Khao San Sunrises: Bummin’ it in Bangkok

Royal Palace Buildings in Bangkok, Thailand

I had some expectations for Bangkok when I arrived at 4 AM on yet another “perfectly” scheduled night bus drop off. Tales of the epic street parties, unbelievable street food, and strangely, flocks of lady boys, swirling around my head. As expected, the city turned my sleep cycle upside down. We regularly went to bed after 6 am and slept deep into the afternoon, despite the laundry women’s best attempts to chat and work right outside of our room starting at 7 AM each morning.

We stayed at Greenhouse, a hotel/bar one block from Khao San Road, the main tourist party street in Bangkok. Being so close to the action was both a blessing and curse. We were close enough to hear the action of the night into the morning when I wanted nothing but quiet, yet that same proximity allowed me to zombie walk my way to bed at 6 AM with ease. Our first day in Bangkok involved a 4 mile walk to Chinatown that was anything but effortless.

Eating in Chinatown

Chinatown food street in Bangkok, Thailand

We walked two miles through narrow alley markets and busy streets to Chinatown where hundreds of food vendors lined the streets. It was mayhem, but there was also something tranquil about sitting at a tiny food stand and watching the waves of people pass by. Right when we decided to head back to the hotel it started to absolutely dump rain.

I had been in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phnom Penh during rain storms, but this rain in Bangkok was something else. It wasn’t even the force with which the rain came down that impressed me; it was the sheer volume of water that was violently ripping through a completely urban city – streets were flooding, gutters overflowing, and drain pipes gushing. Kudos to the whoever planned the drainage systems in Bangkok. Minutes after the rain stopped, which was conveniently right after we got back to the hotel, you would never even know it had been raining.

Partying on Khao San Road

Khao San is a wild street simply because there are thousands of people from all over the world crammed into this little area drinking until 5 am. Not only do the bars serve cocktails and beer, they serve buckets of alcohol. Literally buckets. At peak hours, it is difficult to walk down the street due to the hordes of drunk tourists. Lining the street and floating around, food vendors offer grilled scorpions among other delectables for a late night snack.

Grilled Scorpions in Bangkok

Beyond the normal buckets of Leo and Beer Change, one weird experience occurred in the bathroom of a basement club on Khao San Road. As soon as I started relieving myself at a urinal, the bathroom attendant came up behind me and started massaging my shoulders. I had just the right amount of alcohol in my system to embrace it. He massaged my shoulders and turned my head to each side cracking my neck, then as soon as I zipped up and turned around, he cracked my whole back in one swift move. I gave him a tip and went back out into the lively club. Honestly, it was a pretty amazing minute.

Things to See in Bangkok

Starting out my trip in Vietnam, I thought the little pagodas and temples were great because I had never seen anything like them in my life. Then I went to Laos and the temples in Luang Prabang were a little more intricate and impressive than the ones in Vietnam. After that, I explored the much larger temples in Phnom Penh and the Angkor Archaeological site. By far and away, Bangkok’s royal palace and Wat Pho were the grandest structures I had come across.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand

On the grounds of the royal palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the main attraction of the city. A little to avoid any expectations, the emerald buddha is actually really small. After seeing the reclining buddha (see below), I was expecting to walk in and see an emerald statue the size of an elephant. In reality, it looks to be the size of human baby.

Royal Palace

Bangkok Royal Palace

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, ThailandI’m not 100% sure if the building pictured above were the main portion of the palace, but there were guards and some cool armories in the front. The whole area is similar to the royal palace in Phnom Penh but even larger and more intricate.

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

The endless structures and statues at Wat Pho would admired even more so if they weren’t adjacent to the royal palace and emerald buddha. The reclining buddha is around 150 feet long and fills the entire room of a massive building. It is definitely impressive, but I think exploring the rest of the grounds was just as cool.

Chatuchack Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Close to a skytrain exit, the Chatuchack market is famous for being the largest weekend market in the world. It is over 27 acres and has 8,000+ stalls to explore. Due to the blazing heat and our incredibly weak appetite for shopping, Stu and I only spent an hour or so eating and walking around the market.

Paragon Foodhall

Paragon Foodhall in Bangkok, Thailand

One last little gem we came across on a train ride back from the Sukhumvit district was the Paragon Foodhall. It may look like a normal mall foodcourt in the picture, but it was amazing. I am trying not to exaggerate when I say there were over 100 options there. It was so big that I saw three McDonalds on our predatory lap before we decided what to eat. This place is worth a visit.

Heading back to Bangkok in the Future

Bangkok is massive. Even though I was there for 6 days, much longer than the average backpacker, I still only experienced a glimpse of what the city has to offer. I never went to the downtown area with modern buildings, high-end clubs, and fancy restaurants. I will definitely be coming back in the future to shell out more money and experience a different side of the city.

If you have any of your own stories or tips about Bangkok, please comment and share below!

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