Is Khao San chill or not?

Let’s start of this blog by saying that we are not writing this to spoil your fun, pretend we know more about Thailand than you do, or trying to talk down the Khao San experience in any way. It is what it is, and it is definitely a part of Bangkok everyone will check out eventually.

Classic Khao San fashion

But it is important to point out that it Khao San has very little to do with Thailand and that the locals tend to avoid the place like the plague. You see, every country that enjoys heaps of tourist has that one place that regular locals simply don’t go to unless they are employed there in one way or another (more on that later).

You see these everywhere, but not a single local ever eats these. It’s all intended for that one selfie or your friend losing a bet

So while everything in the area revolves around tourists, this also means that there is virtually nothing left that can be considered “genuinely Thai”. Restaurants adapt their menus to the taste of foreigners, shops sell low-end tourist trinkets, the entire neighbourhood is rife with hostels (often illegally constructed) and with no public transport conveniently nearby you will be cut off from the rest of the city.

Taking one of these into town is an expensive and stressful experience

In the area, there also is a disproportionate amount of tour operators, dealers and tattoo artists who specialize in “quick & cheap”. Con artists knowing full well that an unprepared foreigner is valuable also consider Khao San their preferred work space.

The only way of getting anywhere is by taxi or TukTuk, and the ones operating from Khao San are notorious for their shake-down practices. Taxis in the capital are forced by law to use a meter and to take on any ride their passenger desires. At normal hours this is usually what happens, but in Khao San you will find yourself dealing with inquisitive taxi drivers who will haggle with you for a fixed fee.

Pro tip: If a driver is cool about flicking on his meter right away, tip them and let them know you appreciate him doing the right thing.

The last time friends of mine came to Bangkok I urged them to book a hotel a little closer to the city centre so we could explore Bangkok itself, instead of the Khao San Disneyland. So we settled for a nice hotel in the Thong Lor area, and booked their last nights at Wayha Hostel since they were flying to Chiang Mai the next morning at 7am. This is a great solution for early flights by the way, and I recommend anyone with an early flight from Don Mueang to look into Wayha Hostel – it really saves you a lot of stress.

Getting away from the backpacker area (in essence, that is what Khao San is), you will have the opportunity to visit temples that are not tourist attractions and where people actually come to make merit. You will be able to taste genuine Thai food and experience the delight from the local staff when they see that you find their dish “aroi” (delicious).

What Khao San is good for

If you are looking for a cheap night out and you would like to avoid a potential dud, make sure you check out Khao San at least once. The entire street is well-dialled into the party process, and as night falls, things kick into gear. The bars who are allowed to play their music loud most definitely will, and you could argue that the atmosphere on these little terraces is better than in some of the high-end clubs downtown.

You will also make friends easily, as Khao San is the one place where there is a very high concentration of low-budget backpackers and the ones who are wrapping up their 3-month trip will share all their experiences with the newbies.

What Khao San isn’t good for

Don’t expect anything genuine on Khao San. The Banana pancakes are there for you only, as Thai locals don’t eat them. The same goes for Pad Thai, the aforementioned scorpions or fried rice. There are plenty of beginner dishes for curious tourists that won’t taste like napalm but still challenge a curious traveler. Think of Tom Yum, a medium-spicy Somtam or any other noodle soup pimped up with one of the four different condiments.


Tom Yam Kung is the quintessential beginner dish and 5-star delicious

The good stuff is not always compatible with western stomachs and as such, nobody makes or sells it around that area. You will also find that most Asians hanging out are actually from Singapore, China, Japan or elsewhere as the Thai prefer to go to RCA (a massive party complex), Thong Lor (an upscale nightlife area) or one of the many clubs/restaurants/venues downtown.

Don’t shop in Khao San unless you are fine with buying fake articles. Almost everything is fake in the area, and while that’s fine for flipflops or a funny wifebeater, watches, sunglasses, diving goggles, camera equipment or other more valuable items are usually not the real deal around here. So keep that in mind when you’re about to buy a Rolex from a guy leaning over to your table.

Khao San pros

It’s cheap
Lots of backpackers like you
Every night is a party, identical to last night’s party
Best area for eating fried scorpions
Embrace that 3rd world feeling

Khao San Cons

It’s cheaper elsewhere
Lots of backpackers like you
The regular nightlife follows a normal pattern with concerts, pool parties and special events
Nobody in Asia eats fried scorpions
Bangkok is a hyper-modern city

Bangkok is a hyper-modern city with rooftop bars, high-end shopping malls, spas, and some of the most luxurious cinemas you can imagine


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One of the best and cheapest hostels near Don Muang Airport

One of the best and cheapest hostels near Don Muang Airport is a mere 10 minutes away from the check-ins. So whenever your flight is, simply arrange a taxi with the reception the night before, set your alarm clock and fall asleep completely carefree.

Board your early Bangkok flight – stress-free
While Bangkok is an amazing city, its traffic problems are legendary and locals are well-aware of the trouble the congested roads can throw at you when you need to catch a flight.

You see, the highway system and tollways are excellent, but getting out of town or onto the highway itself is usually where the trouble starts. So if you are staying in a residential area, around Sukhumvit or even worse, Khao San, you really are going to have to take gridlocked traffic into account.

And that is unfortunate because most of the budget airliners fly from Don Muang and their cheapest flights are usually in the early morning. Whether it is Nok Air, Tiger Air, Air Asia or any of the other local budget airliners, all of them offer flights starting at 7 am. Later flights will cost a lot more if they haven’t been sold out already, so getting to the check-in at 6 am is worth it, especially if you are on a budget.

Airport hotels are costly
Well-aware that travellers have no choice but to book a room with them, hotels around airports will charge excessively, especially if they are located on the Airport itself. But Wayha Hostel is simply perfect for travellers looking to catch an early flight. Extremely close to the airport, getting there takes about 10 minutes, and the area around the hostel has a wide array of possibilities.

Things to do around Don Muang the evening before your flight
Let’s say you are flying in the weekend or on a Monday. Chatuchak Market is legendary and only open on Saturdays and Sundays. And when the many little shops slowly close down, beer bars open up both on Chatuchak Market and its new and hipper neighbour, JJ Green.

Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is legendary in Thailand and for fighting fans, this is the one location they simply cannot miss. Unlike the (sometimes very staged) Muay Thai events in the more touristic areas in Thailand, Lumpinee is as real as it gets and attending a single fight night will teach you more about Thailand and its customs than a month on one of the islands. Entire fighting schools will be in the corner, supporting their fighters and the locals usually come out in droves.

Lumpini Stadium knockout

Experiencing genuine Muay Thai fights is a unique experience

For visitors who simply want to spend a laid-back evening before their early flight the next day, Liab Duan night market or a local restaurant is a perfect way to enjoy some food, drink some beers and find your way back to your room for an early night’s sleep.

We’re not sure whether Wayha is one of the cheapest hostels near Don Muang Airport, but we’re definitely one of the best choices around. We cater to travellers, locals who like to travel in style, backpackers who prefer not to stay in Khao San and fans of boutique hostels in general. Our reviews speak for themselves and we are looking forward to welcoming you at Wayha!

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