Every year I come back to Pattaya, for at least a couple of weeks here or there. Why, do you ask? Well, to visit my relatives – most of the family on my mother’s side have been working and thus living in the area for the past few years now, and as a result, I make sure to visit them whenever I’m in Thailand. My mother has 8 brothers and sisters, and two moms (she was adopted by her aunt), so there is a massive extended family for me to catch up with.
Truth be told, I wouldn’t choose to spend time in Pattaya when I could be anywhere else in Thailand, including Bangkok (one of my favourite large cities in the world), or in the South, surrounded by incredible beaches and world class diving. Pattaya is known for it’s sex tourism, and isn’t exactly world renowned for being a clean and luxurious town. Walking down the street can be a bit depressing, as the norm of couples in site are older Caucasian men walking with young Thai women who he may be paying for in the short term or settling down with temporarily.
I meet people everywhere as part of my location independent lifestyle, but I’d have to say I’ve probably only met two people here (tourists, that is) who I would willingly keep in touch with in the future. You can see what I mean in another post I’ve written on one particular experience during a night out in Pattaya.
If you do find yourself in this town, either because it’s an easy 1.5 hour drive from Bangkok, or you’re passing through on the way to another destination, such as Rayong or Koh Chang, or even Siem Reap, Cambodia, I’ve compiled a list of the nicer parts of town for those of you not looking for ping pong shows, soap body massages, or just plain old happy endings! And hey, if you’re here for that as well, then I guess at times you’ll want to find a decent place to eat, rest your head (no hourly hotel rentals here, folks), or see that doesn’t entail booze, dark smoke-filled bars, or people that you have to pay in order to have a “conversation.” At this point, I’ve likely spent about 5-6 months here in total over the years, and hopefully by now I can offer enough info to show someone a good time for their visit (and no, not that kind of a good time :P).
As per usual, you can open the larger Pattaya map itself to see all the details, websites, and locations, but I’ve also summarized some of the highlights below. If you’d like to see where I’m working from and playing in future, don’t hesitate to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr (sorry, no ladyboys or insider viewpoints of brothels, here)!
|An absolutely fantastic resort that lives up to it’s reviews! Located in the quieter area between Jomtien and Pattaya Beach, this tranquil accommodation includes a couple of pools and perfect little villas just off the beach. The service is absolutely spot on and you won’t want to leave. Bliss in what can generally be a hectic place!|
|Chef @ Home Hotel||A decent hotel that you can get if you’re looking for a bright seaview room right on Jomtien Beach for under $50 a night. There can’t be much said for the service of this 2.5 star property, or the fact that wifi doesn’t really work on the upper floors, but the location is fantastic and the seaview rooms also have a small balcony to sit on and people watch below. For that, I say this is worth the stay if you don’t need anything special otherwise. Give it a miss if you aren’t planning to book the seaview rooms.|
|Hilton Pattaya Hotel||Looking for a fantastic hotel, that couldn’t be more central? The Hilton, within Central Festival Pattaya, the newest mall in the city, has fantastic views and great service, but it will definitely come with more of a price tag.|
|Jomtien Complex Condominium||If you’re looking for longer term monthly rentals for your stay in Thailand, this is a great location and building. A nice pool overlooking the ocean on the 4th floor, good building security, and a gym, all of these rooms have a great view of the sea. Rentals can be found on the message boards and through rental agencies in the building. A very close walk to Jomtien Beach, I stayed here a couple of years in a row while in town.|
Restaurants & Food
Som Tam Na Muang (Papaya Salad Village)
|A great little local restaurant with really good food, no matter what you order. If you get a shake, like anywhere else in Thailand, ask for no sugar. Specialities are their honeyed grilled chicken, BBQ squid, spare rib spicy soup, and of course, papaya salad (order the Thai style without raw crab).|
|Long Bridge Restaurant||A fantastic local seaside seafood restaurant right on the water. Come early enough to watch the sunset while you have some beers and delicious food. Very busy at prime dining hours, and rarely a farang (foreigner) in site.|
|Lung Sawai Restaurant||For some fairly good seafood with an oceanfront spot at the end of Jomtien, this restaurant is worth trying. It’s a bit further out of the way, but it’s at the end of the 10 baht Songtao line down Jomtien Beach Road, which is worth driving down if you’d like a scenic drive along the ocean.|
|The Glass House Beachfront Restaurant and Bar||Looking for a higher end dining experience on a quiet part of the oceanfront? Check out The Glass House. Great food, and a beautiful restaurant and beach dining area.|
|SoPoCho||This local large restaurant and bar has live music on a regular basis, and a great laid back crowd, away from the usual Pattaya madness. An open air venue, with decent food and Smirnoff Giant buckets which are sickly sweet, but can be fun to share if you stick to only one. If you can’t find the name, it’s because it’s written in Thai and this is the sound of what it’s called in “English.”|
|Mum Aroi||This massive waterfront restaurant has quite an extensive menu, so you may think that it wouldn’t all be so delicious at first glance. However, this place manages to fill up on a regular basis, and still have a fantastic selection of dishes. My absolute favourite here is one of their featured dishes – the lemongrass salad with fried catfish, an absolute must-try! They also have a wide range of traditional Thai desserts, and the view is incredible, while the atmosphere is more classy than most in the area. If you can make your way out here, make sure to do so!|
