The turbulent bustling of people, street vendors, tuk tuks, motobikes, taxis - the smells of fish sauce, garbage, exhaust and the site of magical wats overwhelm the senses. Backpackers flood this area of Bang Lamphu, Bangkok via guidebooks which explain that all backpackers belong here for cheap guesthouses, travel centers, and the opportunity to meet similar travel types with amenities of western comfort.
Khao San Road is lined with guesthouses, looming above the street of vendors selling sarongs, jewelry, fake name brand clothes, anything. Food stalls on the street sell pad thai for 20 Baht (50 cents US). Motobikes and Tuk Tuks jockey for position on the busy street. The bars are packed with farangs drinking Singha Beer and Mekong whiskey. Most wearing Red bull t - shirts. Embracing the East, embarking on new frontier. Internet access for a mere 40 baht, laundry service, are advertised everywhere.
Close to many tourist attractions, Tuk tuk drivers constantly ask, "Where are you going?, Where are you from? How long you stay in Bangkok?" Unsuspecting newbie farangs answer the questions honestly and are driven to destinations they have only heard about, then to jewelry and clothing shops.
Every bar has 24 hour pirated new movies playing, serve cheap beer, good food and usually are attached to a guesthouse that offers rooms for 250 baht a night. All in one building and there are about 50 of these all on the street and surrounding area. Close to the National Museum, His Majesty the King's palace and many other functional wats packed with monks in orange robes eager to practice their English, the area is central for tourist exploring. Absolutely amazing.
From the airport or any of the three bus stations to Khao San Road, it is best to take a metered taxi. These are regulated by the government and no haggling is involved (hence no rip offs). These are marked by a large "Meter" sign atop the car and the vehicles are green and yellow. It is possible to get cheaper fares from freelance taxis or tuk tuks but this takes experience, practice and determination.
Some good places to stay are just behind Kho San Road on the Wat side, "My House", "Sawasdee Guest House" and "Sawasdee Smile" are all clean and affordable. A bit more upscale is the "Viengtai Hotel" which has air- con and a pool, doormen and is still only about $20 US a night. If you stay on Khao San the rooms can be pretty dingy with the occasional cockroach.
Khao San has a seedy underbelly but it is worlds apart from patpong and is generally a safe and convenient place to stay and travel from (most guesthouses have travel services).