“Here you go, Khao San Road!”
Pointing to the guest house I’d be staying at on a map, located a few blocks off the Khao San, I ask if he could get me closer, to which my taxi driver replies, “I don’t know there, here you go! Khao San Road!”
While hopping out of the taxi I quickly tear the map pages out of my Lonely Planet guide book and stuff the book back into my bag, so as not to make it completely obvious I have no idea where I’m going. Too late.
Welcome to Bangkok.
Khao San Road.
Many would say any great Thailand adventure should start right here on Khao San Road, the center of the backpacking universe. I throw my bag over my shoulders, dodge the oncoming taxis and tuk-tuks and start making my way down this rabbit hole.
At 3 in the morning the liveliness that I would come to see on this road on future nights has died down considerably, though there is still an energy in the streets. All along the road are pockets of late night partiers still sipping on giant bottles of Singha and jet lagged travers whose bodies haven’t the slightest clue yet what time it actually is. Giant plates of Pad Thai noodles still being served up and from the night’s last remaining curbside stands. Tuk-tuks, everywhere, and their drivers, eager to take you wherever you’re trying to go, if not some place totally different.
A much livelier Khao San Road than the one I first encountered.
“Where are you coming from, my friend?”
I would come to realize that it doesn’t matter how lost or confident you appear, there will be tuk-tuk drivers eager to find out where you’re coming from, where you’re going and then let you know how they can help you get there. In this particular case, I look absolutely lost. Easy prey. I had been warned previously, by nearly everyone I know who had traveled to Bangkok, of many tuk-tuk driver’s reluctance to take you directly to your destination without a detour to their favorite gem shop, tailor or bars. Exhausted from flying and knowing I’m just a few blocks from a shower and a bed, this is a gamble best saved for a later night.
Walking down this street, giant backpack over my shoulders, small, wrinkled map in hand, I’m transported to a different world. The countless languages and accents heard just walking down the street confirms that yes, at this moment, this is the center of the universe.
Eventually, after some directional assistance from some truly friendly tuk-tuk drivers, I make my way down one final alleyway, past some final few open air bars and food stands to find the Wild Orchid Villa, it’s red sign and big white letters hanging over the alleyway like a beacon leading me home. Exhausted, and now covered in sweat after my evening stroll through the muggy 80 degree heat with a 40 pound backpack on my back, I came to the realization, I’ve made it, I’m here, it’s time for my adventure to begin.