Here are a few thoughts on Pattaya for those who can’t make up their mind, or are worried about the sex industry and what it’s like for single women, couples, children etc,
The image most people have of a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah is really a result of careless and sensationalist reporting by various media around the world. It is true that there are many middle-aged men who have found they can afford to retire here often with a wife or girlfriend half their age...who are we to judge? - ...but it is also a fun holiday resort and great value for money.
The demographics are changing – new markets have been found in Eastern Europe and Asia..Korea, Taiwan China and India – the new economies are sending their people on holiday for the first time in many cases and Pattaya is ideal for them
There is also a lot to do if you are a family on holiday.
Visually, the beaches in Pattaya are not up to much compared to elsewhere in Thailand; it’s a very urban environment...rows of umbrellas and deck-chairs. Although people do swim, the sea is rather polluted…how much is unclear….they claim to have cleaned up the water a lot in the last few years and have marked of areas for swimmers. Neighbouring Jomtien beach about a 15 min “bus” ride away looks to be more swimmer-friendly but there is the occasional bout of untreated sewerage there from time to time. (This IS Thailand!). Cosy beach and Sugar beach between Pattaya and Jomtien offer less crowded or urban alternatives. Bear in mind that what is done to monitor pollution on any of the beaches throughout Thailand is not clear. Inevitably, wherever you are, ALL the main holiday beaches in Thailand are subject to pollution from time to time depending on season wind and tides.
All the same many people enjoy the beaches in and around Pattaya....At both Pattaya and Jomtien beaches you can hire all sorts of water sports stuff, and it’s all pretty cheap. All beaches have plenty of people selling drinks and snacks etc....have a fresh coconut and drink the liquid inside through a straw....very refreshing!
Off shore there are one or two islands with much nicer beaches, they are easily accessible for a day trip. If you go to Koh Laan, the main beach is really just a row of restaurants etc., but, it’s well worth hiring a moped and driving over to the other side of the island.....views from the top are great and there are some very quiet beaches there. Or simply walk along the coast for a bit to get away from the crowds.
Further down the coast towards Sattahip there are some quite reasonable beaches, Ban Sare or Ban Amphoe for example.
On the mainland, Pattaya offers a range of amusement parks, gardens, and theme parks and various sports.
There are numerous good quality golf courses, horse riding and motor sports, both karting and a car racing circuit. There are some small airfields nearby for fans of light aircraft too.
Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens although recently scandalised by the Beeb for their treatment of Elephants is worth a visit, just don’t support the Elephant rides. Elephant village is similarly not to be supported. Pattaya Park is a Water World amusement park that offers all the usual water rides plus a revolving restaurant and some hair-rising ways of getting up there and back down. Mini Siam is a miniature tour of Thailand - full of bus-loads of tourists with a MacDonald’s’ at the entrance. Million year old stone park has beautiful gardens - feed the 5ft long catfish! And cringe at the abysmal treatment of tigers and crocodiles. Further a field is Sri Racha tiger Zoo...to be avoided at all costs, and Kao Keow Open Zoo, a refreshing change from the usual callous way animals are treated in Thailand. There is also the “Water World” Aquarium on Sukumvit Rd. Any hotel or travel shop will arrange to take you there. For kids and the easily pleased, there’s also Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Toys R us!
The Sanctuary of Truth is a rather unexpected attraction given the nature and reputation of Pattaya as a holiday destination. Built by a wealthy business family to celebrate the religions of the world, it is an enormous hand-carved wooden building built on a small promontory at Naklua the Northern end of Pattaya.
You’ll need a Sawngthaew or Motorcycle taxi to get there and it is rather dear to get in....current price unknown.
Work on the building seems to be continually in progress, and provides employment for many artisans and craftsmen from all over the country.
A walk around the site you’ll see carvers at work, inside the building are signs explaining each section of the building, and just marvel at the wonderful if rather crude carving.
The building itself is amazing but there are also some peripheral attractions that don’t seem so wonderful. One can rent a horse to ride around the site. At the time your correspondent was there one of the animals had got out of control and was being chased around the site by clearly untrained staff.
Another “attraction is the dolphin show. Here a small species of Dolphins (they are replaced from time to time!) -are put through there paces in a muddy pond, balancing balls and splashing the audience....it’s all rather embarrassing really.
However, all in all despite the rather second rate other attractions the site is well worth a visit.
Pattaya offers some of the best shopping outside Bangkok, and it is actually more accessible being sited in a much smaller area. New shopping malls are constantly being built – Central is the latest to spring up on beach road. Beach road and second road are the main shopping roads.
Along the beach stalls shops and arcades offer all the usual souvenir stuff and some things that might cause a few raised eyebrows.... (A Samurai Sword or replica gun?!?!). Lots of ersatz stuff and big brand copies, CDs and DVDs for 150 baht, computer programs.....
The malls....several new malls are currently being built or just about to open - Check out the older “MIKE’S” & “ROYAL GARDEN PLAZA” - accessible from Beach Rd or Second Rd) offer more quality goods still at great prices. Royal garden has an eatery with good views of the bay on the top floor and Mikes has a public swimming pool on the roof!
