BANGKOK’S Khao San Road has been a marvel among travelers for decades, but the area is changing drastically and locals are not happy about it.
The area is known throughout the world for its cheap booze, even cheaper clothes to stave off a visit to the laundrette, colorful tuk-tuks, and an array of Thailand’s most tempting culinary offerings.
“Khao San” translates as “milled rice”, a reflection of its former times during which the street was a major Bangkok rice market.
However, in the last four decades or so, Khao San Road has developed into a world-famous “backpacker ghetto” as it offers cheap accommodation, ranging from “mattress in a box”-style hotels to reasonably priced three-star hotels.
By day, shops along Khao San Road sell handicrafts, paintings, clothes, local fruits, unlicensed CDs, DVDs, a wide range of fake IDs, used books, and other collectibles. By night, the streets turn into bars and music is played, food hawkers sell barbecued insects, exotic snacks for tourists, and there are also local people selling ping pong shows.
Khao San Road is especially popular during the Songkran festival, arguably the biggest Thai celebration. Locally known as Thailand’s New Year, it is officially observed between April 13 and April 15 but in reality, celebrations often last an entire week.
Khao San Road will throw some of the wildest celebrations, with the entire length of the road turned into an almighty water fight which would be impossible to get out of. Hundreds of Songkran revelers would rock up armed with water “weapons” of all shapes and sizes, giant cooler containers, and pressure hoses.
But fun and laughter aside, Khao San Road is about to go through a massive change in the coming months.
According to Thai PBS, Bangkok’s City Hall will has ordered a major transformation of Khao San Road, scheduled to happen in about seven months. The remaking will include granite repaving, raising of the road surface to the same level as the footpaths, landscaping, and rezoning of approximately 240 pavement stalls.
Adjustable stainless steel poles will be erected along the road to demarcate a one-way traffic lane, Deputy Bangkok Governor Sakonthee Patthiyakul said. A whopping total of THB48 million (USD1.5 million) will be set aside for the work.
To add on, the operating hours of the pavement stalls will be from 9am to 9pm while pushcarts selling drinks, fruit, or food will not be allowed into Khao San Road.