Today, like every other day in this urban jungle, it’s 30-something degrees combined with 100% humidity. The sun shines pleasantly but I’m pissing sweat out my forehead at an alarming rate. Thankfully bottled water from the local 7-11 is no more than 10baht (about 20p) and the store is fortified with various air conditioning machines. This 2 minute interlude is not enough though, and back out on the streets I’m a major target for the ‘grabby’ touts selling supposedly Giorgio Armani 3-piece suits. Really? ‘Who wants a fucking 3-piece suit in this heat’ I think to myself. Without alcohol the frustration grows; the incessant chanting of the massage girls (‘massaaaa, massaaaa’) is simply too much to bear, and I begin to realise why every other person on Khao San Road is carrying a beer or three.
Even as the sun begins to set, the relentless heat refuses to subside, and I finally opt for the shade offered by the plethora of colourful bars this chaotic street has to offer. A quick stroll up the road and my ears are bombarded with a medly of music… that is if you can consider the Pixie Lott Hard-House Remix music. One bar on my left is playing reggae music though, but glancing through the bamboo entrance I see a group of Rastafarian wannabes; basically just dread-locked white guys in baggy fisherman pants. They may look fresh from the fierce streets of Phnom Penh and the mountains of Burma, but my guess is they grew their beards in London, Madrid or Rome and flew out just a couple of days ago. Vain bastards everywhere, this whole road is a masquerade; who has the coolest sunglasses? Who has the best pecs? Who was hipster enough to get off the beaten track? And most importantly; who got the most pussy in Vang Vieng?
A few doors down and Bangkok’s finest Irish bar is teeming with teenagers. The new Jason Derulo song is on, that is the Latino edited version where his voice sounds like a high pitched 8-year old – is this Crunk music? Doesn’t matter, sounds fucking woeful. I decide to retire on a street opposite Khao San, Soi Rambuttri, where the atmosphere is more chilling. Sawasdee House is the name, and it’s pleasant to find some soothing lounge music. Sitting amongst the tropical magnolia trees and flamboyant fairy lights, anyone who needs it can find a moment of tranquility and much needed peace. I can’t stay for long though, I’m meeting an English guy in an hour, and a French girl after that.
After some shitty food (this seems to correlate with how many tourists there are…the more farang, the shittier the food) and a few $1 Singhas, a quick visit to my spartan bedroom is necessary. I pay the Thai equivalent of £1.50 for a prison-esque room. My bed is solid, the walls are browning, the fan rotates slower than my aging grandma can walk, and a family of Germans (God knows why they’re staying here) make a ruckus down the hallway. There is no hot water, but this is a godsend; the ice cold power-shower cleanses 24 hours worth of perspiration and soothes my reddening skin. I dry myself frantically because the window of opportunity between being fresh from the shower and the first wave of sweat is minimal…almost non-existent. I’m lucky to get my new Chang T-Shirt (it is customary to buy one) on swiftly and dryly, then head back down onto the noisy streets of Khao San Road to do some people-watching and, let’s face it, get shit-drunk.
I meet my buddy Matt who is English, and I’m introduced to his new American room-mate Joe who teaches English in South-Korea. We grab several beers on the street and eat some cheap versions of classic Western cuisine such as the hotdog or the cheeseburger (again…massively shit), before drunkenly deciding to get some piercings. I joke that we should each get football-related tattoos, for me this would be an Aston Villa (lulz) badge on my ankle, but it’s not good to joke about these things here; they soon become a reality.
Tattoo businesses are prevalent in Bangkok and even more so on Khao San Road, and a major source of income is lobster-like sunburned Brits; you can get your bell-end pierced here whether you’ve drunk 15 bottles of Chang or not, just so long as you have the cash up front. It’s safe to say many bad decisions are made on this road. Sensibly, though, we opt for a more modest approach to body modifications, and leave with only sore ear-ring and eyebrow (yes…eyebrow) punctures.
