Although the area still has it’s budget guesthouses on offer there are increasingly more upmarket hotels, restaurants and bars appearing in this area of Bangkok that are attracting an entirely different crowd. So, while the Khao San Road is still the noisy, free flowing, backpackers paradise that it has been for so long, this area does have a lot more to offer in its surrounding streets - like the relaxed Soi Rambuttri and the hip, arty neighbourhood of Phra Athit Road, which are a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Khao San.
It just wouldn’t be fair to label this whole area as a backpacker ghetto because the Khao San Road itself is fairly short and situated within walking distance is Rattanakosin - the heart of Bangkok's old city - also known as Banglamphu. Banglamphu is overflowing with history, culture, markets, parks and wonderful experiences just waiting to happen to you.
Arguably one of the most visited areas of Bangkok, Banglamphu is the home of iconic sites like the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, which is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand housing the Emerald Buddha. Then there is Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha - another sight not to be missed.
Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing on Bamrung Muang Road is possibly a little too far to walk to from the Grand Palace so we would suggest a quick tuk-tuk ride to see the impressive interior architecture, the cloistered courtyard surrounding the main chapel and the 156 Buddha images along Wat Suthat's outer walls as well as the four entry gates individually hand-carved with incredibly intricate detail. Outside you’ll find the unmissable blood red Giant Swing towering over 20m high which is also impressive and a great photo opportunity.
The Khao San Road and Banglamphu remain one of the most charming and historic areas in Bangkok offering many, if not most, of Bangkok’s most visited historic sites and Buddhist temples. You should definitely consider booking a hotel nearby if you want to explore Bangkok’s fascinating history.
Another great past time in this part of Bangkok is to visit the markets which sell everything from religious keepsakes to mobile phone chargers to clothes in every shape, colour and size. You’ll find market traders lining the streets everywhere but a couple of markets that we thought were worth mentioning include Amulet Market at Wat Mahathat which is good for those Buddhist amulets and statues that you're sure to want to take back home as a keepsake.
The Khlong Lod Night Market in Rachini Road (near Tha Chang Pier) is also worth a visit. It’s a bit different - like a flea market in the west - with the vendors setting up from around 6pm. We would suggest leaving it a little later though so the traders can get setup - anytime from 8pm onwards is a good time to go and have a look around.
The Bobae Market in Bobae Tower on Damrong Rak Road is similar to Pratunam Market and sells clothes in bulk at wholesale prices. If however you're looking for somewhere to get some bargains that will fit in your suitcase or backpack head for the Babae Tower instead where you will find over 650 shops and bargains galore! To get to Babae Market you’ll need to use Saen Saep Express Boat Pier.
So, what else does the Khao San and Banglamphu area have to offer? Well, a stone's throw to the south of Khao San is Ratchadamnoen Road, one of Bangkok's most famous roads, and in a roundabout at the center of this 10 lane road is Democracy Monument, an imposing symbol of Thailand's switch to a constitutional monarchy in the 1930s that has since become very symbolic of the Thai people's struggle for democracy.
One point to consider before committing to the Khao San and Banglamphu area is that while it isn’t far from most of Bangkok's most popular tourist sites, this area is several kilometers from the nearest BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (Underground) stations. A Chao Phraya express boat pier and canal boat taxi pier are both within walking distance, but most who stay at Khao San rely on tuk-tuks and taxis to get around. See our getting around in Bangkok our guide for a rundown on your transport options while in Bangkok. Alternatively, why not just book a hotel and stay local! Being able to see the historic sites and temples early and before they get too busy is highly recommended!
We love this part of Bangkok and visit it often both during the day to take some photos, explore and have a bite to eat and in the evening, occasionally, to watch the amusement of the ever-busy Khao San Road over a few cold beers.
Khao San and Banglamphu have a lot to offer from cost effect all night partying, markets to quench your thirst for a bargain or two and, of course, the incredibly beautiful temples steeped in history - this part of Bangkok has it all and is a must when you’re in Bangkok - whether you decide to visit for the day or book a local hotel.
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