mastercopycat

Virtual meanderings

Tag Archives: Khao San Road

Err, excuse me, where am I?

After an hour of travel from the airport – first on the modern elevated highway, then into the city streets – the bus dropped me off at what had to be Khao San Road, and left.

There is an old comedy starring Eddie Murphy – “Coming to America”, where Murphy is a young African prince fed up with the lavish lifestyle at the royal palace. He has just reached the age to get married – and, of course, the king has found him a perfect bride. But arranged marriages are not Murphy’s dream – instead he comes with the creative idea to travel to America (with his servant, of course). After flipping a coin, they choose New York City, and before you know it, they end up at the part of town perfect for finding a woman fit for a king. You guessed it, the Queens borough.
Long story short, this is a picture from their arrival

(Courtesy: some random blog)

    If someone had taken a picture of me at that moment when the bus dropped me at Khao San, I could easily be having that same look.

Next to the improvised bus stop lied piles of rubbish overflowing from the containers. Homeless people were sitting around, quetly minding their own business. A couple of touts immediately showed up to offer me cheap housing.  There was loud music coming from all of the nearby bars – making for a nice cacophony, guaranteed to give you a headache if you stayed at one place long enough. I could not see any better what the neighborhood looked like because the bright lights were blinding me – and hiding the scenery rather than revealing it.

Not booking a place to stay in advance now started to feel less like adventurous spirit and more like plain stupidity. After fourty eight hours of travelling, I was too tired to shop around for options – I had simply failed to take into consideration such petty details while making the plans back at home.

As the bus had dropped me right in front of a hotel door (not by chance, of course), it was only logical to inquire about their rates first. Unsurprisingly, the answer was more than double of what “it should have been”. I would not surrender so easily, so – my backpack on my back – I submerged into the human sea of Khao San proper.

Khao San Road magic

 (Cortesy: thailandtravelpro.com)

  Note:  I lost a lot of journey photos in Laos after my phone got wet in a river, so I will often be resorting to photos taken by other travellers that I looked up online.

What you cannot perceive well enough from the photo above is the overwhelming noise – the cacophony created by the mix of different songs coming from the bars, the loud talk of everyone around (the only way you could get yourself heard), and the occasional shouting of street vendors.

Hotels, hotels, hotels… In the bus to Khao San there had been brochures advertising a good room rate at some Sabbadee hotels chain if one presented the bus ticket when booking. One of them – according to the brochure – was just a couple of hundred meters away from the Khao San beginning, where I was standing. Sabbadee means “Welcome” in Thai – so, the message was clear – “We are the One!”. Or so I hoped.

I started making my way through the merry partying crowd, in between the stalls offering all kinds of stuff one never needs when not drunk. The hotel was located into one of the tiny side streets (called soi). Despite being just meters away from the noisy madness, the soi was very narrow, dark, and projected the feeling of someone hiding in the shadows – but I ventured on, ever confident that in Thailand tourists are not robbed, but simply ripped off. Indeed, the hotel entrance was there – just behind some shacks, and it featured a friendly welcoming transparant offering an even greater discount compared to that on the brochure! Things were getting better by the minute.

I happily asked for one of them discount rooms at the reception. In broken English I was told that those rooms were all taken – I would speculate that there was at most one such room to begin with – and quoted a price triple the discounted. Ever enthusiastic, I asked about that other 35% discount when presenting an airport bus ticket – as the bus brochure advertised. The guy looked at the ticket and told me that he was not aware of such a discount.

All I really wanted at this moment was to just get some sleep. But I was simply not willing to surrender myself like that… so, I went back to the Khao San madness – backpack and all – to find me a more expensive, but at least a more ‘honest(?)’ hotel. Were there any such hotels around?

Turns out there were. Five minutes later I had booked into a “Traditional Thai” hotel – at US $30 per night it was a bit pricy, indeed – but with really good rooms. In fact, I would not know it then, but it turned out that this was the best hotel room I had throughout the whole trip  (OK, and the most expensive too… these two often go hand in hand :).

Back in the old days, after such a trip one would have normally gone to bed. Alas, times have changed now. I headed back downstairs to the internet café to make a status update…