Later on I find my French friend in a bar at the top of the road with some German acquaintances. We decide to watch the football; I think England and Spain are playing…but it could be anyone. You see I’ve now consumed 2 buckets of Sang Som and Thai Red-bull, on top of a tank-load of beer, and the night is blurring into chaos and disorder amongst the neon bright skyline. In a drunken stupor I try to impress my European friends with German linguistics. Wo sind Sie von I stammer…but the conversation is swiftly reaffirmed in English.
We soon separate (probably for the best), and I stagger down Khao San Road in a fashion that only a true British tourist can. I regroup with Matt and Joe, who are giggling at the T-Shirts for sale in one of a multitude of markets. One T-shirt depicts a Mr.Men character wearing a sort of turban, and reads ‘Mr.Jihad’. Another T-shirt depicts the outline of a pig and a chicken having sex; this T-Shirt simply reads ‘WRONG’, though I think most people can figure that one out for themselves.
Before I can even consider buying any of the useless shit on offer (fake arm tattoo sleeves and dreadlocks for example), though, I am ushered into a new bar that is inventively called ‘The Club’; no matter that I have just lost my flip-flops; no matter that I can barely stand up; and no matter blood is dripping from my ear onto my white T-Shirt. Just pay 100baht, enter, and get a fucking drink.
‘The Club’ is rife with dick-heads. Aussie lads ponce around in skin-tight singlets, potbellied 50-something sex tourists leer at the local talent, and an unholy amount of she-males (you can tell by those big hands) aggressively lure unsuspecting Westerners into the world of unknown. The music is loud and I wonder around in a daze, but I make new friends everywhere I turn. After going for a much-needed piss I walk out the Gents with a lad from Bolton and a skinny Dutch teenager – ‘Thailand is the best’ – are the slurred words that splatter my impairing ear. One more bucket finished and it’s time for me to leave, the cycle of shitty music is too much, and there is only so many times a man can hear Black Eyed Peas ‘Tonight‘ in 24 hours. Remix or not.
Back on Khao San Road and the night is in full swing under a full moon. All the crazies are out. English louts scatter the street celebrating a victory over Spain, I even pick up an ugly rendition of ‘Rule Britannia’. This cuts through the never-ending boom-boom of the nearby Reggaeton party and the constant chit-chat of the gap-yah kids on holiday courtesy of mummy and daddy. Local vendors are selling diazepam to the backpackers, an aromatic scent clings to the air from ‘that mad Thai guy’s stall’ selling fried locusts, and some Dutch chick wearing a Tubing tank-top collapses on the floor laughing while her sheepish boyfriend politely barters with a policeman. And just when I think I’ve seen it all for one night in one location, something odd whizzes past my feet…it’s just a paraplegic on a skateboard banging a can full of change on the floor, though, a standard sight on Khao San Road.
The occasional ‘married with 2-children’, middle-class family, stopping in Bangkok en-route to Koh Samui will have some explaining to do to the little-ones. The markets are selling machetes and samurai swords; others sport bats and butterflies; the rest are littered with drug paraphernalia and counterfeit porn DVDs. A handful of other bars offer strippers and blow-jobs, and the whispers of Bangkok’s infamous Ping-Pong Show can be heard from the various crowded tables of tourists.
As the night inevitably draws to a close, though, the drunkards scatter, the touts hit the hay, and the police form barricades. The pros hang around attracting the attention of the occasional fat drunk wanker and one or two fights break out. The sky goes from a pitch black to a deep blue, a cool breeze settles the frenzied region, tuk-tuk drivers awaken in their vehicle for another day of hassling foreigners, and the orange-clad monks walk barefoot to the local temple.
It’s back to the prison cell for me. The chubby girl at the counter frowns at me as I stumble through the entrance making a nuisance of myself, but I manage to climb 4 stories of stairs and find my dismal room unharmed. Just like thousands of others, I drop onto my solid bed out-of breath, gasping through the humidity, and the room spins much faster than the faulty fan above. Tomorrow is another day; the same faces, the same people. We wake up with a sore-head, the sunburn fully kicking in, and a sensational desperation for fluids; all for the sleaze of Khao San Road.