Those who have known me for so long or who have been following my travel journal know that the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo di Caprio, ignited my love for traveling. It was set in Thailand and featured many parts of it, including the now backpackers’ central Khao San Road.
As we all know, the world halted in 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the travel industry is one of the most gravely affected. So when other countries lifted or relaxed their travel restrictions, Rowjie and I didn’t waste any time and booked our family plane tickets out of the country. Bali would’ve been our first choice, but the tickets at the time of our booking were way more expensive than Bangkok’s or Phuket’s, so we settled with a 16-day trip within Bangkok – Phuket – Singapore for our wedding anniversary.
And what better way to experience Bangkok for a The Beach fan like me than a stay in Khao San Road?
Why Khao San Road?
It has been over a decade since our last visit to Bangkok, so I sought help from Bangkok-based friends on where we should stay this time. Context: Rowjie and I have been in Bangkok in 2012 and stayed in a hostel in Soi Rambuttri, a street just next to Khao San Road. Friends say that popular choices for families these days are Sukhumvit 11, Sukhumvit 77, Silom, Phra Kanong, and even Chinatown. I did tons of research, but none of the choices I looked up seemed attractive to me.
So, why, with kids and a senior citizen in tow, did we still choose to stay in Khao San Road, a chaotic place, among many other locations in Bangkok? I’m always drawn to either vibrant places where almost everything is within reach or secluded areas without network reception or electricity. There’s no in-between for me: it’s either party or ultimate chill.
Khao San is notoriously famous for being loud, being a party street, and being backpackers central. But here, you just need to step out of your hotel, and a 7-11 is right across the street. Pad Thai stalls and restaurants are everywhere; some are even operating 24/7. If I want to grab a beer, pubs close when the sun has risen.
Cannabis and Thailand
Aside from the convenience that Khao San offers, Rowjie and I were also curious about how the cannabis culture goes in Thailand since weed or marijuana is illegal in the Philippines. Thailand eased its ban on the recreational drug in June 2022. Our wedding day falls on April 20 or 420, a date that weed smokers and non-smokers recognize as a national holiday for the cannabis culture. Do I still need to do the math for you? 😉
How do you purchase? Where? How much can you consume? How much do you need to spend? Are there crazy parties happening? These are just some of the questions we had before our trip, which were all answered.
Except for women who are pregnant or nursing, anybody over the age of 20 can smoke or consume cannabis. While one can consume cannabis-infused cuisine at a restaurant with a license, one can only smoke marijuana within one’s home. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in public areas like schools, temples, and shopping centers, and you risk going to jail and paying a fine of at least 25,000 Baht.
In Thailand, there are over 5,000 marijuana shops and dispensaries that offer CBD oil, cannabis flowers, pre-rolled joints, infused meals, and edibles with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content under 0.2%. Tourists are unlikely to have the necessary authorization for the possession of extracts with a THC content higher than 0.2%. The Thai government advises both residents and visitors to only make purchases from recognized, authorized merchants. The price varies depending on the type of cannabis you want to try.
For personal consumption, there are no restrictions! However, tourists cannot bring any parts of the plant or its seeds into or out of the country.
How’s Khao San Road on a 420?
Uhm, I’d say we expected too much. We thought the street would be jam-packed with partying tourists smoking everywhere. What we saw were regular tourists haggling with vendors, backpackers enjoying the street food of Thailand, and locals making a living. Nothing special.
Being the buntis that I am, I tend to become hungry, if not all the time, quickly. I asked Rowjie for two days, at 4 am, to buy me something to eat. According to him, it’s hard not to notice that more interesting things happen before daybreak: extremely drunk tourists, food stalls cooking munchies, and cannabis street sellers, like people and not shops, who weren’t that visible at any time of the day (or night).
What we did notice, though, is that you barely see anyone smoking in the street, even when cannabis is available anywhere. In the hopes that its tourists and guests will respect the country and the people around them and act responsibly, the Thai government does a wonderful job of ensuring that its citizens use cannabis sensibly and responsibly.
Will we be back to Khao San Road? Definitely! Meanwhile, here’s River and Isla partying in Khao San on a 420. Enjoy!