I hopped off the bus at Democracy Monument around 18:00, only a block from the infamous Khao San Road. Without the option to leave the country, as paperwork is pending on my current visa and work to do over the weekend, I decided not to travel far for New Year’s Eve.
I popped into a 7-Eleven for a Leo beer and sipped it while heading down the street looking for something interesting to do or to eat. However, the usual crowds of shopping stands, overly pushy tuk-tuk drivers, and the many nationalities of foreigners just weren’t making me want to stay there for the time being.
Hitting the other end of the street and seeing Chili Chill Indian Food did strike a chord with my stomach, though, and I decided that would be a nice change from the food I’d been having lately.
Still, with plenty of time to pass until midnight, I decided to go around the corner and get a Thai massage for an hour. Afterward, the lamb korma at Chili Chills, along with some rice and butter naan, proved to be a lot more filling that I thought it would.
There was no point in trying to catch the bus back to Nonthaburi that night, and the Khao San area easily has the most plentiful and inexpensive options for lodging in the whole city of Bangkok. However, I already had one in mind as I headed from Chili Chill a block north and then toward the river.
Just over a bridge, past the nice fort side river park is a small neighborhood along the Lampu Canal. It’s among my favorite spots in Bangkok. It’s close enough to the Khao San area to be conveniently accessible, but removed enough that it’s peaceful and a local neighborhood with just 2 or 3 foreign guesthouses.
In this neighborhood is a place I came across quite by accident called Café Lampu. It is a restaurant, bar, and guesthouse where I tend to stay anytime I find myself in that part of the city.
After checking in to a twin bed for 160 baht for the night, I went back downstairs and chatted with an Englishman and a New Jerseyan. They were both headed to a blues bar for the night, but I was more interested in seeing what would be happening on Khao San on a night like this.
A neighborhood a block west of Khao San is where I headed to first. There’s a small van-turned-bar on a side street there called the Gypsy Lips where I went my first time in the area and have been retuning to for a drink or two each time I come back. This time, I met a German girl who I initially mistook for an American based on her accent, though she said she gets that a lot as she works for a Canadian company, went to school in Australia, and has lived in America for a good amount of time.
Hanging out with her were an American couple, the man of which was also celebrating his 26th birthday. We all did a round of tequila shots and then got to talking about New Orleans, where the girl of the couple had grown up and her boyfriend had gotten most of his teeth knocked out when at plate was thrown at him on his 21st birthday there. Still, he told the story with a (fully repaired) smile and we parted ways when they all went back to their hotel and I continued on to Khao San.
Luckily there is a short cut through a back alley, a staircase, and a business that I knew of; otherwise it’s a wholly unnecessary detour to get to Khao San from the Gypsy Lips.
The street was much more crowded that it had been when I first got into the area and I eventually got to an area that was shoulder to shoulder; so tightly packed that even a police pickup truck that was trying to get through the crowd simply gave up and people began sitting on it.
I had wanted to make it nearer the east end where the screen had been showing the Prime Minister’s speech during the King’s birthday on 5 December, but it soon became apparent that I was as stuck as the police cruiser. With 5 minutes left until midnight, I decided to just stay put, launch of some pull-activated fireworks that had been thrown to me and wait for the turn.
Come midnight, confetti and fireworks were drowned out by the shouting crowd as everyone began jumping and celebrating for 2012. I eventually ducked out one of the side walking streets when I realized that I would still not be able to get through the crowd and out through Khao San.
Heading back toward a quieter neighborhood back by Gypsy Lips and then just chilling at the river walk for a bit, it was a nice way to relax before calling it a night back at Café Lampu.