Pattaya began to metamorphose when the US navy set up shop at the nearby port of Sattahip (40 km further down the coast). As the war in Vietnam escalated, so the influx of GIs on ‘R & R’ grew and Pattaya responded enthusiastically. Today, it provides around 36,000 hotel rooms and supplies everything you could ever need from a beach holiday – except, arguably, peace and quiet. Given its origins in the Vietnam War, it is hardly surprising that Pattaya’s stock in trade is sex tourism and at any one time, about 4000 girls are touting for work around the many bars and restaurants.
While Pattaya’s official population is 60,000, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 staying in town at any one time, whether international tourists or migrant workers. This has inevitably led to environmental problems with a lack of water treatment facilities leading to polluted seas and beaches. With the recent opening of good sewerage plants things are now starting to improve and it shouldn’t take long for the seas to be as clean here as almost any other place on the Gulf coast.
Pattaya – according to official statements at least – is going out of its way to play down its go-go bar image and promote a ‘family’ resort profile. This emphasis on wholesome family fun is hard to reconcile with reality. But still the effort continues, with some notable success to the south in Jomtien . The busiest and noisiest area is at the southern end of town (South Pattaya or ‘The Village’); from about Soi 11 to Soi Post Office (with Pattayaland 1, 2 and 3 being the gay areas of town). There must be one of the highest concentration of bars, discos, massage parlours, prostitutes and transvestites of any place in the world. Many people find this aspect of Pattaya repugnant. However, there is no pretence here – either on the part of the hosts or their guests. This is a beach resort of the most lurid kind.
Pattaya may be infamous in the west as a city of sin, but there is more to the resort than this perception might indicate. It is also popular with watersports lovers: there is sailing, parasailing, windsurfing, ski-boating, snorkelling, deep-sea fishing and scuba-diving.
Koh Si Chang is visited by taking a boat from Si Racha, they run hourly from daily 0700-1900. Pattaya itself is simple to get around consisting of one long, straight seafront road running the length of the beach (Pattaya Beach Road), linked to another parallel road (Pattaya 2 Road) by innumerable sois packed with bars, restaurants and hotels. Local transport is abundant; songthaews run regularly between all the tourist centres and there are also scores of people hiring out bikes, motorbikes and jeeps. Songthaews charge A5 for short trips around Pattaya Bay (although it is not uncommon for visitors to be charged ฿10), ฿10 between Naklua and Pattaya Beach and ฿20 to Jomtien. To avoid being charged more than the standard fare, present the driver with the correct fare – do not try to negotiate the price, as the driver will expect you to hire the vehicle as a taxi.
Route 3 from Bangkok follows Thailand’s eastern seaboard to the Cambodian border. The first 130 km (on Highway 34) are an ugly ribbon of industrial development that takes in once-sleepy Si Racha, now a jump-off point for the nearest island to Bangkok, eccentric Koh Si Chang. Travel a little further and you’ll reach the renowned beach resort of Pattaya. There is an airport at U-Tapao, south of Pattaya. This is gradually expanding and is now receiving some international scheduled arrivals. THAI runs a service from the airport to the Royal Cliff Beach Resort, ฿250 and there is also a public bus leaving every two hours, 0700-1700. Pattaya railway station is off the Sukhumvit Highway, 200 m north of the intersection with Central Pattaya Road.
There are countless exchange facilities both on the beach road and on the many sois running east–west, many stay open until 2200.
Sea rescue, Beach Rd, next to the TAT office, T038-433752.
There are many facilities around town.
Pattaya International Clinic, Soi 4, Beach Rd, T038-428374; Pattaya Memorial Hospital , 328/1 Central Pattaya Rd, T038-429422, 24-hr service; Dr Olivier Clinic, 20/23 Moo 10, South Pattaya Rd (opposite the Day-Night Hotel), T038-72352. There are plenty of pharmacies on South Pattaya Rd.
Tourist police, T038-429371, or T1699 for 24-hr service.
Take a day trip to Koh Larn for real crystal clear beaches, see people of the third gender at Tiffany's, have diner at Cafe Chilli (at Central Shopping Mall), have a Beer Lao at the Light House, visit the "Sanctuary of Truth"