It might have been strange to take a trip to Pattaya, a city with reputation for baser things, on a Good Friday. During our trip to Thailand, my mom wanted to visit a city other than Bangkok. I initially wanted to take us to Changmai, but due to schedule I picked the one closest and within a few hours ride away. Pattaya is a resort town located about 100 kilometers from Bangkok, along the coast facing the Gulf of Thailand. It began to develop as a tourist destination in the 60s, when American servicemen going there for their "R&R." It was from this I think that the town got its notoriety, particularly its nightlife.
Since I was with my mom and aunt, I tried to make the trip as comfortable and less stressful as possible. I arranged for a taxi ride from our hotel in Silom to Pattaya. The trip is about 3 hours, with a lunch stopover in a Burger King in Motorway Chonburi (fish fillet burgers for all of us, since it's Good Friday). We took the expressways going there, our driver weaving the car expertly between trucks and buses speeding along the highway. We got in our destination around 2 in the afternoon.
We were booked for a night in Hilton Pattaya, and the hotel was impressive - better than most hotels I've stayed in during business trips, although not as swanky as the Venetian in Macao. As it was located in the beachfront, it offers a great view of the city and the gulf, especially since our room is at the 26th floor with a seaside view (I'll probably write a review for this hotel; it's too nice not to). We rested and freshened up for a bit after checking in, my two companions sneaking in a quick nap before we set out of our hotel to see the town.
The weather as hot and humid with temps hitting 36, but on the upside, clear blue skies with no chance of rain that would ruin any walking trips. There was a bustle of tourists and touts around Beach Road, where out hotel is. The road runs parallel to the beach, and is lined by shops and hotels on one side, and kiosks and stalls on the other. By this time the sun came down a bit and the temperature was more bearable.
We strolled until we reached Walking Street, at the south end of Beach Road. This street is mostly known as the red-light district of the town, crammed with brothels and bars catering to those who came to town looking for temporary affection. From there we doubled back, again stopping in a fast-food joint for snacks. I was tempted to go to the beach to try jet skiing, but I was too lazy to go back to the hotel to change into my boardies, so I scratched that. By this time it was almost dusk, and the bright lights of the bars and massage joints started coming to life. We started heading back to the hotel, with my two companions stopping at the hawker stalls every now and then to look at souvenirs and bric-a-bracs being sold there. My mom and aunt then retired in our hotel room, while I continue walking around the town.
I found time to relax and swim in the pool the next morning. The infinity pool is located at open-air area in the 16th floor. The view from there is amazing. The Gulf of Thailand looks pretty, with the boats and jet skis crisscrossing its blue expanse, creating wakes that perturb the calm waters. I swam some more until guests started arriving, after which I left and head out for breakfast.
My mom suggested that we go to one more place before we check out. It was either to the zoo with the elephants and the tigers, Ripley's or the aquarium. We ended up in the latter. We took one of the mini-buses playing Beach Road, one of the main transportation options available in the town, and proceeded to Underwater World Pattaya.
The aquarium is not as nice as Siam Ocean World in Bangkok, or the Manila Ocean Park. It looks run down, but still has some interesting aquatic animals on display. I particularly like the rays, sharks and the humongous barracuda. After the aquarium we took a ride back to the hotel and had lunch in one of the restaurants in Central Festival, a mall located below Hilton. After checking out, we took a bus back to Bangkok.
Pattaya to me is a nice city but I can feel that patina of sleaze that seemed to have pervaded the place, hanging around like an early morning smog, the sort of turns the sky bluish-gray. I know that there were efforts to make it family-friendly, but it seems odd to see Ripley's to be just a few hundred meters away from the go-go bars. Unless they're your thing.
How to Get There:
Pattaya is located about 100 kilometers from Bangkok. You may take a bus from the Eastern Bus Station near Ekkamai BTS Station. Buses leave every 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs 117 baht. You may also hire a taxi from/to Bangkok; one way is between 1500-2000 baht.
This trip was originally published on Boarding Gate 101.