When Bangkok residents and Eastern Europeans want a relaxing beach getaway for a less exorbitant cost than they’d pay for a trip to Phuket or Krabi, they book a stay at Pattaya. This is often considered the best part of the Chonburi province, where I currently live and teach.
Traveling to Pattaya City You can find buses with air conditioning and other amenities to Pattaya but I opted for one of the 16-passenger vans that drive along Route 3 between Bangkok and the beach destination. Due to the fact that there are essentially no traffic laws in Thailand, the operators will pack as many patrons as possible in the van. During my journey, I was one of 21 passengers, forced to sit with a standing man’s butt in my face for about an hour.
Although traveling to Pattaya from my hometown of Chonburi City -- and even from Bangkok -- is quite inexpensive, it’s important to save your baht for the time you spend on the shore. As a known hub for tourists on the Gulf of Thailand, the prices of everything are inflated. The area around the pier and Walking Street is very hilly so it’s difficult to get outside the hot spots without a taxi, whether you opt for a traditional taxi cab, a motorcycle taxi or a songthaew.
I stayed in a modern high-rise through Airbnb a long way up the hill and I only felt compelled to make the trek on foot once the temperature cooled down at night and I drank a few beers. Most forms of hired transportation will quote you prices upwards of 300 baht but you can usually haggle that down a bit. Even after negotiations, you will probably pay more money to get across town than you paid to get from Bangkok to Pattaya.
Rated NC-17 Walking Street is Pattaya’s red light district so expect to see lit up signs for nude shows that cater to many fetishes, from Russian prisoners to katoeys, more commonly known as ladyboys. Smarmy men pace in front of their respective clubs trying to convince passersby to pay for a sneak peek. Much like Ko Shan Road in Bangkok, you can find ping-pong shows on Walking Street. If you think that means you’re paying to see a table tennis match, please consult Google before entering.
In addition to the raunchy clubs, there’s an open Muay Thai arena that you can check out as you stroll along. Large, sweaty men wearing boxing gloves try to clobber each other while Eastern European tourists and a few locals root for their favorite contender. You can find a couple more relaxed bars and restaurants along Walking Street as well, if you aren’t looking for full-frontal (and dorsal) entertainment in Pattaya.
Sand and surf Most people flock to one of the surrounding islands for a Thai beach experience during the day, whether the
y choose the smaller islands of Ko Sak and Ko Krok or one of the larger far islands, Koh Lan (or Koh Larn) and Ko Phai. I explored Ko Lan on this occasion, taking a 45-minute ferry ride from Pattaya’s main pier to the popular island beaches. There are six main beaches to choose from on Koh Lan, depending on which side of the island you’re interested in. This is where you’ll find the blue-green waters that many people associate with Thailand beaches.
Though the sea is much clearer than the murky ocean at Bang Saen Beach, the closest spot to swim near Chonburi City, it’s saltier than any water I’ve swam in before. Even with my eyes squeezed shut, I could barely open them after diving under. I recommend keeping your head above the water or bringing/buying goggles to protect your eyes. Watch out for people who walk around trying to scam foreigners and pressure tourists to buy the goods they’re peddling. Prepare to say “mai ow ka” or “mai ow krap” (not-want, politely) many times throughout the day.
Because Pattaya is relatively close to my temporary hometown, I imagine I’ll be back again before heading back to the States. Stay tuned for information about the other three islands near Pattaya!