My first crazy Khao San party night arrived unexpectedly, exactly one week after I arrived in Bangkok. Up until then, I had been content with my chill existence in Bangkok. I spent my days napping, writing, eating street food and exploring the neighborhood.
Chance Encounter Number One
On one of my late night food excursions I ordered what I can only describe as Thai grits. It was a sludgy rice soup with pork meat balls … and I’m not sure what else. It was served with a tray of peppers and sprouts. I loaded the dish with sprouts, as I would with Pho or Ramen. Turns out the sprouts weren’t in fact sprouts, but ginger. I didn’t love it to begin with but the ginger took it to a whole new level of gross. After consuming about half of it, hoping I’d acquire a taste for it, I gave up, paid the street vendor, and searched for something to wash it down with. Coconut ice cream did the trick!
Almost home, with a few bites of ice cream left in my coconut, I walked by two young backpackers, a guy and a girl, fully loaded with their gear. I overheard them asking a man on the street where they could find a guest house for the night. The man didn’t seem to understand. I eavesdropped for a minute, not wanting to interrupt. When I was certain they weren’t getting the answers they were looking for, I went up to them and offered assistance. I told them my guest house wasn’t far and that there might be availability. They seemed relieved. They thanked the guy who’d been trying to help and turned to me, “we’ll follow you,” the girl said.
We turned down the alleyway towards my guest house. Although it had only been a few days, I had gotten used to the craziness of “my” alley. Seeing it now, through their eyes, I was reminded how sketchy it appears at first sight.
At night, a lady sits on the corner of the alley and main road with a large makeshift DJ booth, blasting music. Night club status. The intensity of the music startled both of them as we walked by. Rubbish, cooking gear and an assortment of junk is piled against the graffiti covered buildings. It’s too narrow to accommodate both pedestrians and motorbikes yet it does.
If they weren’t already hesitant, when we walked up to the locked, dark, guesthouse I was staying at, they were then. Shit, I hadn’t realized how late it was. It was after 11pm. The owners were only available from 8am to 10pm. (I learned that the night I arrived.) Of course I had a key to get into my room but no way to check them in. I apologized and pointed them in the direction of several other guest houses. They took off.
Chance Encounter Number Two
The next day, on my way back from the the Bangkok City Library, I bumped into them on the street corner. They were cleaned up and without backpacks but I recognized them instantly. We stood on the street corner and chatted for a moment. They ended up finding a place to stay for the night but didn’t like it so they moved somewhere new that morning. I apologized again for leading them down a dead end but they didn’t seem bothered. After a few brief exchanges, we parted ways. I didn’t get their names.
Chance Encounter Number Three
That afternoon I paid my favorite pad Thai guy a visit. “JoJo Patthai,” a street food vendor near my guest house. While I was sitting on the street eating, the pair of backpackers walked by me. We all smiled at the coincidence and waved, but they kept walking and I kept eating. If I run into them again, I have to get their names, I thought to myself.
Chance Encounter Number Four
Later that night, after eating (yet again) a delicious pork wanton soup with a Chinese man who told me it was “very American” to be traveling alone, I went on a walk. As I turned down Khao San Road, I bumped into the backpakers again! “Ok guys, I told myself that if I ran into you again I’d have to get your names…” They smiled and we all introduced ourselves. Chris and Kylie. Kylie was holding a half drunk bucket in her hand and Chris had a bag of souvenirs they tried to mail home but were unable to (a lighter and alcohol- good to know). They told me they were going to party on Khao San Road after dropping off the bag.
I could tell they appreciated our chance encounters as much as I did and were keen for me to join them. Part of me thought this might be the universe inviting me to party on Khao San Road but another part of me wanted to go home and write. “Where are you guys going?” I asked.
“I don’t know. There was a place down there that said ‘buy one get one buckets’ so maybe there. Cheap.” Kylie said, pointing down Khao San in no particular direction.
“I like your style.” I said, smirking, loving the budget backpacker mentality. “Well, I’ll let you guys go return your stuff to your room, I’m gonna head down Khao San, at this rate, I’m sure I’ll run into you again!”
