Travel Tidbit #9: Pattaya
Before I begin, let me clear the air: yes, Patthaya is the sex capital of Southeast Asia. The writers of Lonely Planet have done their damnedest to make sure that no one ever goes to Patthaya because they assume that you, as an enlightened traveler, are above Patthaya’s nightlife (you aren’t). So the following are reasons and tips for your next trip to Patthaya (none of which you’ll find in Lonely Planet).
One of the the city’s advantages is its location–it’s about a two-and-a-half to three hour minibus ride from Bangkok’s Victory Monument and it only costs around 150 baht (about 5 dollars). Ask your minibus driver to drop you off in Jomtien. Jomtien is a suburb of Patthaya and is quieter and cheaper than Patthaya-proper. It’s only a 10-minute drive into Patthaya and the songtauw’s (pick-up truck taxis) run all night, so you don’t have to worry about being stranded.
While Jomtien does not have the white sands and clear blue water that we often associate with Thai beaches, it’s as nice as any beach in Europe or the continental United States. The beach is several miles long and follows a roughly straight line that is packed full of umbrellas and lounge chairs which you can pay to sit under. The alternative is to bring a towel and find a bare patch of sand for free; but, fiscally speaking, “why?” Patthaya and Jomtien are overcrowded with Russian tourists anxious to get away from…well…Russia. During the daytime they’re a quiet bunch, so other than a few men in Speedoes which you can’t unsee, Jomtien’s beach offers an enjoyable, relaxing day in the sun and waves.
If water sports are your interest, Patthaya and Jomtien have them all, from jet skiing to wind-surfing and you should never have to walk more than 100 meters to find them. It also provides a fun opportunity to test out your haggling-skills, which you should have been honing throughout your Thailand vacation. Here’s a good tip for haggling: in the major tourist spots like Patthaya and Phuket, it really helps to know Thai numbers. Merchants and vendors are expecting naive tourists who speak no Thai, but if you negotiate in Thai they are taken off-guard and more likely to give you a fair price.
Patthaya really comes alive at night.There are enough bars and clubs in Patthaya to satisfy even the most intense party-goer. I would highly recommend a club called Nab, which is not one, but three clubs next to each other–a gay club, a straight club, and a lesbian club–and caters to every persuasion. There’s no cover charge, and drinks are relatively cheap. It is also far enough away from the seedier areas of town to be relatively free of sketchy patrons.
The major attraction of Patthaya is its famous Walking Street, which features countless go-go bars and sex shows. Walking Street is what places like Amsterdam and Las Vegas aspire to be. The lights and colors seem to be nothing but various hues of neon and shades of crimson. Bar girls are standing on the street, displaying their goods and promising even more inside. The street is overcrowded with older male tourists and their Thai…ahem…friends. This may sound like one of the Inner Circles of Dante’s Inferno to some, but trust me, when you’ve been drinking it’s actually a lot of fun. The best part is that you have no fiscal excuse not to have been drinking heavily: the bars on Walking Street make their money from other services, so the drinks are ridiculously cheap. If you’re feeling really adventurous, go ahead and step into one of the shows. Remember this is Thailand; no one’s judging you here.
Scott Beattie is a leading authority on critical interpretations of X-Men and Entourage and is also the author of the blog Pad Thai and Chocolate Jesus. He is TESOL-certified and is currently teaching in Ayutthaya.