I've found that Khao San Road is infinitely better at night than during the day. Apart from the impromptu breakdance party my first night here, the music is better (and some of it is live!) it's cooler, there are more people, as a result of there being more people taxis don't go down the road at night (tuk-tuks do) and there are more food carts. Some of the street vendors pack up and leave, and some are just getting started. It really makes it clear that this is a sort of cultural bubble, a community created for and by these weird hippie backpackers and the locals who love their money.
I wasn't going to buy any souvenirs for myself in Bangkok, or on Khao San Road specifically. I researched everything I could about Thailand before coming here, and one of the big things is that everything on Khao San Road is 1) overpriced and 2) available elsewhere in Bangkok.
My rule doesn't apply to souvenirs for other people though, and in addition to pirated cds and dvds, fake IDs and touristy knick-knacks, the biggest thing for sale here is the Tee Shirt. Shirts range from simple "Bangkok City" and the label designs from Chang and Singha beers, to musicians and scraggly-looking guys with cigarettes who I assume are musicians, to naked ladies and naughty words, and the just plain weird (Tree: "hug me." Man: "No.") There are a couple of people in my life who wear tee shirts (I do not...) so I took a couple of pictures in a stall yesterday and sent them to Saul and my brother. My brother said he would wear a certain shirt, so I went out looking for it again today.
No. No, no, no. For one, the street vendors set up shop in different places every day. For two, they don't put all of their stock on display. I couldn't find it! There are a lot of shirts that feature in four or five stalls along the road. This one, nowhere. At the Burger King end of the road, there is a big tee shirt vendor that seems to have set up shop for the evening. This:
Put a ridiculous grin on my face, which was probably my first error. You should probably know that Queen is my favoritest band in the world. I wasn't going to buy it; I don't even wear tee shirts. But someone put "Love of My Life" on a tee shirt and they decided to feature it prominently on the wall instead of on the rack and that made me happy. I dug through the shirts on the rack, hoping to find something for Saul or Nathan. I did not find something for Saul or Nathan. But I did find this:
Amazing. The print gives Important Biographical Information about our hero. Weight: 8.5 stone. Favorite Actress: Liza Minelli. Favorite Drink: Champagne. I don't wear tee shirts, it's big and will fit weird, the sleeves are a funny length. But it is also the most amazing tee shirt I have ever seen in my entire life. I ask how much it costs. "250 baht, but for you I'll give a discount. It costs 200 baht." I was really taken aback, not fake haggle-taken aback. 200 baht is six dollars! The other shirt vendors on the road ask for 100-120 baht, although they are the same shirts that everyone sells, and this baby is unique. There are only two of them, that I saw.
I think I displayed my taken-abackness quite well. I said that's too expensive and offered 100 baht. The man said that the discount was only down to 200 baht. I started to put the shirt back on the rack, and then I put the shirt back on the rack. I started to walk away, and then I walked away. And he didn't stop me. It's not supposed to work like this.
I bought myself a plate of pad thai and walked down the road to the other end, contemplating whether I really wanted this shirt and making sure that none of the other vendors had one (they didn't.)
When I got to the end of the road, the pad thai had kicked in and I was thirsty, so I bought myself a coconut shake. It's blending behind the carrots.
I sipped it as I walked back down the road again. I'm getting very good at politely brushing off the tuk-tuk drivers, by the way. As I approached the end with the amazing shirt I couldn't figure out what to do.
Ronald offered me no guidance.
Captain Jack wanted only for me to buy one of his bracelets.
I reached the shirts and decided that I needed to take a picture at least. As the man saw me approach he made the smuggest of smug faces, which I think was the universe trying to remind me that I don't wear tee shirts and I said I wouldn't buy myself anything on Khao San road. I took the picture and turned around for good.