Mar 13, 2008 0
By the time we grabbed our bags from a Bangkok Airport carousel, it was well after midnight. Julie and I climbed in a taxi and told the driver Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker ghetto. I was about to nod off when Julie pointed out the song on the radio. We were listening to Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We had a quick laugh, as listening to the song in Thailand was itself evidence of worldwide Californication. We reached Khao San Road, stumbled into a cheap guest house, and immediately fell asleep. It wasn’t until we woke up that we understood how prescient the Red Hot Chili Peppers could be.
Khao San Road seems quite normal to someone from the West Coast. The area is dotted with cafes and bars filled with people who haven’t shaved, call each other dude, and can play acoustic guitar or perhaps the bongos. There are tattoo parlors, vendors selling hemp clothing, and salons advertising dreadlock hair extensions. Though there are a number of Thai restaurants, there are just as many places to eat vegan, banana pancakes. At first glance, it could be Venice Beach—admittedly, it’d have to be a quick first glance. Then, something will feel unfamiliar—say the presence of two dozen Thai kids in an open air Muay Thai gym—and it’ll hit you (not literally, thankfully) that you’re in Bangkok and not some hippy enclave of California.
We only spent two nights on Khao San Road, but by the end, I was about to follow the Khao San fashion trend: hemp fisherman’s pants, a white linen shirt, and well-worn Birkenstocks. I’d be too self-conscious to wear it in Hong Kong, but no one would give me a second look in Portland. Plus, I already have the Birkenstocks.
Though nostalgic to be around people with piercings and tattoos, I was glad to leave Bangkok and fly north. As a Californian-cum-Oregonian, I can tell you that moving north from Californication is always a good call.