The Khao San Road. Say these words to anyone who has been to Bangkok and they will either smile or wince, but the surrounding area has so much more to offer than dirt-cheap hotels and even cheaper t-shirts. There are numerous important historical monuments in the surrounding area, known as Banglamphu, such as the impossible-to-miss Democracy Monument. Placed in the centre of the junction on Ratchadamnoen Road, the monument is a source of immense pride for Thai people and is worth closer inspection. If you are unable to make it to The Grand Palace then you can get a taste of the stunning Thai-Buddhist style at Wat Chang Songkhram; although nowhere near as impressive as Wat Phra Kaew, it is still a beautiful architectural accomplishment and is located at the very end of Khao San. If you fancy an idling walk along the Chao Phraya River then you may come across Fort Phra Sumen, a striking reminder of the militaristic past of this fabulous country. Built in 1783 to defend the city against forces from the west, this whitewashed gem is a wonderful place to spend some time.
Bangkok wouldn’t be the cultural centre that it is if it didn’t have a wide selection of wonderful restaurants and bars and Banglamphu is no exception; whilst Khao San is awash with bars and cheap food stalls there are a few places worth checking out for the discerning drinker. Hippie de Bar is a lovely oasis of calm amidst the chaos, favored by Thai youngsters and discretely located in an alley halfway down Khao San, this bar of mismatched chairs and a nice little courtyard offers something different. A short walk along Thanon Tanao will lead you to Taksura, a stately home that has fallen into disrepair and has been turned into a glorious bar-cum-house-party. Hidden knowingly down a small lane, Taksura also serves great food, is predominantly frequented by locals and is one of the best drinking dens in town. Suzie Walking Street is a little alleyway that leads onto Soi Rambuttri, a quieter alternative to Khao San which has numerous bars that tend to be a little more atmospheric and is also home to some wonderful street food stalls. If you continue to the end, where the road seems to get quiet, you will find Gypsy Lips, a VW van that has been converted into a makeshift bar. The staff are friendly, drinks cheap and they play great music; what more could you want than that? For the adventurous, there are numerous good bars further up on Thanon Samsen, the best thing to do is to jump in a tuk-tuk and stop at one that takes your fancy.
Hemlock is one of the best restaurants in the area and a wonderful and relatively inexpensive place to sample some of the best cuisine Thailand has to offer. Conveniently located on Thanon Phra Athit, near the end of Soi Rambuttri, Hemlock is perfect for couples and groups of friends who wish to dine in an understated yet classy atmosphere. Of the numerous food stalls that line Banglamphu, the best for price, quality and a seat is the first stall on the left after O! Hungry bar on Soi Rambuttri. For cheap eats in a nice environment, try heading to Bar Bali, which is right next to Hemlock; it can be a bit of a tight squeeze but if you can get a seat, the low lighting and gentle music can be a very welcome respite from the chaos of Banglamphu.
The city is famed for its nightlife, and with good reason. The bars and nightclubs are amongst the best in the world, which is why the city regularly features in many lists of
the best places to party
RCA and Ari are also popular nightlife areas and if you can avoid the sleaze, the touristy Sukhumvit has many great bars to find on many of its soi’s; but write off Banglamphu at your peril as you may just miss out on the best night of your holiday.