Hualampong Guest House receives two thumbs down from me.) Grateful to have made it safely and anticipating the days ahead, we showered then went to bed.
Protests and Shopping Malls
The following day my friend rejoined us and we took to the streets of Bangkok. If you have a deep interest in international politics and foreign affairs you would have remembered that in 2013-2014 there was political unrest in Thailand with locals engaging in month long protests against an exiled leader’s attempt to re-enter the country. The only thing we witnessed were motorcades, and nonviolent rallies in the street. From there we had done a little shopping, deciding to pick up gift souvenirs earlier on in our trip to avoid having to worry about them later. We then met with my friend’s sister after which we all took a ferry to “Asiatique” The Riverfront; an open air mall, which I do recommend for tasty Thai dining and picking up cool gifts, where we ate and did some more shopping.
Drinks and Shisha at Bombay Bar
Hours later night had fallen, we took the ferry back, my friend and her sister were joined by another one of their friends before they took us to a place called “Bombay Bar”, a chic spot with cabanas set up out on the streets. Each cabana was walled in on three sides with wood, over the wood hung large pieces of dark red fabric. To enter, you removed your shoes and crawled up and onto an elevated platform to sit on cushions surrounding a small center table. The entire thing was dimly lit which set off a mystical vibe.
It was surreal to be sitting there in a quirky-trim hut in the nowhere of Bangkok, carefree… me who had been shelled off for a large portion of my life… I, who had little more than a couple months worth of studio apartment rent money in the bank, had found myself soaring in one of ‘the most infamous cities in the world’.
We ordered a few drinks and rounds of sisha, drank and talked, thin white fog floating around us; a precursor to the night’s climax.
When we no longer felt the need to have the hookah re-lit we left and headed to Khao San Road; a strip of road pulled from the movies.
The Infamous Khao San Road
Imagine a street littered with tourists and a vague smell of everything hovering in the air above your head. The scent was a mishmash of sweet spices, sour spices, fried foods, oil, sea food, tar, ink and whatever else exists between these things. The road was lined with restaurants selling varied cuisines, bars, clubs, hostels, hotels, massage parlors, travel agencies and tour operators. Wedged between and infront these were heaps of mostly foreigners but not excluding locals, seated around small tables, their faces red with laughter and spirits. There were also a few stalls where they sold beaded jewelry, printed vests, blouses and trousers, bags, purses, henna, fried insects and not forgetting the ‘ping-pong’ show (those who know, know. Those who don’t, be grateful) promoters making their way through the crowd with their subliminal placards. We made our rounds and then decided to have a go at the Bangkok club scene. Unfortunately we could not get into one of the nightclubs said to be very popular amongst Thai and foreigners my travel buddy and I making a rookie mistake leaving our passports at the guest house, however our Thai friends took us to a local hotspot right there on Khao San Road instead; Brick Bar.
Perfect Place to End the Night; Brick Bar
We had our heads blown off when we walked into the space. It was crammed with locals jamming harder than I swear I have ever seen anyone jam, something my friend and I both agreed on, and we are from the Caribbean. These people danced, sung, jumped, screamed to live music and it was awesome; making our irresponsible mistake seem completely worth it and the perfect conclusion to our first official day in Bangkok.
Looking back, it truly was magic, even years later I can still feel the joy I felt then. I can almost still feel the wind from my wings as they readied themselves to flap with enthusiastic anticipation throughout our remaining days in Thailand. We spent fourteen days there from which I can conjure up endless stories, but this is the summary of day one. My travel story; Day 1, Khao San Road, Bangkok.