Pattaya, Thailand is a beach community I first started visiting in 1997. It has a well deserved reputation for many things that has kept it an interesting global tourist destination since at least the 1960’s as an R&R destination for soldiers doing duty in Vietnam.
The first Pattaya hotel I stayed at was the Dusit Thani which is still there on the beach guarding the entrance of Beach Road (a one way road that meanders along the beach before ending at the entrance to “Walking Street”). The Dusit Thani is a recognized family of hotels in Thailand and provided a nice peaceful place to stay. It has beautiful views, pools, restaurants and thai massage spa. I was once getting a Thai massage there with a work colleague, in the cubicle next to mine, doing the same. At one point the masseuse had me lift my legs back over my head for one of the stretches and apparently I went too far. Next thing I knew I’d flipped over backwards knocking over the little table with a tea set on it over and crashed into the back wall. Everyone came running to see what the racket was while myself and the masseuse couldn’t stop laughing. My colleague teases me about it to this day!
During the late 1990’s most of my trips to Pattaya averaged only 2-3 days. In June 1998 I booked a two week holiday and spent the time at a less expensive hotel also on Beach Road (next to Soi 2) called the Royal A One Cruise Hotel. Though not a upscale as the Dusit Thani it was in a nice central Beach Road location with a nice pool and overall accommodations for about $30 USD/night. From the beach across the street the hotel resemble the front of a cruise ship. It made for a very relaxing holiday…that time!
The other time I stayed at the Royal A One Hotel for a holiday was in 2001. My wife and stayed there for 5-6 days and it didn’t go well. The rooms had gotten rundown, there was mold in the rooms and the aircon seemed musty as well. Whether it was from the air in the room, or something else, we both came down with severe bronchitis/pneumonia type symptoms that we attribute to that stay. While I’ve not stayed there again, I did walk through of the common areas in 2012 and they have done some serious renovations to upgrade the property. Back around the turn of the century they catered to a lot of German tour groups while in 2012 it appeared that they now focus on the growing Russian tour group population that Pattaya has become known for these days.
Between 2001 and 2012 all of my trips to Pattaya were day trips only. Either on my own, or with work colleagues, we’d negotiate a car and driver in Bangkok (Kreung Thep) and go to Pattaya. We’d have the driver drop us off on Beach Road and arrange a rendezvous point at a specified later time or exchange phone calls so I could call and let the driver know we were ready for pickup. We’d then spend 8-10 hours enjoying the beach community. During those years I could see the radical change that was occurring along Beach Road. Gone are most of the beer bars that used to dominate most of frontage across the street from the beach. Now huge hotels and shopping centers have sprung up to dominate.
Luckily not much changed on the beach side of the road except they did get rid of the sewage problem (late 90’s) that used to spoil certain sections of the beach and water. We would typically spend most of the afternoon hours at one of the beach relaxation stations comprised of beach chairs and large umbrellas where you could sit for hours enjoying the beach, the water, the water sports of boats, jets skis, para-sailers, swimmers, tour groups coming and going from island hopping, etc. All the while you could be served drinks and food by the various service vendors. A steady stream of vendors also stop by, trying to sell you all sorts of food, souvenirs, tattoos, foot massage, pedicures, manicures, food, and so on. After awhile this does become a little annoying but it goes with the price of relaxation. Basically, anything you buy from the roaming vendors the owner of the chair/umbrella section where you’re paying (very inexpensively) to sit gets a kickback on the sale.
A decision point arrives when the call of nature makes its presence known. We’ve seen some Russian tourists just stand up out of there chair, walk down to the edge of the water, lower the front of their little speedo and start writing Cyrillic in the water until they’re relieved. My colleagues and I chose to do things a bit more genteel. By coincidence our spot on the beach was just across Beach Road from the Hard Rock Hotel/Restaurant. The restaurant, which is closest to the beach, had a nice restroom that we would use when nature called. The staff had the typical Thai good natured friendliness and never caused us any issue with just using the restroom. Often, when we’d had enough of the beach we’d have food and drinks there as a way of thanking them also.
In 2012 I signed up to run in the Pattaya Marathon (I ran the 1/4 Marathon) with my brother-in-law that lives in Singapore. Since I knew the dates 6 months in advance I started looking for hotel deals.
One that jumped out was a special deal at the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya which I immediately booked. When we arrived July 2012 I checked in and was given an awesome room in what really is an awesome hotel. The pool is just a fun zone with constant activities for both kids and adults. The hotel package came with free breakfast which had a great variety of fresh and healthy food.
The hotel Wi-Fi “almost” reached across the road to the beach relaxation station. So if/when I needed to check email or send a picture on Facebook I just needed to walk 20′ and connect. Definitely recommend the Hard Rock Hotel.
Life on the Streets Gets Tougher for Ladyboys (Katoey) in Pattaya. Yesterday I saw a posting in the Bangkok Post concerning the Katoey (Ladyboys) in Pattaya. Earlier I mentioned the “Walking Street” at the end of Beach Road. This is where there are a lot of nightlife activities and seemingly where pockets of katoey bars are located. While I’ve seen them over the years there did seem to be a lot more of them visible in 2012 and I’d heard they’d become much more aggressive. Apparently there is a new police commander in town that is cracking down on their activities. It will be interesting to see how effective this will be.
For those that are not familiar with Katoeys, here are many helpful guides on how to differentiate between a beautiful lady and a beautiful ladyboy. Bangkok.com Magazine has posted this one, “10 Ways to Spot a LadyBoy”
In addition to what information is available in online news, YouTube is a also great place to keep updated on life in these places are recorded by vloggers.
To summarize, Pattaya is one of the Ticky Marks that has been memorable along my Checklist of Life and could be an interesting place for you to visit as well.