by Pete Prinyaroje, Contributor
It's funny how a certain area or district ends up transcending the city in which it exists.
Like an actor rising above a bland movie (think Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean), the area becomes so famous that it becomes the attraction over the city itself.
Think of Broadway in New York City famous for its plays, Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong and its fantastic parties, Robson Street in Vancouver for the shopping and Hara Juku in Tokyo for its eclectic fashions. All interesting and alluring in their own right, but none are as truly unique as Bangkok's Khao San Road.
Khao San (the name meaning raw or husked rice) is the backpacker's paradise which came to prominence in the early 80's, when budget travellers - who couldn't afford Bangkok hotels but still wanted to be near to the Royal Palace to watch ongoing celebrations - convinced local residents to rent out rooms and beds.
Guest houses, hostels, pubs and shops soon started to pop-up on the road offering cheap beds, rooms, food and booze - laying the groundwork for the area that exists today.
With the current cooling economic climate casting chills through our pockets, now is as good a time as any to revisit Khao San on the next trip through SE Asia.
The area is still the cheapest in Bangkok, with accommodations varying from mattresses in a shared space (some as cheap as US$2 per night) to private hotel rooms with all the amenities.
The street still has everything Bangkok is famous (and notorious) for: ubiquitous shopping stalls offering "famous" names; hawkers offering pirated CD's, DVD's, diplomas and ID's; food stalls selling some of the best in local cuisine. And with travel and tour agencies, massage parlors, bars, pubs, and tourists in town from every corner of the globe, this is still Bangkok's primary party spot.
And the street isn't just for farangs anymore as local Bangkok residents are rediscovering Khao San. Artists and designers have returned, setting up shops and studios to show off recent creations.
One of the best times to experience Khao San is in April, during Songkran (Thailand's New Year celebration). For three days (April 13 to 15) the road is the ideal place to enjoy the Thai water festival. One monstrous water fight, nothing is left dry during the festival as everybody on the street celebrates by soaking the person standing next to him or her.
With all the wildlife alive on Khao San, what makes it so unique is the melting pot of world travellers that use it as a way station for their next journey.
This mixture of nearly every nationality on the globe, stopping in to relate travel tales and create new ones, is what makes Khao San so special. Thailand's welcoming smiles and hospitality provide the backdrop for an ideal spot to meet the rest of the world.
The collective Khao San experience is what you'll remember as you move on to your next destination…well that, and the food.
This article is provided by Pete Prinyaroje. Pete is currently working at Agoda.com. He has been providing lots of useful travel information on Asia Pacific destinations during past recent years. His articles were widely involved on many top favorite tourist destinations in Thailand, China, Japan, Australia and more. Be sure to check out his other writings at http://asiaacer.wordpress.com