I walked away, questioning my decision not to tag along. I told myself, If I run into them again, I’ll consider it meant to be and invite them to have a drink, if not, I’ll go home and write.
Chance Encounter Number Five
In an attempt to manipulate fate, I walked all the way to the end of Khao San Road, giving them ample time to go to their hostel and come back. After purchasing a watermelon shake (that wasn’t very good) from a street side vendor, I walked back down Khao San Road, slowly, peering into each street side bar, looking for them. When I got to the end of the of the road without spotting them, I was bummed. But decided it wasn’t meant to be and turned the corner to head home.
Poof! There they were! All of us started laughing at the unlikeliness, “Ok guys, it’s meant to be, lets grab a drink!” At that point we all knew we had no other choice. We headed down Khao San Road, pumped for our serendipitous night ahead.
Partying on Khao San with Chris & Kylie
The three of us shared two buckets at one of Khao San Road’s nameless street side bars. I’m pretty sure it was orange juice, sprite and vodka. I let them make the selection, my only stipulation was no energy drinks (I’m allergic to something in them and get sick instantly). Whatever it was, was pretty good, and strong.
Over our buckets I learned more about my new friends. Kylie, 23, and Chris, 22, were a couple from Alberta, Canada. They were about half way through a six month back packing trip in Southeast Asia! We talked about where they’d already been (the Philippians, Singapore and India) and the rave they were headed to the upcoming weekend. They were the type of long term travelers I used to envy on my short term trips abroad. It hit me in that moment that I was now one of them!
Before leaving that first bar I went to the bathroom, experiencing for the first time a squat toilet. There was an entrance fee of ฿10 to use a hole in the ground with no toilet paper! Turns out Laksameenarai Guest House had been spoiling me with toilet paper and Western toilets!
We carried on Khao San style, hopping from bar to bar. Our next stop was The Club. We danced to what The Club classified as hip-hop and trap music but was really top 40s and techno… from five years ago. It was spacious, air-conditioned and there was a platform to dance on- we took advantage of all three, enjoying every minute of it!
We left the the club to get our next drinks because alcohol is cheaper on the street. We found another bar and split two more buckets for ฿200 ($6.40 USD). (I was proud of my haggling skills on that one, the first round was ฿360 ($11.50 USD).
Our return to The Club brought more dancing and shots of tequila (my nemesis). After awhile, this German kid we met offered to buy us all drinks. “On my neck,” he said, slapping his neck. Apparently in German that means “[drinks] on me.” We danced a while longer, then took him up on his offer, leaving The Club once again. It seems everyone partying on Khao San Road is a cheap backpacker. I love it.
It was after midnight. Too late to purchase alcohol at the nearby 7-11 so we went to yet another street side bar for yet another round of buckets. A group of four girls were seated at the table with us. One was from Rwanda, one was from Ethiopia, one was from Nepal and one was Thai but from the UK. We all drank, laughed, shared stories and danced in our seats to Kendrick Lamar and Drake. (I was in a foreign city, listening to hip music with people from all over the world- holy crap am living my dream or what?!)
We found out the German kid was only 19, using a fake passport to get into the bars. The night got crazier with each passing minute.
By the end of the night we had enough alcohol in our systems that eating fried insects sounded like a good idea. All down Khao San road there are vendors selling fried crickets, scorpions, and roaches. Chris ate a scorpion! Watching him eat it was gag worthy. I don’t know how he got it down. No amount of alcohol could make me think that was a good idea. However, Kylie said crickets weren’t bad so we each got one of those. It tasted like a stale, soggy potato chip dipped in vinegar. Not bad but not good either.
It was the eve of Songkran (the Thai New Year celebrated with a Kingdom wide water fight) so during our last few moments partying on Khao San Road (which had to be close to 2am), a water gun fight broke out in the street! The slight sprinkling of water was the perfect end to our crazy Khao San night but no indication of the Songkran Celebration yet to come…
To learn more about Chris and Kylie’s travel adventures, check out their Instagram account @atime_ago!