|Vientiane Restaurant||A large Vietnamese and Thai restaurant, (and ironically named after the capital city of Laos) Vientiane is located a bit out of the way with a view of a garden and pond and in a very local area of Pattaya. All of the dishes I’ve tried are excellent (and I’ve had over 20 of them at this point), but make sure to get the vietnamese fresh spring rolls that you make yourself, along with the deep fried prawns on lemongrass skewers.|
|The View Beach Bar & Restaurant||Although the address is the same as Kiteboarding Asia, this restaurant is great with wooden seating, pillows and tables right on the sand, live music, and great food. Here is the actual restaurant website: http://www.view-goodview.com/ 23/4 Moo 2 Soi Najomteien 14, Najomtien, Sattahip, Chonburi Thailand 20250 Tel :O38-255678 Fax :O38-255678 E-Mail : Info@view-goodview.com|
|Rimpa Lapin Scenic Bar & Restaurant||This restaurant is quite hectic on a busy weekend night, but the view is absolutely incredible. Call ahead for reservations to make sure you’re not disappointed and get one of the best seats overlooking the ocean. Known for their Thai fusion cuisine. http://www.rimpa-lapin.com/|
|Restaurant Prapakarn||This great little local restaurant is located on a rocky beach, overlooking some crystal clear water in a very quiet area of the point. The food was good, the vibe was great, and there were many locals enjoying a nice and relaxing lunch with a phenomenal view while there. It felt like being in a quiet part of the South of Thailand, and not at all like the craziness of Pattaya – a perfect haven.|
Sites & Activities
The Sanctuary of Truth
|A beautiful temple made of hand-carved wood in many styles from throughout Thailand, the Sanctuary of Truth was created to be a never-ending project. Entry fee is 450 baht per adult and 225 baht per child for tourists. It’s worth checking out if you are looking for a quiet stroll through a piece of art while in Pattaya.|
|Ko Lan||An island a ferry ride away from Pattaya, you can catch a boat from Bali Hai pier to check out this beautiful little island. Try to get off as far south on the island as possible, as the center portions of the beach are overrun with tourists coming in on the boats. A private boat will help take you anywhere you’d like a little peace and quiet. Food and beverages are pricey as it is hard to bring goods on this island, so keep that in mind so you aren’t surprised when you arrive.|
|Alcazar Cabaret||For a night out at a ladyboy cabaret, Alcazar is the place to go. Tickets are around 600 baht per person and after the hour-long show ends, you can get your picture taken with the beautiful ladies done up in their stunning costumes outside the theatre.|
|Pattaya Boxing World||If you’ve ever wanted to watch some Muay Thai boxing, this is the place to head to when there is a show. New to the stadium are regular shows that feature the history of Thai fighting, including 4 different types from around the country (of which Muay Thai is one).|
|Mixx Discotheque||Mixx Nightclub has two rooms – one for hip hop / top 40, and another for house / dance. Head on over for a night of fun in the largest and most popular nightclub in Pattaya, just at the end of walking street near Bali Hai Pier. Plus, say hello to my family while there – many of them are on staff. http://www.mixx-discotheque.com/main_index.php/|
|Walking Street, Pattaya||Fancy a ping pong show or some go-go dancers? Looking for a night out with blasting music, neon lights, and feel like getting drunk and trying to play the game “boy or girl”? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Walking Street in Pattaya is filled with restaurants, bars, strip clubs, and everything in between. After 5 pm, only foot traffic allowed, and after dark, well, anything goes. Regardless, if you haven’t seen anything like this place before and are in Pattaya, it’s one of those once in a lifetime spots worth checking out!|
|Health Land Spa and Resort||Looking for a nicer environment than all of those massage places calling at you off the street? Check out Health Land. Originating in Bangkok, and now with several locations there and the latest in Pattaya, you can still get a 2 hour Thai massage for 500 baht, but in a quiet place. Large tour groups do also get taken here though, so make sure to book ahead and choose off hours. You’ll still feel like you’re in a peaceful place once you get past the busy reception area.|
|Pattaya Sign View Point||Notice that Pattaya sign that’s lit up at night? Well, there’s a view point up there, with a park nearby and a road all the way to the top of it. Just make sure to get there before they close the gates at 10 pm.|
Although it may seem a bit dingy and dirty to this day, Pattaya may become a more beautiful place over time. I have definitely seen some improvements, mainly in the last year alone, as they have redone the entire Pattaya Beach Boardwalk and even removed the benches so there are less places for ladies of the night to sit to find suitors (although now they just stand or else sit on the ground or beach chairs that have been put away). Also, there’s a rumour that a direct skytrain will be built in the next couple of years, which will mean it will become even easier to access in the near future. Hopefully, more families will be drawn in as new construction takes place and more and more infrastructure is set up to draw higher end tourism dollars, which will result in a cleaner and more gentrified city overall.
My next stop…well, I’m deciding that right now and will be looking for places to head to in the next few days… Feel free to leave in the comments any other recommendations you may have to eat, drink, relax or meet people in Pattaya!