You might have read about Kao San Road before, or worse saw the movie The Island and you now think that Kao San road is some kind of hippy/drug paradise. The movie and the things you have read were accurate, many years ago. Over the last decade the street has really changed. As young backpackers filled the area a generation ago, business blossomed and services developed in order to cater to whatever it was the backpackers were looking for. But as more and more older (not early twenties) tourists have visited the area, the business have changed greatly.
20 years ago Kao San road was lawless, drugs sold on the streets and the hotels were fan cooled rooms in old Thai homes. 10 years ago, the street had changed. More tourists knew about Kao San, and both the rich and the poor came here to visit and see what the street was about. The rooms became nicer, the bars became cleaner but the tourist sprawl grew and grew to cover many of the nearby streets. By five years ago, things were very different. A police station rose on the corner of Kao San, and patrols cracked down on lawbreakers. With the street, crime and drug free, business had the opportunity to change and cater to people willing to spend more than $5 a day. Instead of targeting the low end backpacker tourists they rose their prices, they cleaned up the streets, they built better hotels and they turned to street into a middle class sanctuary.
Today the Kaosan Road of the past is gone, wine glasses have replaced whisky buckets; and clean, comfortable, safe hotels, guesthouses and hostels have replaced the cheap, sweltering, and questionable rooms of yesteryear; and the petty drug dealers have been replaced by an endless sea of trinket sellers. But don’t worry, if you still want a taste of the backpacker experience, walk away from Kao San Road, explore the side alleyways and backstreets and you can still find buckets of whisky, and $5 a night dorm rooms.
I hope that while you are in Bangkok, that you visit Kao San and enjoy its unique culture. Unfortunately the Sky train and Metro do not run to Kao San, the best way for you to get here is by taxi. Most taxis will gladly turn the meter on to take you here. But when you leave, make sure you tell the taxis to turn the meter on, many drivers are still used to driving drunk tourists back to their hotels, and want to keep the meter off in order to keep the fee high.