Pattaya (พัทยา) is a seaside resort on the Eastern Gulf Coast of Thailand, about 150 km southeast of Bangkok. Pattaya is mostly famous for its go-go and beer bars, but local authorities have made some efforts to provide more family-friendly attractions and activities. Although the sex industry is still going strong and sex tourism remains the key money earner for Pattaya, the resort also attracts local families and holidaymakers from around the world. If you are going to be offended by the sight of fat old men hand in hand with young Thai women, then Pattaya is probably not the place for you.
Efforts by local authorities over the past few years have improved the quality of the beaches, but they are still lacklustre by Thailand’s standards, and over-development has long since destroyed some of the natural charms the area once had. However, the plethora of hotels and guest houses, and easy access from the capital and airport, make it a popular weekend getaway. Catering for over five million annual visitors, Pattaya is also able to offer an excellent range of eating options and a wide variety of things to do. Its population is a colourful mix of nationalities and ethnicities from near and far.
Pattaya occupies most of the coastline of Bang Lamung District (one of the eleven districts that comprise Chonburi Province). This article only deals with Pattaya proper, which spans the areas to the east of Naklua Beach and Pattaya Beach, plus the Buddha Hill headland (which is immediately south of Pattaya Beach). Jomtien is covered in a separate article, and contains Jomtien Beach and the areas east of it, including Dongtan Beach. The beaches of Jomtien are much broader and generally in a better shape, and the atmosphere locally is more sedate and family-oriented than at Pattaya Beach.
Pattaya’s main beaches are popular and busy places for activities. Some of these include banana-boat rides, jet-skiing, water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and the like; anyone who just wants to enjoy a simple swim or a good splash around with a frisbee or rented inner tube will always find themselves with plenty of company as well.
The three kilometers long Pattaya Beach runs along the city centre. The beach is full of life with hotels, restaurants, shopping malls all along the road facing the beach. The street south of Beach Road, Walking Street, comes alive with rock music as the night sets in. People throng the street to experience the night life, which is unique in all respects. There are hundreds of beer bars, go-go bars, discotheques around the area. Muay Thai, the Thai Boxing, an open arena in some of the beer bars are exciting to the hilt.
Another beach in Pattaya, Jomtien Beach, more popular among family vacationers, is on the southern part of the city, and separated from the main Pattaya Bay by Buddha hill. Jomtien is more calm and serene compared to the crowded Pattaya Beach and a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Jomtien is also popular for its amusement park and tower, to keep children entertained. The one km long, Wong Phrachan Beach, situated on the Northern part of the Pattaya Beach is a favourite among swimmers.
There are acres of sand jam-packed with recliners and umbrellas (usually with an “in-house” supply of drinks), serviced by an army of laid-back but tenacious hawkers offering anything and everything from food (especially seafood, fruit, ice cream) to massage, manicure/pedicure, tattoos, lottery tickets, newspapers, herbs, flowers, gems, perfumes, sunglasses, CDs, watches, lighters, clothes, toys, souvenirs, handycrafts (it’s a bit like TV shopping – as soon as you’ve declined one offer, it’s time to consider another) and so on. Eventually you buy a very dark pair of sunglasses, and after that you just pretend to be asleep.
Pattaya Beach is almost 3 km long and bordered by Beach Road. Due to its central location and proximity to several hundred hotels, and because it’s a relatively narrow strip of sand, it’s crowded at the best of times (and even more so at high tide). Hefty fines for littering help keep the sand neat and tidy, however the sea is not so clean around here.
The northern end of Pattaya Bay is occupied by Wong Amat Beach, which is accessed from Naklua; and beyond the southern end, around the Buddha Hill headland that separates Pattaya Bay from Jomtien, are several more smaller beaches.
Naklua Bay is immediately north of Pattaya Bay, with Rachvate Cape separating the two. Naklua Beach, to the far north, is the main strip, with the smaller Crescent Moon Beach and then Palm Beach further south. Beyond them is Wong Amat Beach which occupies the northern end of Pattaya Bay, but is accessed from Naklua. All are generally cleaner and more suitable for quiet relaxation than Pattaya Beach.
Wong Phra Chan Beach (หาดวงพระจันทร์). This small tranquil one kilometre beach is on the northern side of Pattaya Bay. The serene atmosphere here is attractive to those longing for a complete rest and privacy.
One of the largest malls in Asia. Just opened in mid January of 2009, this sprawling complex has really put Pattaya on the map for grand scale shopping and dining. It is the best shopping mall in the region and now attracts customers from all over, adding to the traffic chaos of Beach Road. Fashion, electronics, health & beauty, kids activities and food are all here. Zara from Spain and Next from the U.K. are set to open in February ’09. With the obligatory cinema complex and bowling alley on the top floor, this mega-mall is styled on the big Bangkok destination shopping areas like Siam Paragon. The Food Loft has the best view of the bay and great variety at reasonable prices. The anchor store is Central Department Store itself, offering high-end designer labels from abroad and Thailand. A supermarket and budget food hall is in the basement. Enter from Soi 9, Pattaya Beach Road or on Second Road after the new View Talay complex. Easy to find, just look for the traffic jams