Introduction to Pattaya
Meaning the ’south-west monsoon wind" and correctly pronounced "Patti-yah" not "Patt-eye-yah" this lively destination located roughly 150 kilometres from Bangkok ranks as one of the most successful beach resorts in the world. Each year a million and a half visitors enjoy its myriad attractions, and the number keeps growing. Although frequently criticised for its spicy nightlife, it satisfies the needs of leisure travellers in a way that few other destinations can match, anywhere.
Pattaya’s tree-lined main beach extends for roughly 4 kms, commencing at the Amari Orchid Resort (the ’quiet end’) and terminating at South Pattaya "strip" in a crowded shopping area which is also home to most of the of the discos, and nightlife. A short taxi ride further south brings you to Jomtien beach, which is longer, less crowded, and a base for many water sports.
Unlike Bangkok, Pattaya has no magical mystery hidden in aesthetic corners, and it makes no pretence of being anything more than what it is: - an unbeatable combination of essential, thoroughly satisfying holiday ingredients.
To illustrate this, some years ago a leading travel trade magazine conducted a poll of several hundred clients of different nationalities staying at a first class hotel, where the guests were predominantly couples or families. The results showed just how extraordinarily successful Pattaya is. Over 97% of respondents said they were "very satisfied", would return again, and would recommend Pattaya to friends.
Looking closer, it is not hard to see why. Pattaya is comfortably accessible from Bangkok in just over 2 hours on an excellent highway, thus avoiding the added expense of air connections, as is the case with Phuket and Samui. Even so, it has its own airport at Utapao, formerly built to handle B52’s during the Vietnam War, can accept wide-bodied long haul charter aircraft such as 747’s with ease. It enjoys year-round sunshine, and suffers few of the extreme weather conditions that can ruin holidays elsewhere. The cost of comparable accommodation in Pattaya is generally less expensive than Phuket and Samui, which makes it excellent value for money. Furthermore, it features almost every water and land-based sporting activity you can think of, boasts excellent restaurants, good entertainment, and countless leisure pursuits. The bottom line is that nobody can possibly be bored in Pattaya.
One last aspect perfects the appeal - numerous offshore islands with deserted beaches. This makes it possible to combine ’Robinson Crusoe’ activities with all the fun of Asia’s premiere beach resort. Similarly, a short drive takes you into all the pleasures of the Thai countryside, and there are many worthwhile excursions to places of interest, including trips to Bangkok, which can be done comfortably in a day.
But Doesn’t the Nightlife Spoil It?
Probably more has been written about Pattaya’s nightlife than any other place on the planet. For years, television crews and eager journalists have scoured the back streets in search of sensational, often exaggerated stories. Not surprisingly, the destination has acquired a mixed image of both bouquets and brickbats, a fact that may indeed discourage prospective visitors, who, uncertain of Pattaya’s merits, may choose to go elsewhere.
What hoteliers know and most others don’t realise, is that Pattaya receives a large number of repeat visitors - professional people, families, and retired couples - many of whom have made it their preferred choice after spending holidays in various other resorts around the globe. If you ask them why Pattaya wins over other more exotic or fashionable places, they point to its long list of assets: climate, accessibility, location, affordability, top class accommodation, fine restaurants, plus the huge choice of sporting, leisure and entertainment choices - arguably far and away the best in any Asian beach destination.
They will also tell you that Pattaya’s main night spots are contained within a downtown area, which like London’s Soho, you can either choose to visit or ignore. Those who choose the former out of curiosity will inevitably confirm with a smile that most of the girls are charming and polite, a far cry from the dubious personalities of their counterparts in the West, and a just being a spectator in one of the downtown bars can be a lot of fun.
Our experience at the Amari Orchid Resort and Tower indicates that a large number of our guests choose to do either almost nothing, or absolutely nothing. This is perhaps partly because the hotel has considerable numbers of regular customers, many of whom arrive every year like migratory birds. Having seen most of the sights, their recipe for a perfect vacation is two or three weeks spent beside the pool without moving outside the hotel. Others, we note, although initially filled with great exploratory or sporty intentions, finally content themselves with just an excursion or two, before succumbing to the same soporific and seductive formula.
For active types however, two weeks is unlikely to be sufficient to exhaust the endless possibilities for sports and sightseeing, a selection of which are mentioned here as a general guide, rather than a definitive list.