Other Malls around town include “Big C” on 2nd road, Tesco’s on Pattaya North (Nua), and Carrefour on Pattaya Central (Klang), and the new the Avenue Complex on Pattaya Second Road, featuring the Villa supermarket for those craving a taste of home – at a price. All these have a range of other shops and restaurants all under one air-conditioned roof. Tesco and Big C also have stores on Sukumvit Rd - the main road from Bangkok.
Eating out in Pattaya & Jomtien is a treat! There’s everything form every country and it’s all cheap! Even the up-market stuff is half what you’d pay in Europe. You can eat US, French, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Full English Breakfast, Italian, Belgian, Dutch, German....... The list is endless.....BUT - what am I saying?..............There’s one I’ve missed out....
THAI food! Thai food is wonderful.....everything from mild Chinese based noodles to hot and spicy Issan food....seafood, barbeque, Tom Yam soups...try it...you’ll love it.....if you want to spend a bit of Money try Ruen Thai on 2nd road or Sugar Hut on Thap Phraya Rd, the hill between Jomtien and Pattaya. Ruen Thai has great food from the all regions of Thailand and puts on an ethnic floor show music, dance or even demonstration Thai boxing! Sugar Hut is in fact a very beautiful resort, the restaurant is in a traditional Thai style wooden house. The atmosphere is amazing.... you remove your shoes on entering the dining area and the seating is either traditional low or for those of us who are less flexible there are “normal” height chairs and tables. Everything is teak and silk....just a pity the menu is so badly written and the food is a little on the bland side, but for a one off evening out it’s a must.
At the other end of the price range there are the small Thai restaurants and street stalls dotted all over town....many won’t have a menu in English so just walk in, sit down and look hungry.....let them bring you something and try and guess what it is you’re eating....for (a lot) less than $5 for 2 you can’t go wrong. A bowl of street noodles can be as little as 15 baht.
Just one phrase you might find useful....”Mai Pet” (one for the Geordies!) - this means “not hot”...it won’t mean no chillies but it might bring it down to a level where you can just about eat it! - “Mai Prik” is NO chillies at all.
And for the mindless, bootless and unhorsed, the culturally stagnant and the grossly obese, there is the usual plethora of fast food outlets....McD’s, KFC, and Burger King....how can people eat that stuff!?!?!? And WHY when you are in a land of gastronomic delights, would you? (My comfort food of choice is a big plate of liver and onions - mmmmmmm!)
The night life in Pattaya is legendary....although now the bars officially close at 1.00pm; this does not stop some places from turning music down and carrying on till the early hours of daylight.
There are discos, clubs bars of sorts including the girlie places....
As with almost everywhere in Thailand, the sex trade ripples through Pattaya like veins through a stilton, and in a similar way gives the place its distinctive character. Aimed at both Thais and tourists it is quite unlike the red-light areas of Europe and America, it isn’t nearly as sleazy; mainly it consists of small open bars where (middle-aged) men sit drinking beer and talking to the “bar-girls”. If a tryst is arranged it will probably take place in one of the hundreds of hotels that permit “guests”. There is very little open display of lewdness as this is not approved of in Thailand. The “Go-go Bars” are behind closed doors and have naked or semi naked girls pole dancing or rather holding a pole and swaying to music. You and your (young) family would not be admitted to a Go-go bar – (couples would). If you went to an open beer bar you would be treated as a perfectly ordinary customer and the girls would dote on your children. (They are mostly mothers themselves). ..............and as for the “seediness” how many men do you know go to Hamburg or Amsterdam and find a wife?
For something a little more “wholesome” - on 2nd road spend an hour or so at the newly relocated Malibu Bar....it’s a girl and lady-man show....a low budget affair, they make their own elaborate costumes and mime to well-known western songs. Every night they tread the boards from 8 till about 12.00 midnight...sometimes poor and amateurish but always entertaining...DO NOT miss Tina Turner! This guy (now the owner?) is actually quite professional and very good indeed. He does a couple of performances every night and the place fills just to watch his act. Unfortunately sometimes he has to take time off (twice a night, 7 days a week, year in year out - who wouldn’t?!? and the act is performed by a less talented stand-in. All -in- all a great friendly atmosphere, lots of couples and even kids - and no smut!!!!....no admission charge, and they do food.
If you are finding the heat a bit too much there are plenty of enclosed air-conditioned bars with a western theme, be they Irish, English, Belgian or whatever. Here you can eat “comfort food” and watch replays of your favourite old TV shows and live football.
If you’re tired out by all this...get a massage. Make sure it’s actually a massage establishment and not a “gentleman’s relaxation” facility! There are plenty of small boutiques you can go in and get a 1or 2 hour leg rub for about 150 to 400 baht and some beautiful Spas that will pamper you for the best part of a day for a few grand. (Thai baht that is!)
Pattaya remains one of the few seaside towns where anyone can do what they’ve always dreamed of.... But at half the price!