There’s really only two things you hear people talk about when travelling to Thailand’s Capital City, Bangkok…Khaosan Road and ‘sex’ shows. Having experienced both, I can’t help but think this is a real shame as there’s so much more to see and do, away from exploited women and sorry offerings of street food, that I would be reluctant to suggest visiting these at all, let alone make it one of your ‘Top 10’ must sees.
I’ve been to Bangkok twice. Once in 2013 while travelling alone and just last month while travelling with my boyfriend James. Both times were short stays so had to decide how best to spend the time. Like every other traveller I took to the typical guides, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet etc… as well as a few Google searches and blog reads. The usual attractions popped up on the official guides; Wat Pho, the Floating Market, the Grand Palace…but there was always a mention of the ‘infectious’ Khaosan Road and ‘seedy yet fascinating’ Ping Pong ‘sex’ shows from the web.
Curiosity killed the cat and I decided to get these checklist boxes ticked.
Popular book ‘The Beach’ famously described Khao San Road as “the centre of the backpacking universe”. I don’t disagree, but I can’t help but feel like the offering that once was may have suffered a little over the years. Yes, you can try Scorpion on a stick (which I did second time around after losing a game of poker to James) and shop or drink to your hearts content but much of this short street is the same few strides repeated over and over…Peter Kay’s wedding buffet comes to mind. Khaosan road is quite simply ‘edible critters, vests, Pad Thai, electronics’ 8 times over from one end to the next with a few large overcrowded bars that promise ‘we do not check ID card’ scattered in between. That’s not to say we didn’t dive right in and make the most of it…we drank in the bars, ate the scorpion and Pad Thai and browsed the stalls…albeit with a significant lack of enthusiasm. Maybe it’s our age?
On the same night, we looked out for the tell tell ‘menus’ held out by men in between stalls on Khaosan. It wasn’t long before our eyes caught one and we were immediately approached with the offer of “ping pong show 600 baht, I take you now.” We got the offer down to 500 each and followed our guide through an alley, past a couple of large rats and into a Tuk Tuk. On arrival we were met by a small dingy room, with seats around a central point where one lady danced…more like shuffled gloomily…around a stage. The atmosphere was dull and everyone watched awkwardly as the clearly unwilling ‘performers’ took turns to complete a sequence of about 10 different gimmicks on a loop. We finished our one free drink and made our way to the door with two Aussie Doctors we’d found ourselves next to in the front row.
All in all, unless you’re up for getting blind drunk with a group of pals and being glared at by an angry 40 something Thai lady for not tipping her after each act, then Khaosan Road really has little experience to offer. I’m so glad we chose night two to do something quite the opposite.