Pattaya was a simple fishing village overlooking the Gulf of Thailand until it was discovered by some American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Word soon spread amongst servicemen that it was a great place to spend their R&R (rest and recuperation) time which led to the establishment of the first go-go bars along Walking Street. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the resort achieved international acclaim centred largely on its nightlife which made it one of the world’s best-known destinations for sex tourism. More recently the tourism authorities have made a concerted effort to rid Pattaya of its seedy reputation as they try to promote the resort to a much wider audience.
Getting to Pattaya from Bangkok
Pattaya is only 150km south of Bangkok and is easily reached by bus from the city’s Eastern Bus Terminal or directly from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. There are also a number of transport companies offering private transfers from Bangkok Airport to Pattaya. Passengers who arrives in Bangkok on a domestic or intra-Asian flight will most likely arrive at the older Don Mueang Airport from where transfers to Pattaya can be pre-booked online. Visitors who are travelling around the Gulf of Thailand can hop on a ferry in Pattaya and cross over to the popular resort of Hua Hin on its western shore.
Where to Stay in Pattaya
It’s very important for first-time visitors to Pattaya to research the different districts of the resort before booking accommodation as they are quite distinct and are suited to different types of tourists. Visitors looking for the nightlife for which the resort is so famous will probably want to stay in the vicinity of Pattaya Beach which is party central. Hotels on Pattaya Beach Road are a good choice as they overlook the sea and are within walking distance of the liveliest nighttime entertainment.
Some 6km south of Pattaya Beach is Jomtien Beach which is a far more suitable choice for couples and families. There’s still plenty going on in terms of nightlife but it’s a much more chilled spot with a better beach than its famous neighbour. The beach area offers an impressive selection of accommodation to suit all budgets and is home to some of Pattaya’s best restaurants.
Heading 6km north of the main Pattaya Beach resort leads to Naklua Beach which has the best beaches in town and is the quietest of the three beach areas. Naklua offers the most authentically Thai feel and is a popular choice for visitors looking for luxury accommodation and top-notch dining.
Pattaya Tourist Attractions
Nightlife: In spite of the efforts of the tourism authorities Pattaya remain synonymous with its notorious nightlife. Much of this is focused on the infamous Walking Street which is part of Pattaya Beach Road. It runs south-west along the coast for 1km from South Pattaya Road (Pattaya Tai) to the Bali Hai Pier. Whilst the street is packed with go-go bars, nightclubs and other adults-only venues it is far from the ‘den of iniquity’ of years gone by. In fact many regular tourists frequent the area just to see what the fuss is all about and can enjoy an evening of cold beers and people watching without frequenting any of the adult entertainment venues. There’s plenty more nightlife in Pattaya beyond Walking Street with countless beer bars, nightclubs, ladyboy bars, gay clubs, live-music venues and cabaret shows. In addition, the more laid-back beach areas of Jomtien and Naklua have their own nightlife scenes so visitors can enjoy a great night out without even venturing into downtown Pattaya Beach.
Sightseeing: The main tourist attraction of a cultural nature is the 105-metre-high Sanctuary of Truth which stands on a headland some 7km north of Pattaya Beach. Visitors to this architectural wonder which is made entirely of wood can admire artwork created by craftsmen of different faiths from South-East Asia. The building is an ongoing project which is scheduled to be completed by 2050. The main religious site for visitors is Wat Phra Khao Yai which stands on a hill overlooking Pattaya Beach some 2km inland. More commonly referred to as ‘Big Buddha Temple’ this golden structure is 18 metres tall. As well as being a popular tourist attraction it is also frequented by local people who come to pray.
Short Excursions from Pattaya
Visitors to Pattaya can enjoy exciting days out at some excellent waterparks which lie close to the city. Ramayana Water Park lies 30km south of Pattaya Beach and is the biggest and best in the country. With more than 50 slides to choose from there is plenty entertainment on-site for children and adults alike. Another first-class venue is the Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark which stands on the coast some 20km south of Pattaya Beach. The site is made up of different themed entertainment zones which collectively offer around 30 slides to visitors of all ages.
Just inland from this waterpark is the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden which is perhaps the most stunning garden complex of the whole continent. Just 5km east of these gardens is the remarkable site of Khao Chi Chan which is a 130 metre high Buddha engraved into the side of a mountain. Other nearby places worth visiting include: the man-made Pattaya Floating Market which is a retail complex built like a traditional market; and Underwater World Pattaya which is an aquarium displaying marine life from around the coast of Thailand.
Anyone wishing to escape from the crowds on Pattaya Beach in search of more idyllic surroundings should take a short excursion to Koh Larn which lies about 7km offshore. Referred to as ‘Coral Island’ by local agencies this tiny island is home to glorious beaches and crystal-clear water. Morning departures allow visitors to spend a few hours on the island before returning to the mainland in the afternoon.
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