For my final few day in Asia I’ve moved from the Hualamphong area to Banglumphu – which is known to most by the name of a single street, the Khao San Road. God, how to describe this place to people who don’t know it?
Love it or hate it, this place is one of the true traveller’s crossroads where you can bump into anyone. It’s a melange of backpackers, tourists and locals, all ages and races, the hip - and the hideous. It’s crammed with hotels, bars, tattoo and massage parlours and all manner of places to eat. Think of the bar out of ‘Star Wars’ – then turn it into a whole street. In truth, if you’ve got any sense you’ll stay off the Khao San itself nowadays. I first came here 20 years ago when it was much less popular. In those days many guest houses locked their doors at Midnight. I well remember collapsing in a heap after climbing over a wrought iron gate to get into my guesthouse. Now, you just walk into the lobby of the hotel that occupies the same site and wave drunkenly to the security guard.
As well as being overpriced it’s become home to far too many people whose only ambition is to come to Bangkok and get absolutely trashed. The next street North is Rambutri which is a much more relaxed place with a better atmosphere and superior food – (unless you’re one of those people who thinks a McDonalds is the pinnacle of world cuisine). One of my favourite eateries is a collection of ramshackle tables on the pavement outside a 7-11. Meals are chosen from a cart which holds some of the best food I’ve eaten. There’s a superb curried pumpkin, succulent pork with beautifully crunchy green beans – as well as all the standards like Green curry or barbecued fish. Another favourite is a second street cafe that has fish to die for – deep fried and served with a superb chilli sauce and crispy spinach. The kitchen is on the pavement so you can watch the food being prepared.
One of the many things I love about Asia is this life on the street. There’s no hiding away behind doors here. Eateries, shops and bars are mostly part of streetlife which leads to a far greater level of interaction between folk then we see back in the UK. It’s a fascinating place to sit back, relax and people watch.
Life in the UK is going to seem rather flat by comparison.