Once a small fishing village, Pattaya is a mere 2 hour drive from Bangkok and is now a major tourist destination.
If truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward too much to my trip to Pattaya. I wanted to experience somewhere in Thailand on the east coast that I hadn’t been to before, and my only options were Ko Chang or Pattaya. Ko Chang was a little too difficult to get to (plus there are less hostels there to choose from), so I kind of forced myself to go to Pattaya. This place is known as the party and entertainment capital of northern Thailand where people – mostly tourists – come to escape the heat of Bangkok and chillax. I was planning to do just that, for a couple of days, but I found a few nasty surprises…
I soon found out that as a [young!] male backpacker walking the streets alone, I was going to be bombarded with “offers” of massages and other hardcore activities. I guess if you come looking for this kind of thing then you won’t go home disappointed! However, I was only in town for the tourist sights during the day, and at night the food and drink! Surprisingly, I had not encountered any ladyboys in Bangkok during my backpacking there, so it was all new to me in Pattaya! There are specific and designated Ladyboy Bars on Walking Street and throughout Soi 6 where even middle-aged men (and women) like to go for a drink – I wonder what else they get served after they’ve finished their pint?!
As ladyboys and prostitution are not for me, I focused mainly on the daytime tourist sights in Pattaya, many of which are pretty lame, to be honest. I have always found Thailand to be big on natural attractions (i.e. beach, jungle) and have never really been impressed with the touristy stuff. Here in Pattaya it was the same. That said, there was one amazing wat called The Sanctuary of Truth which was probably the most charismatic wat I have visited in Thailand and one of the best anywhere in the region (it’s right up there with Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang). This sanctuary was really impressive and is very photogenic.
Remember what I said about Thailand’s tourist attractions being a bit “meh”? Well, in Pattaya there is a small but perfectly formed attraction called Mini Siam and Mini Europe Park. This is a small park full of miniatures of some of the best known attractions in Thailand and from across the European continent. I have seen a similar thing called Window of the World in Shenzhen, China, so maybe that is where the influence for this park in Pattaya came from? All in all, it was a good 45 minutes walk, but there is not much shade here and this somewhat ruined the experience for me.
There is a temple called Wat Phra Yai in Pattaya, which is also a big hit with the tourists. I would have liked it more if I hadn’t seen a million golden Buddha statues in Thailand already. However, the scenery was very nice, and perhaps unlike some other temples in Thailand, it all seemed very clean and respectful. You can smell the Buddhist incense all around you, and can even see parts of the beach in the distance.
I couldn’t come to Pattaya and not check out a beach or two. Ultimately, Pattaya’s beaches are really only intended for Bangkok escapees who don’t have the luxury of a real beach in the city, but if you’re coming up from Phuket or Krabi on the Andaman coast, then – like me – you won’t think much of what you see (apart from the pictures above…). I have always found that sea water is much warmer on the eastern coast of Thailand compared the western coast, so it really is great for a quick swim, and I saw many people just laying back with a few bottles of Singha Beer and relaxing in the Gulf of Siam sunshine. I did the same, for a while, and watched a film on my iPad. However, I wasn’t a fan of Pattaya, and I won’t be coming back any time soon. Maybe I was still haunted by my encounters with ladyboys the previous night?