Truthfully I don’t think much of Pattaya. We went there once earlier in 2016 just because we were in Bangkok, had the time, and thought we’d check it out. We both said we had no need to go back again. So you may find it a little weird that we have been there two more times in 2016 and fly there again on the 1st of January 2017!
OK, so what is going on?! I stand by my thoughts that Pattaya is not a place I need to visit again, it is just a coincidence that we have been back again… twice! We have sailed to Pattaya on two occasions to deliver boats to the new owners. Why are we going again? We have been invited to go sailing with friends in January, and I am looking forward to exploring some of the islands.
Pattaya doesn’t hold much interest for me. As far as I have seen, Pattaya is all about sex and bars… not that there is anything wrong with either sex nor bars, but I just find the whole place a little seedy and sleazy… that’s just my opinion! Anyway, I wouldn’t go as far as to say there is nothing about Pattaya worth doing or seeing.
However, we have done very little in Pattaya. We used our time there as a “rest time” and not so much a “recreation” time! In this post I will give you a brief guide to Pattaya… how to get around and what to expect in the centre of Pattaya!
A quick Pattaya history
Pattaya is on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand about 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok. It started off as a fishing village, and remained so, until the 1960s when Pattaya first began to boom. What led to it’s dramatic change of character was simply a question of supply and demand! During the Vietnam War, American’s stationed at nearby U-Tapao Airfield (about 50km south) began visiting Pattaya for R & R. It soon became a popular R & R destination for soldiers from other bases scattered over Thailand. Pattaya has since gained a reputation as a “sex tourism” destination due to the local sex industry and go-go bars, etc. FYI Pattaya also has Asia’s largest gay scene.
OK! So the five things I think you should know before you visit Pattaya are –
1. How to get around
Songthaews or “baht buses” are small pick-up trucks with two bench seats and a canopy top. They can be seen continually driving a loop through the streets of Pattaya, Na Klua and Jomtien. The songthaews are easy to get – the driver will usually stop if you look like you are trying to get somewhere, or you can wave him down. Then you simply press the buzzer to indicate you want to get off. It is when you get off that you pay and, at ฿10 per person, it is so cheap. Just take the money to the driver’s window (correct change is helpful). The price of ฿10 is for any distance on a regular route. You can also ask a driver to take you to a specific destination. If the driver is able to, it will cost more. In this case, discuss the price with the driver and, agree on a price before accepting the service.
We have hired a scooter on two of our previous visits. The first time we were staying a Jomtien and rented a bike from Mai Pang. We went back to the same place the second time even though it was some distance away from where we were staying, just because she was reasonably priced and very good to deal with. We paid ฿200 for a scooter per day. Get contact details below.
Another popular, quick way to get around is to get the motorbike taxi (or, more to the point a scooter taxi). This form of transport is obviously not as safe. Dwayne paid ฿200 to get driven 10 kilometres.
2. About walking street
Walking street is the main nighttime entertainment area. There are many Go-Go clubs with ‘dancing girls”, ping pong shows (and no I don’t mean table tennis competitions) and bars with… hmmm, how do I put this politely… sex workers. There is very little vestige of Thailand left on this street, in fact I would go as far as to say there is none remaining.
In addition to the above mentioned entertainment the street is full of donor kabab vendors, turkish ice-cream stalls, “Crazy Russian Girls” and bus loads of Chinese tourists, which are deposited at one end of walking Street with the object of traversing this renown street and taking hundreds of selfies!
It is not just Walking Street that has the”drinks” and the “ladies”. Further afield, in the warren of streets that weave their way through Pattaya, you will find many bars with names such as Pan-T Bar, 69er’s Bar, Pussy Club, Quickie Bar and Lucky Love Bar. Almost every second establishment appears to be a bar…. this could be a slight exaggeration! The most popular street, I am told, is Soi 6 (mostly short-time bar). Soi 7 and Soi 8 also very popular and packed with bars and massage parlours.
Now, I don’t know the stats, but there are definitely way more male tourists and expats in Pattaya then there are (non-Thai) women. You can walk past bar after bar without seeing someone who is not either male or Thai lady/ ladyboy.
We went to a bar and, as I was dancing on the dance floor, I did a bit of research! I know I am always working!! On this dance floor, which was packed with the gyrating bodies of dozens of male and females… I WAS the only western woman. Furthermore, my “research” led me to the conclusion that 100% of the men on the dance floor were westerners of 60+ years… see what I am saying… I kid you not!
Understanding the bars….
- Sports Bars – some small bars will call themselves sports bar but they are still more dominated by the sex trade. If you want a genuine sports bar go for a large one such as Lion Pub and Retox Game.
