Khao San Road is possibly the most infamous backpacker road in the world. I mean that was one of the reasons i’m staying here. To experience it. I’ve walked up and down it a few times since arriving. It’s essentially a road crammed with everything you can think of. Clothes stalls, food stalls, bars, tattoo shops, restaurants, shoe stores, jewellrey, hand made bracelets where thai women will embroider crass statements to adorn your wrist with, beauty shops where you can be plucked, painted and massaged. There’s a maccy d’s kfs, burger king and i think 5 different 7-11 stores.
At night it’s insane. Absolutely insane. I think i was the most sober & clothed person on the strip. Every inch of pavement was crammed with scantily clad, drunk backpackers – sellers plying their trades from photos with giant iguanas, hair braids – the battle of the sound systems is rife; with almost every vendor cranking up a sound system to a cheesy pop song with everything from Katy Perry to Disclosure being smashed into the thai night time. People lurch. The ‘beer for breakfast brigades’ are now seriously unstable on their feet and with precarious stalls of food and a huge amount of temporary structures accidents must be a regular occurence when Kev from Kent keels over taking a Pad Thai stall with him. It’s no wonder there’s a police station on the corner.
People are in groups, in masses, in teams – 18 year olds fresh off the plane from northen towns already wearing chang vests and sporting sunburns; korean couples in matching tees, middle aged couples get their feet massaged; middle aged wine on the hunt for a wife.
After battling the central scrum of Khao San I decided instead of squashing my way back through i’d do the same loop i’ve done about five times so far turning left at the end and onto Thanon Ram Bhuttri (Thanon is the thai for street – Khao San Road is Thanon Khao San) After escaping the throng of motorbike taxis, taxis and rickshaws I headed down past the still bustling silver stores and wedding dress shops on Thanon Tanao – the soundsystems still raging but the street getting progressively quieter with more shops closed for the day and the thai homeless making their beds for the night.
And then I saw them. Ahead on the pavement where most people had disappeared back to Khao San, a woman was crawled down on the pavement. I thought she was packing up her impromptu street stall. Then I saw the feet. Two sets of children’s feet poking out of the blanket. The road was almost empty yet Khao San echoed on; the scantily clad with minature dressed and bellies full of cocktail buckets and chicken skewers raved on; yet minutes from them a woman was tucking her children into their road side bed. I carried on walking. What should I do? What could anyone do? Give money? Stop? Scoop them all up and bring them into my hostel room? I did what nearly all of us do . I carried on walking.
Homelessness is hard enough to cope with in the UK when you see teens and runaways. In India; street beggars are constant; especially in the bigger cities. In Thailand so far, they have been there – bodies on the pavement with wide eyes and big smiles, ripped tshirts and their hands held outwards. They remain, as Thai’s seem to be so far, graceful in their actions. A sense of inner peace if not anger tinged fierceness that you just know is bubbling under the surface. Here, I had come from a strip where the greatest concerns were for alcohol and now this contrast. It’s eye opening. Shocking. If only some of those on Khao San would stumble this was and see them. And think. And wake-up.
I carried on walking. Making my left and continuing my loop. Back into the lights The sounds, the music. The air full of streetfood and the sound of a group of young thai boys beatboxing and break dancing in the street. Up and along and back to my room. All the time. The sight of the mother tucking in her children who fell asleep to the sound of Khao San Road.