Khao Sahn Road : Take 1
from: a sidewalk cocktail bar at the center of the backpacker universe. Bangkok, Thailand.
The bus from Cambodia dropped us off in the center of backpacker central and I must say, Khao Sahn road is just as I thought it must be - only louder and more crowded.
What a dump! What a palace! How boring it is, how exciting it seems. All these things I see in this street because it tugs at two different parts of my personality. The aloof onlooker outside it all, holding the weak imbibers in disdain. The cooped up shy boy who is jealous of all the people letting loose in the bacchanal.
As is to be expected from the main hub of Southeast Asia's backpacker hub - a place talked about from Beijing to Bogota - there are plenty of young people with dreadlocks and shaved heads, tattoos and piercings, beards and shirts showing almost every inch of cleavage. The average age is about twenty-five, though some wide eyed youngsters have that look about them. That look that says there is a danger they will go off the deep end here. There are older people too, mostly men, who look pathetic. They were too weak to leave the lure of bright lights and easy living and now sit alone, zonked out and washed up perhaps wondering what went wrong with their perfect set ups. They have been here too long, friends have moved and and every debauched day shows on their faces. They scare me, the Khao San gurus.
Osama Bin Ladin masks, Henna tattoos, bootleg CDs, Buddhist charms, rolling tobacco, get your hair woven, give money to the beggars singing karaoke, buy a T-shirt with Che Cuevara or a Hindu deity, drink cheap beer and flirt with the tourist girls who are as beautiful as their over the top I'll-be-back-in-winter-in-a-week tans are desperate, bounce to techno, reminisce to the Doors and imagine your next exotic adventure with the Gypsy Kings blasting onto the street, watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone in one of the restaurants where the waiter is a Thai transvestite or grab a Styrofoam plate of Pad Thai or fried Crickets.
There are pharmacies, food carts, portable bars, T-shirt sellers and bookshops asking $10 for a dog-eared photocopies of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Women dressed in full ethnic minority outfits selling their silver jewelry and, as is always the case wherever tourists congregate anywhere in the world, someone doing instant on the spot caricatures.
The whole place is filled with neon light and white female flesh and sweaty travelers looking for what? For Thailand? It is not here I hope. But that isn't what they are looking for anyway. They have flown in from around the world to see this never-never land incarnate.
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