A heavy-breathing and testosterone-fuelled testament to holiday hedonism, Pattaya has lured tourists for almost four decades, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. And as past visitors move on to more genteel Thai resorts, first-time travellers from Russia and Eastern Europe now air their new passports with a fling in Asia’s first and foremost Sin City. Anyone for Pattayagrad?
The cast may be evolving, but the scenery and soundtrack remain the same. The gorgeous half-moon of Pattaya Bay swoops around the headland to (slightly) more refined Hat Jomtien, and delicate sea-breezes whip up a heady cocktail of suntan lotion, fast food, and motorcycle and jet-ski fumes. Wide-eyed package tourists jostle with Indian tailors, ruddy-faced middle-aged Western men, and beachfront fruit and seafood vendors. Thumping beats, cruising ‘baht buses’ and the commercial hubbub provide an irresistible symphony. And after dark the tourists’ eyes open even wider with a stroll past Pattaya’s infamous go-go bars amid the sex tourism hub of Walking St.
Pattaya’s a stay up late kind of town, but wake up earlier than most and there are activities galore to redress your daytime/nighttime balance. Hit the dive shops to explore the city’s offshore reefs and wrecks, or get some fresh air on world-class golf courses. And if you’re here with the family, the kids (and mum and dad), will find plenty to do to make it a real holiday.
The town’s wicked essence remains defiantly intact, but around the fringes it’s softening and becoming more inclusive. If you welcome it with a dash of confidence and a pinch of adventure, Pattaya’s sun-kissed pursuit of happiness might prove irresistible.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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