Beach life takes a variety of forms in Pattaya. The hub of activity, Pattaya beach offers top quality hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping before dispersing into residential development. Over the course of late afternoon to early evening, Walking Street undergoes a metamorphosis from closed up ghost town to wild nightlife, closed to street traffic, where characters from around the world come out to play. 10 minutes from Pattaya central is Jomtien beach, a lively place that still caters to a foreign audience. A little more isolation can be found at Naklua beach, which offers quiet refreshment and fresh seafood. Further off the beaten path, well suited for the adventurous looking to step beyond tourist hotspots should head for Bang Saen, a hangout for Thai nationals across the country. Lastly, Koh Larn (coral island), is an idyllic island and short ferry ride away that provides clean beaches and clear waters, well suited for budgeting and luxurious travelers alike.
A common complaint of Pattaya is that its Thai Authenticity has been sullied by Western influence, perhaps most obviously highlighted by a highly conspicuous sex industry. A more nuanced eye will see beyond nearsighted and totalitarian criticism by recognizing Thai spirit houses, Wat Yansangwaran and reverential behavior around sacred fig trees as a unique blend of Buddhist and Animist traditions. Although significantly changed from a sleepy village, Pattaya’s maritime origins remain intact at Bang Saray, a microcosm of Pattaya more generally, a Thai fishing port surrounded by resorts, villas and spas for expats from Europe, Australia, Asia and the Americas. The lively city gets even more frenetic during Pattaya Festival which occurs at the height of the summer season in April involving sporting events such as Grand Prix racing, sailing regattas and beauty competitions. In the same month is Songkran, a traditional celebration of respecting Buddha images, monks and elders that has evolved into a national water fight.
Things to do in Pattaya
There’s much to do in Pattaya ranging from walking underneath marine life at Underwater World to soaring atop the tropical canopy at Flight of the Gibbon. The Alangkarn Theater is a place of great pride that exhibits extravagant performances such as cabaret shows featuring show-guys playing the role of show-girls. The buildings as well as the performances are grandiose and larger than life. For a chance to put yourself at the center of attention, the 3D art gallery, Art in Paradise, is a great opportunity to play amongst exhibits and take some fun photos. A similar popular attraction is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the associated yellow and white balloon, Sky Rider, that rises above Pattaya beach and delivers expansive views of the landscape. For a more sanctified experience Wat Phra Khao Yai (Big Buddha Hill) and Khao Chi Chan, the largest stone engraving of Buddha in the world which was completed in 1996 to commemorate the King’s 50 years of rule.
Asian Trails’ Pattaya Discovery Tour offers twice daily excursions over the course of 5 hours that give insight to the subtleties of daily Thai life. These insights come in the form of visiting a local Thai market, where vendors and customers bustle around food and spices. Grab lunch to go, made right in front of you, and walk around to catch sight of the wonderful produce, seafood, hanging meat and mounds of spices. From there, get a better understanding of where the market seafood comes from with up close and personal observation of Coral Reef inhabitants in the Marine Aquarium. Next comes a drive up Khao Sam Muk (Monkey Cliff), appropriately named for the Rhesus Monkeys running around the 45 meter hill and the Chinese Shrine that overlooks Bang Saen Beach. Local people believe the spirit of the mountain protects its fisherman from harm. The trip concludes with an inside look into the process of oyster cultivation and a village of stonemason’s working on their craft.