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Chang beer on the Koh San Road, Bangkok

kohsanroadSo, when you land in Bangkok and you don't know where to go every traveller must make their way to the Koh San Road area. It is the Mecca for all travellers coming through Thailand. I had heard about it of course and seen it in films, but nothing can quite prepare you for its reality.

My taxi from the airport dropped me off in a street parallel to Koh San Road, called Tanee Road, as I had cleverly been advised that if I wanted to sleep on my first night in Bangkok I should pay a bit more and be off Koh San. A quick wash and change and then I headed out. The top of Koh San Road has people spilling out of it and people pushing to get into it, in all directions. It reminded me somewhat of the entrance to a music festival and the blasting of techno, dance and cheesy pop coming from the numerous bars certainly made it sound like I was at some major festival - which in a way, I was.

The noise, the smells of different food on street stalls, the people shouting 'massage', 'Chang beer', 'what you want sir?'. Don't get drawn into conversation with someone, it is acceptable to not respond. The shops and stalls sell everything you could possibly need for travel in South East Asia and beyond. I need not have packed my bag. You could literally turn up and buy a rucksack, clothes, travel books, bum bag, hat, flip flops, stop for a quick massage and there is even a random Boots store, to pick up all your travel drugs and sun creams!

tuktukThey say to haggle at all stalls and shops, however to begin with I was not very good at this but soon got in the swing of it. Although sometimes, when you convert, you realise you have been arguing over the difference in, say 50p or less, for the price of a t shirt! But it's expected, so give it a go.

Be careful of the Chang beer. It is dangerous. Throw in jet lag and you can be in serious trouble, as I found out on my second night there. My third day was then spent feeling rather sorry for myself at the pool of my guest house. Do sit though and enjoy a beer and do some people watching, you can easily pass a few hours this way.

If you want to be in the middle of the action try a stylish place with dormitory accommodation in the hub - NapPark Hostel. But if you are staying longer in the Koh San area, and do not want to be in noisy hostel with the youth, I would recommend staying on Soi Rambuttri. Go to the top of Koh San Rd or Tanee Road, cross the main road and there you will find the slightly more chilledtemple Rambuttri. This still has its share of bars, massage stalls, and shops and stalls selling all you want, but equally it is less crowded and has its share of hotels and smaller guesthouses.

Once you are over the initial shock and have spend a day or so taking it all in, you'll be ready to branch out and see some other sights in Bangkok. Temples are ten a penny in Thailand but are well worth a visit. Take a stroll to the amazing Wat Pho. This houses the worlds largest reclining gold Buddha. Remember to dress appropriately for entering any temples. If your rucksack is full of shorts and T-shirts, then a quick visit to Koh San soon sorts you out with some long hippy style pants and top, which means you can then enter temples without offending. If you sit dragontempledown in front of a Buddha in any temple, you must tuck your feet behind you as it is considered rude to show your feet to your front.

Equally as magnificent as Wat Pho, is the Grand Palace. Only now used by the King on ceremonial occasions, but housing over 100 temples and pavillions all with intricate mosaic encrusted pillars, spires and walls. Not mentioned in the guide books but an interesting find is the Wat Samphran - a 17 storey building with a dragon dramatically curled around it. 

So, enjoy Bangkok, be careful and remember that there is more than just Chang beer on the Koh San Road.