Most travel agencies offer a selection of well-organised and enjoyable excursions, either to offshore islands, or land-based attractions. A chat to fellow holidaymakers at the bar to share their own experiences is possibly the best guide to making a good choice.
Before even dipping a toe in the briny, there a number of interesting and worthwhile places to visit, many of which feature on organised tours.
Some of the most popular choices include Suan Nong Nooch, a Thai village style theme park with superb gardens, an orchid nursery, and entertaining cultural performances including an elephant show. Pattaya’s most important temple is Wat Yansangwararam, a modern building under His Majesty the King’s patronage. It incorporates buildings of different architectural styles, including Japanese, Chinese, and Indian influences, and is a centre for meditation. Wat Khao Cheejan is located nearby Wat Yansangwararam where the biggest Buddha is carved with gold on a stone mountain.
Khao Kheaw Open Zoo with 1,200 acres of forest and natural beauty is one of the largest zoos in Asia, offers the basic open zoo excursion and night safari and Asia’s Largest Butterfly Garden - Saithip Butterfly Garden which occupies 15.22 acres of beautiful landscape in Khao Kheaw area, experience floral garden with over one hundred species of thousand of butterflies. Sriracha Tiger Farm , is a mini-zoo with crocodiles, tigers, camels and many birds, and although hardly Thai in content.
The Million Years Stone Park & Crocodile Farm, houses over 1,000 crocodiles, plus a zoo and a bonsai garden set amongst some interesting rock formations and fossils. Pattaya Elephant Village, features well performed demonstrations of elephantine skills such as logging, and re-enactment of their role in historic battles, plus the enduring favourite, the elephant football match. The Siriporn Orchid Farm has some splendid displays of orchids including catteleyas, daedrovium, pompadours and vandas. Cut flowers and plants are on sale here.
The Bottle Art Museum comprises a collection of more than 300 glass bottles containing miniature replicas of churches, temples, palaces, and much more, the clever handiwork of a resident Dutch sculptor. Mini Siam & Mini Europe, puts on a daily cultural show, and features an interesting selection of beautifully crafted scale models of major buildings both in Thailand and elsewhere, on a scale of 1:25 and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum , is an entertaining retreat on the odd rainy day.
Pattaya Park Tower rises some 240 metres and provides a revolving restaurant as well as spectacular views and Pattaya Water Park , which provides thrilling water slides, whirlpools, and swimming pools for family fun.
The Sanctuary of Truth is a gigantic wooden construction which covers the area of more than two rais. The top point of the building is about 105 meters high. It was constructed to withstand the wind and sunshine on the seashore at Rachvate Cape, Tumbon Naklea, Amphur Banglamung, Chon Buri Province.
The building was constructed according to ancient Thai ingenuity and every square inch of the building is covered with wooden carve sculpture. The purposes of decoration with wooden carve sculptures are to use art and culture as the reflection of Ancient Vision of Earth, Ancient Knowledge, and Eastern Philosophy. With in this complex, visitors will understand Ancient Life, Human Responsibility, Basic Thought, Cycle of living, Life Relationship with Universe and Common Goal of Life toward Utopia.
Bamrung Sailing and Paramotor Centre at Huai Sak Nok Reservoir offers different varieties of aquatic sports. Certificated courses are offered for windsurfing, sailing, paramotors, and para-gliders. Canoes, catamarans and kayaks are available for rent. The reservoir is also a stop for many migratory birds between November and February. Other options include the Lakeland Water Cable Ski a recreational sports centre on a fresh water lake, featuring cable skis, a slightly easier and safer alternative to being towed by a speedboat at sea. Pattaya boasts a wide range of land sports, and it is unlikely that Tiger Woods (whose mother is Thai) would have anything but praise for Pattaya’s golfing choices , with over a dozen top golf courses, including the Laem Chabang International Country Club, and the Sriracha International Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player respectively. Pattaya also has a calendar of international tennis tournaments including the Volvo Open Women’s Tournament. The Bira International Racing Circuit, (named after Prince Bira, Thailand’s famous racing driver) offers motor and motorcycle racing on its 2.4 kilometres circuit where Formula 3 racing cars and go karts can also be hired. Races take place regularly on weekends. There is also a Miniature Racetrack (The Pattaya Cart Speedway) where separate tracks are provided for professional and amateur drivers. A riding school with 40 horses and an indoor stadium teaches classical skills, and organises rides on the club’s 2,500 acre grounds. Visitors can also participate in elephant or pony treks through hinterland meadows villages and farms, which provide a pleasant ever-changing vignette of Thai rural life. Pattaya boasts three international bowling alleys with top of the range equipment, and has its own Thai boxing stadiums plus a professional training camp that offers short courses for foreigners. Elsewhere, paintball "battles" are conducted in a mock-up Thai village, and can be excitingly adrenalin-boosting. For the real thing, there is an air-conditioned shooting range with 19 fully equipped galleries, qualified instructors, and a selection of powerful weapons from hand guns up to assault rifles, . If you are a conference or exhibition organiser, the resort boasts one of Asia’s top venues: the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH) a state of the art exhibition centre, capable of handling large events such as sports, trade shows, product launches etc. for up to 5,800 people.
