After the fall of Ayutthaya, farmers first settled this area starting along the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. Set between Democracy Monument and the river and just north of the Grand Palace and the area of Phra Nakhon it has become a traveler's haven, an estuary where Western cultures meet and mingle with Thai.
The famous Khao San Road buzzes like a hive for the backpackers who come here in droves to make a home base in Bangkok or to make plans and move on to other parts of Thailand. Internet cafés, food carts, bars, travel agencies, and cheap lodging abound, vying for the tourist dollar, and many more vendors sell used books, bootleg CDs and DVDs, jewelry and whatever else a person on the road might need. Ironically, the tourists have become a bit of an attraction themselves, and young Thais have been drawn into the mix adding a more Bangkok atmosphere to the nightlife. Whereas this was (and in some cases still is) a collection of low budget lodging, the popularity has encouraged boutique hotels to flourish. To find travel mates, there is no better place.
Another popular thoroughfare Phra Athit Road is lined with boutique restaurants, and up-and-coming Thai artists feature frequent exhibitions of their works in various charming venues. Phra Athit Pier serves the area and makes for the easiest entry for travelers, otherwise taxis, buses and tuk-tuks are the norm. The 1873 watchtower, Phra Sumen Fort, no longer guards the city but still overlooks the river and adjoining Santichai Prakan Park, Bangkok's best public green space along the river's banks. In the evenings romantic couples stroll its paths and Thais come here for exercise.
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