It’s a sad fact of life, in the tourism industry, that certain places get certain reputations from which they never escape. This can happen for entire countries or, more commonly, for specific towns and cities.
Thailand – one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations – has at least two such places. One is Phuket, which is far more varied and peaceful than people give it credit for. The other, which has an even stronger reputation, is Pattaya.
To some, Pattaya is simply seen as a sleazy city filled exclusively with go-go bars. The only visitors are believed to be retired older men who go there for the local, younger ladies. This does exist; of course it does… but you could say it about so many other places too. In fact, the majority of major cities have their ‘red light districts’, and their more risqué party areas.
There’s so much more to Pattaya than this. Aside from Hua Hin, it’s the only major beach destination that’s easily reached from Bangkok. It would be a great shame not to visit it, just because of what you may have heard.
In this article, we’ll give you a quick overview of Pattaya, including some interesting facts and figures, before describing the best ways to get there. We’ll then suggest some of the fun and fascinating experiences you can enjoy in Pattaya, which are far different from the stereotypical activities for which it’s known, before offering a couple of closing thoughts.
An Introduction to Pattaya
Pattaya sits on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It is located around 150km east of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. There are a series of smaller islands nearby in the Gulf, also popular with tourists, which fall under its jurisdiction.
It has a population of between 300,000-500,000 people (depending on which source you read), including a large number of retired ex-pats who’ve settled there. On top of that, an estimated 9million tourists journey there each year, making it one of the most-visited places in the entire country.
Pattaya wasn’t always the tourist hotspot that it is now. It was actually a quiet little fishing town, right up until the 1960s. It was during this time that American soldiers arrived for some R&R, and loved it so much that they recommended it to their friends. From there the word spread and spread, the tourist industry grew exponentially, and eventually it became the thriving city it is today.
How to Get There
As you’d expect in a country as well-connected as Thailand, getting to Pattaya is extremely easy.
There’s no airport in Pattaya, but this doesn’t really matter. If you fly into one of the two major airports in Bangkok, you can get buses directly there in less than two hours. Buses also run regularly from two of Bangkok’s major stations: the Northern and Eastern Bus Terminals. If you prefer to journey by rail – or if you’re just looking to save a few baht – the train service connecting the capital with Pattaya is actually the cheapest way to travel.
Finally, Thailand’s roads are incredibly easy to navigate. The road signs are in English, and the main roads are generally kept in excellent condition; this certainly applies to the road between Bangkok and Pattaya. If you want to tour Pattaya at your own pace, don’t think twice about renting a car at one of the airports in Bangkok.
What to Do
Thought all of Thailand’s beach action was in the south? Think again! Pattaya is home to several beaches, each of which offers something different.
Pattaya Beach is definitely the heart of the action. It’s 3km long, runs parallel to the city center, and just across the road you’ll find more restaurants and bars than you could ever possibly need.
A quieter alternative is Jomtien Beach. It’s only separated from Pattaya Beach by a piece of headland, but has a very different, far more relaxed feel to it. It’s a great place to walk at sunset or, for something completely different, there’s also a waterpark right next to it!
· Sanctuary of Truth
This is a perfect example of how Pattaya is misunderstood; if you were to believe all the talk about it, you’d never expect to find one of the most stunning Buddhist temples in the entire country. And yet, there it stands.
The Sanctuary of Truth is a large temple which has been completely crafted out of wood. It looks beautiful enough from a distance, with the ocean directly behind it. To truly appreciate it, however, you need to get up close.Only then can you marvel at the intricacy of the carvings, which are still being created today.
· Theme Parks
Again, if you believed everything you heard about Pattaya, you would never dream of taking your kids there. This would be a bad mistake, for both you and them!
Pattaya, and its surrounding area, is absolutely filled with amazing family-friendly activities. Chief amongst these are the theme parks. Mini Siam is one of the biggest model villages in the world, which features miniaturized versions of famous landmarks from all around Thailand. Another highlight is Cartoon Network Amazone; the world’s first ever Cartoon Network-themed park!
In truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface of all the amazing things you can do in Pattaya. The viewpoint, for example, will provide some of the most stunning sunsets you’ll have ever seen. The nearby islands, easily accessible from the city, all offer something different, and are all worth checking out. In and all around Pattaya, there are unique activities on offer for all types of travelers: parents and children; intellectuals and – yes – partygoers.
This is a beach destination which has it all. Ignore what you may have heard or read about Pattaya. Take the chance to visit it yourself, and you’ll be greatly rewarded.