The closest (approx. 8km) offshore island of Koh Larn welcomes the daily flotilla of tourist boats, but makes for a pleasant trip. For peace seekers, a desirable alternative is to hire your own boat (getting a small group of like-minded people in your hotel to share the reasonable cost is not normally difficult.) In this way, and suitably stocked with food and drinks, you can reach other quieter islands and treat yourself to a pristine beach and crystal clear water for a memorable day out.
Pattaya is a renowned diving centre with a choice of highly experienced operators giving instruction from novice up to divemaster levels, plus speciality courses such as wreck explorations, (there are two close to the resort) underwater navigation, and marine photography. There are about 15 main dive sites in three groups easily accessible from Pattaya on day trips. Although the favoured time for diving is from November to March, Pattaya is recognised as a year-round diving destination. Jomtien Beach is a windsurfer’s Mecca, where aficionados can show off, novices take lessons, or just admire the experts in action. Most other sea sports are available on either Pattaya or Jomtien beaches. Pattaya is also home to the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, which has reciprocal arrangements with other clubs around the world, and yachtsmen will find a warm welcome here. There are many options for sea fishing activities, from simple hook, line and sinker affairs on small boats, to top of the range craft, fully equipped for fighting chair battles with sharks, marlin, sailfish, grouper, or sting rays in the deeper waters.
What Pattaya might lack in sophistication tends to be compensated by variety, and many night spots feature innovative highly entertaining shows. One of the best known entertainment venues is Tiffany’s transvestite cabaret, where unbelievably glamorous participants put on splendid expertly choreographed performances. Pattaya has an excellent choice of restaurants of all types, from the modest to the magnificent.
The high-spirited Pattaya Wan Lai Festival, Songkran Flowing Day (Thai New Year) on 19 April, and is best known for its unrestrained public water-throwing traditions, where everybody becomes a legal target for a drenching.
The fertile fields of the neighbouring provinces make for delightful fruit festival generally held in May.
The increasingly popular Pattaya Marathon (details from TAT) is held annually in July in three categories: Full Marathon (42.195 kms) Half Marathon (21.10 kms) and Quarter Marathon (10.55 kms) and is open to all.
One unusual event is the annual Buffalo Races held in October at Chonburi, 40 kms north of Pattaya.
In November, the Pattaya Festival comes complete with floral floats, sport events, beauty contests, market stalls and a plethora of carnival-like activities, exhibitions, cultural performances, plus a spectacular display of fireworks on the beach and The delightful Loy Krathong festival, celebrated nation-wide on the full moon night in November, pays respect to nature when Thais and tourists alike float banana-leaf "krathong" on the sea or rivers.
Pattaya is the least sophisticated, the longest established, and the most developed of all Thailand’s beach destinations. It combines almost every preference, from pulsating discos, to deserted beaches and courses in silent meditation. In many ways, it is unique, and in terms of variety and value for money, probably unbeatable. It is as suitable for families with children as it is for old folks and young swingers. Many now choose to retire here in the tropical sunshine, and it has a flourishing real estate market in luxury condominiums. Shopping, infrastructure and medical services are excellent.
The Amari Orchid Resort and Tower is located at the quiet end of Pattaya Beach, and set in extensive tropical gardens. For those in search of ultimate relaxation, peace and quiet, there is little need to leave the hotel. For others who want to experience the endless attractions, it is all out there, just waiting to be enjoyed.