Khao San – Paradise Lost?

‘You know six months ago, everything was different,’ mused an Australian as he reclined back against the wall and deeper into the thought. ‘You could party until five/six in the morning. Now everything shuts down by two.’ An inflection of astonishment rang out in the final notes of this sentence as our Australian fell into silence to allow the thought to reverberate around the room. Some of his audience, a colourful grouping of travellers drawn together by the promise of hard partying, nodded in agreement whilst sipping deeply bottles of beer as though it were bottled from the very fountain of his knowledge. Others, myself included, arched eyebrows and smiled in polite reservation. Peering through the mist of a two day hangover, I couldn’t help thinking that the piss I was drinking (shouldn’t complain at 60p for a litre of Sangsom) had more clarity than this busta.

Perhaps I am prejudiced. I find it hard to side with the logic of a man who moments previously had stated a clear distinction between a vest and a singlet – the former being strictly an undergarment, the latter a sleeveless tee – but I simply could not understand what he was trying to get at? Where I not English, I may have ripped away his bottle of Chang and marked the boy’s face with the back of my hand. Alas I am English, and practiced reserve has taught me that matters of debate are not a aired in public but rather in a robust rebuttal via anonymous letter to the Sunday Times.

It’s not that his statement wasn’t correct in it’s literal sense. It’s very true once you could party till five and that now the neon lights flicker and dim and the reggae remix of Adele drops its decibels significantly as a single police patrol car crawls up the road harking the evenings end at 2am. But the strip itself hasn’t changed at all.

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Beer and buckets are available at every turn of the head, more than enough to render your reckless spirit useless until the next morning. Balloons are bought and the laughs sold in a cattle market of vice. Girls coquettishly call from the massage parlours lining the street, offering a plethora of pleasure – both public and private depending on your predilections. Ladyboys stalk the sidewalks, amorous and angry in equal measure, attempting to coax out the exotic nature in you. There is no escaping that the demand for vice is adequately catered for on the Khao San.

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And the truth is that once the Khao San closes the surrounding streets pick up the slack. Alleyway bars beckon you in for one more beer. Strolling down Soi Rambuttri at five thirty in the morning, numerous bars remain open serving cool beers with breakfast whilst groups yet to be sufficiently sated huddle together on plastic chairs to see in the sunrise. It’s even possible to pick up laughing gas at six thirty in the morning should you feel fancy free and wild.

Maybe one could have felt suitably aggrieved during the short period during which the military ordered a 10pm curfew earlier in the year, but the only substantial difference I can find between pre and post-military rule is a reduced likelihood of partying until you’re paralytic – and even that’s not guaranteed.

So where does the problem lie? I imagine in our generational gambit that a certain sense of catharsis can be found at the bottom of a beer barrel and in that sharp sting in your nostril. The western world affords us an opportunity the piss away our problems almost any night of the week. Cheap alcohol and a penchant for party drugs has ensured that if you can stomach the hammer to the head that is house music, the party never has to end. And whilst Bangkok has for decades been held as the pinnacle of unadulterated partying, do not be fooled into thinking that an early curfew heralds a final notice for closure. The Khao San is very much alive. So let it be known, a vest is a fucking vest and if for you paradise is unbridled partying, then the Khao San is still fucking paradise.

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