Khao San Road
I Cringed As My Friend Said “You Should Stay Near Khao San Road Because Its Nearer To My Area.”
Having used online chat services since 1989, it would be correct to say that I have a large contingent of friends around the world with whom I chat regularly. One of the pleasures that I derive while traveling is meeting these friends for dinner and a tour of the area. Naturally I try to make it more convenient for them by staying in an area close to them. In this particular case, the area is Khao San Road.
I have blogged on this area before, since I have had the (mis)fortune of staying there at least 2 times in the past. Hui-Chen is also quite familiar with this area, having sat at a table with me, watching the throngs of slovenly foreigners parade past us in a display worthy of a carnival sideshow. Khao San Road boasts the highest concentration of dreadlocks worn by white European women on our planet. Its also an area known for homeless foreigners.
As I made my way via taxi toward the general area, it was raining heavily. This had the effect of washing away the crowd of people and their associated trash from the street. I couldn’t help thinking how decent the area looked devoid of foreigners. It must have been a nice place once upon a time. Fortunately it stopped raining just as I stepped out of the taxi. It took less than 10 minutes for things to go back to being “normal” (if you will allow me to use that word in connection with this place).
I found a guesthouse with small dorm style rooms. No blanket, no window, bathroom down the hallway, this room sells for 200 baht per night, or just barely over US$5.00. The restaurant in the guesthouse was quite good actually, and the staff was friendly. I have no complaints about the place where I stayed. Going out was another matter altogether.
Waking around, I couldn’t help but notice something that made me wish I were elsewhere. This place is a real party town, and one can see foreigners of every persuasion staggering around in a drunken stupor. This time however, I was revolted by the amount of vomit I encountered while looking for a late night meal. Seeing vomit while looking for food are two experiences that do not go well together. Drunken foreigners have now taken to openly puking on the street, anywhere they feel the urge to purge their stomachs of whatever they have consumed recently. Apparently they feel this urge frequently.
I decided to eat at a place that I have frequented before because the food is decent and moderately priced. What makes things difficult in this area is the fact that the foreigners wouldn’t know good Thai food if it fell from the sky onto their plate. I see people lined up for lousy Pad Thai that would embarrass a Taiwanese street vendor parked beside it. Nevertheless, they gobble it up in wonderment because its so exotic. Yeah, I suppose that is probably the most exotic thing most of these people have ever seen or eaten. Too bad its not very authentic. I did try that stuff the first time because it looked OK. As I was contemplating the fact that there was no discernable flavor, someone next to me commented on how good it was. “You’ve never been to Taiwan, have you?” “No.” “Well, that explains it.” was my parting comment while my plate was last seen in mid-air heading towards the garbage can.
Having arrived at the restaurant, I ordered 3 dishes, one of them being “deep fried sausage.” Any experienced Thailand traveler (one who ventures outside of Bangkok) knows how good Thai sausage is. What arrived at my table was decidedly not Thai sausage, but rather, deep fried cocktail wieners.” I explained to the waiter that these were not Thai sausages, but were in reality, hotdogs (with (gross) ketchup on the side, no less). The waiter tried to convince me that these were indeed sausages (I am so tired of arguing with people about English definitions), and he went to bring another waiter over. Waiter #2 just parroted #1’s contention, which I flatly rejected. A few minutes later, a “manager” came over and began to argue with me in earnest. I told him “dude, they pulled this same crap on me in Laos the last time” (where the “sausages” in my breakfast were indeed, sliced hotdogs). He then went on a diatribe about me being “the only one” and “the only one in the world” who didn’t “know” Thai sausages.
I looked around. Hmm…. drunken British students, no doubt fresh from Soi Cowboy. An older German couple, drinking Thai beer. Other white people, mostly males, sitting with Thai females ½ their age.
“Yeah boss, you are right. I am the only person here that doesn’t “know” these are Thai sausages, because I’ve been outside of Bangkok!” Michael Turton knows too!
Before You Order The “Sausages” Ask To See Them First. Alternatively, Tell Them Up Front That You Do Not Want “Vienna Sausages” Or Hotdogs.
The guy who sells guitars and stuff outside of his wife’s beauty salon is no longer there. I was looking forward to hanging out with him and playing some of his guitars.
Would this be a good time to relate the story of how I went to a Bangkok music store one time and tested out a guitar and amp, only to find the country’s #1 recording artist eyeing me? Apparently my 38 years of playing is substantially longer than his existence on earth. Anyway, back to the present….
The next day my friend told me she wasn’t able to meet me after all. I spent that whole day in Khao San road for nothing. I immediately packed up and went to Tara Lake Hotel, far far away from downtown Bangkok. I hate Bangkok, can you tell? The food outside of central Bangkok is like from another world. Its considerably better. I just don’t see what people find so attractive in Bangkok, but then again, I’m not shopping for bar girls. The joke really is on the tourists who think that the prices are cheap. Yes, they are cheap when compared to the prices for the same items in their home countries. But, the prices are high when compared to the prices in other areas of Thailand.