- Beer Bars – these are usually open air bars with centre bar, bar stools, sometime a pool table, dart board and may have football on the TV. Staff are all ladies and there will be lots of ladies who appear to be loitering around the front or at the empty tables…. until a guy enters and then they pounce! PLEASE READ – Drinks bought for the ladies!… below.
- Short time bars are pretty much brothels, they will often have rooms above the bars that can be used for a short time. How can you tell the difference? Short-time bars are typically behind closed doors, have dark windows with many half clad women out the front encouraging you to enter.
- A Go-Go bar is like a strip club. Go-go dancers are primarily sex workers who dance to get guys’ attention.
- A Coyote Bar – is a bar with women dancing to entertain you. Dancing is their primary duty.
- Ladyboy Bars – ladyboy bars are bars where the ladies are actually boys… lady – boys… ladyboys. See easy? No confusions there!
- Gents Clubs – I have heard two different descriptions about gentlemen’s Clubs. One – they do not have short time rooms, nor are the girls available for sex. They are there to entertain you. Talk with you, sit on your lap, tease you, etc… and, two – gentlemen’s clubs are similar to short-time bars however, the ambiance/decor in gentlemen’s clubs is classier and there’s more emphasis on the regular bar business. No matter which description is more accurate, they all agree that gent clubs are more expensive and everyone has a price!
Drinks bought for the ladies…. the working girls, who will approach you and start massaging your shoulders and say things like “you so sexy”, are not free! You will be asked to buy the lady a drink… these are called “lady drinks”. Ladies drinks are more expensive than regular drinks; so if money is an issue, ask before you buy.
Also, a good thing to remember is that these girls don’t just “love your company” and think that you are just “the beez kneez”… they are there for a reason. If you are not interested, it is best you tell them up front as they will expect some payment for the time they give you, their conversation is NOT free. At the very least you will have to buy them drinks or they will want to leave with you….. WARNING: if you look at a bar girl for too long they can get pregnant!
To leave with a bargirl…. you will have to pay a “bar fine”. This is money paid directly to the bar so the “lady” can leave with you.
The streets of Pattaya are bursting at the seams with massage parlours. With massages for as little as ฿200 per hour you would be forgiven for visiting everyday… as I did! There are all types of massages, for example, foot massage ฿200, Thai massage (no oil) ฿200 and oil massage ฿300. Now… you would pretty much have had to have your head in the sand if you have never heard of a “happy ending”… this is on offer in Thailand! It was in Thailand, my husband was offered a “happy ending” by an ‘old duck’ while laying on the massage bed next to me, his wife!… and that was at a resort!!
My tip for women, men or couples wanting a massage with no sexual connotations, is to venture away from the “red light” district (i.e. Pattaya) and hope for the best. I had two foot massages and two oil massages. Of the four, only one was a bit off-putting as the lady (or lady boy… who can tell) kept telling me I was beautiful, “you so sexy”! Yeah right, it’s like, “drop the crap love and concentrate on the massage! No tip from me if I can’t relax and enjoy my massage!
5. About the beach
Disclaimer! We have been spoilt by visiting awesome beaches on our yacht – remote, pristine with crystal clear water… In my opinion Pattaya Beach itself is nothing special… BUT it is packed with holidaying people, so it is obviously liked by many. It is a busy beach with speedboats, parasails and jet skis buzzing by. If you want a beach to relax on, maybe try Jomtien Beach which is only a short drive away. However, don’t expect crystal clear water! I can’t say anymore about the beaches, and nearby islands, as I have no experience of them. Needless to say, if beach or island-life is your main reason to visit Pattaya I would recommend you do some research into your choices so you are not disappointed.
Through the convoluted streets of Pattaya you will find an abundance of cheap street food so, if street food is your thing (as it is ours), you can eat ridiculously cheaply during your stay in Pattaya. The streets of Pattaya are full of cheap noodle soup stalls, fried chicken and papaya salads. Furthermore, the streets are crammed with eateries ranging from cafes, noodle bars, pub grub, seafood and five star restaurants. We enjoy our street food, but did go out for a couple of seafood feasts, notably the Pattaya Beer Garden which we visited with friends.
The Beer Garden is situated on the water only a 2 minute walk from Walking Street. It is large, airy and popular. They serve western food and Thai food, and have a good selection of seafood. The great food, and good value, is reflected in the popularity of this busy restaurant. When we arrived at the Beer Garden we had to wait for a table, and although we were seated at the bar with the number 7 (i.e. 7th on the waiting list), in no time at all we had a table. The seafood was delicious and it was reasonably priced. My only complaint would be the smell coming from the beach during low tide… but a glass or two of wine put paid to that!