Located approximately 160 kilometers Southeast of Bangkok, on the Gulf of Thailand’s eastern seaboard, is Thailand’s largest, if not most popular center of tourism. Pattaya is a bustling, cosmopolitan city with more than 100,000 registered residents, and a considerable more number of short and long term vacationers, expatriates and migrant workers from up-country who call the city their home.
Coined the capital of ‘fun’, Pattaya prevails as one of the world’s top entertainment destinations, particularly among males seeking a piece of the world-famous nightlife and entertainment. Not to say that Pattaya is strictly a man’s after hour haven, for it is also an accommodating, international-standard family destination boasting various daytime leisure outlets and venues including lovely beaches and islands, amusement and water parks, as well as an abundance of department stores and shopping malls.
The Pattaya of today – whether a crowded and bustling beach lining a bay packed with motor and sail boats, yachts and water sport action, or a vibrant late night street colorfully painted with people, neon lights, and all kinds of eclectic life and activity is an extreme contrast to what Pattaya used to be only decades ago, which was nothing more than a tiny fishing village. Pattaya’s initial boom of the 60s-70s is credited to its popularity among American GI’s on R&R during the Vietnam War.
If it’s authentic local culture or historically rich temples and ruins you’re seeking, perhaps Chiang Mai or Bangkok would better suit you. However, if what you are looking for is a bustling seaside town, complete with all the modern conveniences, then Pattaya should suit you fine.
With nearly 40,000 rooms on offer in Pattaya, finding somewhere to stay is not the difficult part. Rather, the task comes in choosing among all the hotels, motels, guesthouses, villas and luxury resorts available.
If you don’t mind being in the center of everything, with easy access to the prime shopping and dining venues, as well as the prime commercial, entertainment and nightlife districts, then Central and South Pattaya is ideal. However, more peaceful mid to high range family-friendly accommodation is plentiful in the quieter North Pattaya area, as well as at Jomtien beach, just to the south of Pattaya.
For a list of hotels in Pattaya see: Pattaya hotels
What to See and Do
Being a seaside destination, Pattaya’s main activities are water based. Parasailing, wind surfing, jet-skiing, water skiing, wake boarding and kite surfing are among the common activities found in Pattaya and Jomtien.
The less crowded beaches and islands nearby provide more peaceful locations for relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, as well as scuba diving. Of the dozens of islands accessible from Pattaya, Koh Lan, a small island 40 minutes away by ferry (15 minutes by speedboat), is the most popular, while Koh Sak and Koh Krak are also popular islands to visit.
Pattaya itself has many dive schools with competitive rates for diver certification courses. Divers come to Pattaya not only to explore coral reefs at over 30 offshore islands, but also famous ship wreck sites, particularly the Hardeep, a 42 meter long ship which sank in 1942. For those who’d like to get a sub-aqua experience without the diving training and equipment hassles, one can board the Belgium-built Vimantaitalay submarine to view the corals at Koh Sak. Tickets, including ferry transport from South Pattaya’s Bali Hai pier, cost around 1800 baht.
Pattaya’s world class aquarium, Underwater World Pattaya, showcases over 200 species in a thoughtfully designed ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ beginning at shore level, descending through a winding long hall literally under water.
Aside from the sea and beach, Pattaya offers plenty more adventure and leisure activities including excellent championship golf courses, bowling lanes, as well as amusement and water parks. Wild life enthusiasts should consider nearby Million Years Stone Park & Pattaya Crocodile Farm – a zoo, rock, and tree garden in one. What would a trip to Thailand be without an elephant show and ride? For this, head to Pattaya Elephant Village at Kilometer 145 on Sukhumvit road.
For the daring, Pattaya features two venues for bungee jumping. Take a leap from 50 meters up, day or night, over a lake at Jungle Bungee Jump near Jomtien, or at Pattaya Bungee Jump, featuring Thailand’s highest jump (56 meters) or a reverse bungee, catapulting you 56 meters into the air. Connected to Pattaya Bungee Jump on Theprasit road is Pattaya’s main Go Kart race track and Paint Ball Combat ground. The other main paintball park, Paintball World is located at Jomtien.
For the kids, Pattaya Park Beach Resort next to Jomtien features a water park with pools and slides and an amusement park (Funny Land) with the standard roller coasters, bumper cars and thrill rides. Another kids’ favourite is Thunder Rock Dinosaur theme park near South Pattaya on Sukhumvit road.
Dining in Pattaya
Nearly any type of cuisine can be found in Pattaya. Seafood, Steak, Buffet, German, Italian, English, Irish, Japanese, Chinese, Pacific, Mexican, American and of course authentic Thai food can be found in abundance all over the city. The venues cover and equally wide range from real cheap or real expensive in luxury hotel restaurants, open air beachside eateries, street stalls, or the typical fast food chains in air-conditioned shopping malls.
Pattaya is a night owl’s paradise. Most of the action is in South Pattaya on various sois branching from the Beach road and Walking Street (soi 13 – 16), a vibrant pedestrian street full of bumping stereos, souvenir and food vendors, and countless beer bars, go-gos, and lively drinking establishments lined side-by-side.
Central and Northern Pattaya certainly aren’t excluded from the neon-lit bar action and one should have no problem finding somewhere appealing to knock back a few drinks no matter what part of Pattaya they’re in. Aside from countless girly and gay bars catering to debauchery-thrill seeking clientele, there is plenty a place in Pattaya for dancing, live music, karaoke, cabaret, and other such innocent forms of late night pleasure. Popular venues include Hard Rock Café Pattaya on Beach road, Hollywood Disco, Tiffany’s Cabaret, and Alangkarn, a mega cultural, light, and laser show with an optional buffet dinner.
Getting to Pattaya
With the completion of Suvarnabhumi Airport, international commuters flying in to Bangkok now have an easier time getting to Pattaya than ever before. Expect to pay at least 1100 baht for a taxi from the new Bangkok airport and considerably more for VIP shuttles. Either are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It should take between 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of day/night and traffic conditions.
From other areas in Bangkok, expect to pay 1500 baht for a taxi. First and second class busses are frequent from all three major bus terminals, but most frequent from the Eastern Bus terminal (Ekamai) where busses leave every half an hour from the early morning till about 23.00. Cost is about 120 baht for first class and 20 baht less for 2nd class. You can also take a 3rd class train leaving from Hua Lamphong central station in Bangkok. Though it costs a third of a bus ticket, the infrequent schedule and five hour travel time should be enough to deter most travellers.
30 kilometers south of Pattaya is U-Taphao airport (UTP) which services daily flights from Samui and Phuket, usually running about 3000 – 4000 baht including all fees and taxes for a one way ticket. If one is flying to U-Taphao, it’s recommended to pre-book transportation from the airport into Pattaya to avoid paying inflated last minute prices.
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