NOTE: This was written on a rather bumpy bus to the Cambodian border, so spelling and grammatical errors are inevitable. You’re all mostly literate so I expect you to deal with it!
Located in the western part of Bangkok, Khao San road is essentially a 100 metre stretch of paved mercantilism. Lovingly wrapped in layers of food vendors, clothes shops, Sikh tailors and one-legged beggars, the place represents quite possibly the essence of what Bangkok is about once you’ve seen all the temples; a commercial den of epic proportions, inhabited by greedy-eyed Thai’s aiming to lift as much money out of your wallet as possible.
During the day you can buy anything from witty satirical tshirts to… well, witty satirical tshirts. Much like many touristy flea markets in SA, the vendors tend to sell almost exactly the same crap as one another. This is partially beneficial as this means one can haggle a price from one and attempt for better somewhere else. The downside, of course, is that you can spend 2 hours in Khao San road during the day and you would have seen just about everything noteworthy. Indeed, after several days of inhabitation in the area, I had started weary of the constant harassment by slick-looking Indians offering tailored suits and vendors running into my way trying to force their cheap trinkets on me. It’s offensive and loud, but worth seeing if only one can say they’ve seen Khao San road.
But at night the place changes considerably. From about 6pm onwards the tshirt vendors close up and make way for the plethora of makeshift bars and food vendors, eager to cater for the throngs of tourists out for a night of fun. And make no mistake, Khao San is packed to the gills with tourists, from all corners of the earth. Buckets of beer, cocktails of every concoction and shots of just about anything are on offer as you sit on cheap plastic chairs and watch the throngs file past you. Generally-speaking, buying drinks from these places tends to be considerably pricey. We opted instead for the 7/11, purchasing beer and thusly consuming it on the street (it’s legals in Thailand), which is ultimately a far more satisfying experience.
And then there is The Club. This fine monument to techno and house and every other mindless machine-made tune that is exported from Ibitha is located slap-bang in the middle of Khao San road. Replete with neon blue signs and giant streaming air-pillar things, the club makes one feel decidedly under-dressed when entering in slops and baggy shorts. Still, entrance is free for foreigners and the dress code is non-existent, so it’s both easy and affordable.
Anyone who knows me will realise that I generally loath house ‘ndoef ndoef” music in all it’s bastardised forms, but The Club holds a special place in my heart as it truly is an amazing experience when joined with good friends whilst travelling far away from home. Likewise, my fledgling Japanese ability is a key to instant friends in the club, as I am able to swiftly pick out the locals from the tourists, utter a quick “Nihon-jin desu ka?” and watch the amazement in their eyes as they realise the gaijin is talking their language. After a brief explanation of our lives and respective purposes therein, the new friends are officially introduced into the general population of the established friends (and one brother) and much merriment ensues.
The Club would likely suck were it not situated in Khao San road, but the fact that it’s so much fun when out on holiday means that many happy memories are made while thrashing one’s body to repetitive synthesised sounds. A few years from now, if someone asks me what I’ll remember most fondly about my time in Bangkok, it would likely be that spent in The Club with my brother and friends. There are similar and better places in Johannesburg, to be sure, but it would never be the same, nor would I want it to be.