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The following suggestions have been taken (in large part) from a Forum Post by regular Thailand forum contributor "Khunwilko".
Introduction: A few thoughts on Pattaya for those who can’t make up their mind, or are worried about the "adult" industry and what it’s like for single women, couples, children etc,
Pattaya is a cheap and, in general a cheerful town on the Eastern seaboard of Thailand (map), the climate is great....just about the driest place on the Thai coast and the cost of living is cheap.....
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 – or at least “looks” 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.
The Beaches: 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!
NB. There have been some reports on the Forum of unscrupulous Jet Ski operators trying to scam users for damage they may not have caused. This link is one example of the warnings. It is highly recommended that if you MUST hire a Jet Ski, take photo's from all angles before you hire, in case of a dispute with the operators later.
The Islands: 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. more info about Koh Larn
Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens: has the most amazing gardens and is worth visiting just take it in. NB. There have been some reports of ill-treatment of elephants at the gardens and that should be taken into consideration when you visit. more info here
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. NB. Safety standards have come under the microscope lately after the drowning death of a young tourist. more info about the water park here
Mini Siam: is a miniature tour of Thailand and the world - bus-loads of tourists with a MacDonalds at the entrance. more info here
Million year old stone park: has beautiful gardens - feed the
5ft long catfish and cringe at the treatment of tigers and
crocodiles. more info here
Kao Kheow Open Zoo: Situated about a 45 minute drive from Pattaya, is a refreshing change from the questionable way animals are sometimes treated in Thailand. The zoo boasts more than 300 species and 8000 animals spread over a large 5000 rai area. more info here
Under Water World: on Sukumvit Rd is a walk through aquarium. more info here
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Located on the second floor of Royal Garden Plaza. more info here
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.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 see's carvers at work, inside the
building are signs explaining each section of the building, and just
marvel at the wonderful if rather crude carving.
Another “attraction" is the dolphin show. Here a small species of Dolphins are put through their 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. more info here
Buddha Mountain (Khao Chee Chan): To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the King’s accession to the throne the "sitting Buddha" was carved onto the cliff face. The carving is 130 meters high and 70 meters wide. more info here
Shopping: Pattaya offers some of the best shopping outside Bangkok, and it is actually more accessible being a much smaller area. New shopping malls are constantly being built – Central is the latest to spring up between beach road and second –very “up-market” – lots of “brand-name” shops/restaurants etc etc – food hall and “hi-so” supermarket downstairs. 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 from 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 - 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 Ped” - 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 culturally stagnant there is the usual plethora of fast food outlets....McD’s, KFC, and Burger King.
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!