Located 120kms southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya is one of the largest and most popular beach resorts in the region. The area has a long history of tourism and has become increasingly popular with families over the last few years.
Visitors are drawn here by the white sand beaches, tropical climate and huge range of accommodation. However, it is most famous for its naughty nightlife and some might find its unapologetic girlie scene somewhat sleazy. However, contrary to its reputation the city does offer plenty more and is a popular weekend getaway for Bangokians.
Numerous golf courses, amusement parks and resorts make it attractive to the whole family. The beaches aren’t too bad, although not quite the postcard perfect tropical beauties found in Krabi and Phuket. Offshore are a few nearby islands with fine beaches and aqua-coloured seas, although they can get crowded.
There are two distinct beachfront areas to Pattaya – Pattaya Bay, which fronts the main tourist centre of the city, and Jomtien, which lies to the south beyond a hilly peninsula and is lined with hotels and popular with Russian package tourists. Don’t expect ‘Blue Flag’ beaches and clear water, but it’s not a bad option if you’re looking for a beach within an hour of Bangkok’s airport.
Most of the action is found down the numerous lanes leading off the beachfront road, which are packed with bars full of friendly young girls. Either you buy them a drink, take them home for the evening or simply ignore them to watch the sports on TV, play pool or relax. The whole atmosphere is fairly easy going. The Walking Street is a pedestrianised strip by night, where the most intense action is found – step into one of the go go bars and discover that nothing is left to the imagination.
By day, Pattaya does have a few attractions worth seeking out; the most obvious is the temple on the hill to the south of the bay, which offers a good view of the whole town. To the north, on the Naklua peninsula, is the startling ‘Sanctuary of Truth’ – a breathtaking traditional Thai structure of religious importance. There is also a water park, the Nong Nooch botanical gardens, Mini Siam, the Sri Racha Tiger Park, and other family excursions. Offshore from Pattaya are several islands that can be visited for a day trip of snorkelling and peaceful respite. There are also around 20 golf courses here.
Pattaya lays claim to being Thailand’s first resort town, a consequence of its proximity to the US airbase at Sattahip. American GIs were flown here for a bit of R&R during the Vietnam War, which forever changed the fortunes of the former fishing village. Though the prosperity was initially built on the sex trade, Pattaya has since become a property bonanza, as weekend condos pop up along the eastern seaboard. The range of accommodation on offer in Pattaya is huge, ranging from private high rise apartments on the pretty Naklua peninsula to new hotels where the menus are all in Russian.
From Bangkok, Pattaya is an easy two-hour drive away. As you travel along the Bang Na-Trat and Sukhumvit highways, Pattaya is clearly signed and easy to reach. Air-conditioned coaches leave regularly all day from the Eastern Bus Terminal. A one-hour taxi transfer from Suvarnabhumi Airport costs about 1,500 baht. Once in the city you can catch tuk tuks, taxis or the numerous ‘baht buses’.