Bangkok: Still the World’s Greatest Backpacker Hub
The History of Backpacking in Thailand
Thailand is widely known as the Gateway to the East, the first stop for the adventurous traveler on a continent full of wonder and excitement, whether taking a rugged path, a spiritual journey or an exotic vacation for those with more refined taste.
Since the 1960’s and 70’s, when soldiers ending their service in Vietnam and globe-tripping hippies alike took to roaming the countryside exploring the country’s striking beauty, Thailand has been especially popular with backpackers, to the point that it became known as the “backpacking hub of the world.”
Even as the wandering style exploration of the Vietnam era faded and the time of the guided tour and travel guide book began, backpack trekking continued to flourish. Particularly popular and well-loved locations on the “Silk Road” went into the first hand-written guides passed between experienced travelers and novices alike, making those beloved places even bigger spots on the world traveler’s map.
Folks who might not have found the traveler’s jewel that is Thailand were invited by those who had been there to come and see. With the publishing of the famous guide books, The Lonely Planet, that evolution exploded. Word broke out: not only was Southeast Asia beautiful, but you could travel from one end to another, see the sights, experience a fantastic culture, and meet fascinating people from all around the world for next to no money.
What Bangkok Offers the Backpacker
Bangkok, as the capital and largest city in Thailand, would be a natural stop along the famous Southeast Asia backpack routes even if it weren’t for its unique personality.
Not only is it considered the hub for backpackers setting out across the region, it is one of the major meeting places for rugged travelers heading for destinations all over the world. Deservedly so – the character of the city is like nowhere else, with its mix of ancient and ultra-modern cultures, its spectacular food, and unbelievable range of wares for sale by hawkers up and down every street, all practically pressed right up against the glass and steel of skyscrapers.
It’s the global flavor of the gathered pilgrims, backpackers, and travelers that form the core around which this amazing place has grown, and the services available there demonstrate that. The seed planted years ago by soldiers and hippies has exploded into a magical international jamboree.
Is Bangkok Still the World’s Greatest Backpacker Hub?
Some people think that time and popularity might have tainted this once unique locale and turned it into just another tourist trap, but that’s fortunately untrue. In fact, while the city has grown and evolved with the rest of the region, the demographic that gathers there has given that evolution a far different color than in most places.
Where local culture might be sanitized and repackaged to suit a foreign visitor, Bangkok has largely kept its original character (and its legendary affordability!), while still allowing change to take place that helps not only the tourist industry, but the locals themselves. A good example of this city’s unique kind of evolution is accommodations.
Gone are the days of grubby flop houses with a dozen people on the floor of a barely enclosed shack all sharing a bathroom of questionable sanitary condition.
While the hostels and guesthouses of the famed Khao San Road district, “…the backpacking hub of the universe,” still range from dirt cheap to reasonably affordable, the style of every level of accommodation has changed to please the unending waves of backpackers passing through, or those who stay to soak up the atmosphere.
There are still dorm rooms that sleep a bunch of people, but the set ups are clean, and security has improved exponentially over the years. Even better, many guesthouses now offer private rooms, ultra-modern public meeting areas with bars, entertainment, and even free Wi-Fi.
Bangkok provides the peak experience for the backpacker: the amazing atmosphere that has kept them coming for 40-plus years, with the added plus of modern accommodations, all for the world-famous bargain prices that helped the location rise to the top. There can be no doubt, Bangkok remains the world’s greatest backpack hub.
Tina the author of Hotels-Fairy.com guide to Bangkok, the world’s greatest backpacker hub is a music fanatic who writes about the best places to find different genres around the world.