Pattaya & Jomtien Beach
Pattaya is located on the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand, about 120 km from Bangkok. Though best known for its go-go bars and exotic night life, it also boasts a great variety of tropical holiday experiences: water sports, diving, fishing, many excellent golf courses and a good variety of restaurants and shopping areas.
Pattaya from the Hill
In recent years there has been an extraordinary amount of real-estate development, every bit of spare space being filled with condos, hotels, and, around the lagoon, retirement homes for foreigners.
By train, not so easy. At present there is only one train a day, which leaves Bangkok (weekdays only) at 6.55 am, arriving in Pattaya some 3 hours and 40 minutes later. However at 31 Baht it is amazingly cheap: the Song Thaew from Pattaya station to down-town, seems comparatively expensive at 30 Baht.
There is however a good bus service from the Bangkok Eastern Bus Terminal at Ekkamai, and the Northern Bus Terminal at Chatuchak: price is around 120 Baht, travelling time around 2 hours. Taxi fare from Bangkok is around 1000 Baht. There is also a bus and taxi service from the new Bangkok International Airport.
There are very few taxis, though many of the big hotels have their own transport. Recently a new mini-bus service has been introduced which covers most of Pattaya and Jomtien, with buses every few minutes. Standard fare is 20 Baht, though you can buy day tickets for 90 Baht.
Otherwise the most popular form of transport is the Song Thaew or Baht Bus. Hundreds of these diesel pickups drive down Beach road and back up Pattaya 2 road, most of them empty but all of them generating pollution and traffic hold-ups.
They follow several standard routes: Beach Road - Pattaya 2 Road circular; The Pattaya - Jomtien route, which starts on the corner of Pattaya 2 Rd. and Pattaya South Rd.;the Bus Station Route. The standard charge is 20 Baht. You can also hire one for your own use, and then the price is negotiable.
Car and Motorcycle Hire
Cars and motor-cycles can be hired fairly cheaply, the main rental places being along Sukhumwit Rd. (for cars) and the southern end of Pattaya 2 Rd. for motor-cycles.Charges are around 1000 Baht per day for cars, 250 Baht per day for motorcycles. Make sure that any hire-vehicle is properly insured.
Map: Pattaya and Jomtien Beach
Pattaya Beach Road
The tourist center of Pattaya is Beach Road, a one way street, stretching about 3.5 km (2.25 miles) from the Amari Resort in the north, to Pattaya Quay in the south west, clogged, day and night with tourist buses and convoys of the local Song Thaews. The beach itself is only a few yards deep, but every spare inch seems occupied by deck chairs and umbrellas for hire, boats and water scooters for hire, food stalls, vendors, touts and tarts.
Opposite the beach is an uninterrupted line of bars and restaurants, hotels, guest houses, tourist shops, and towards the south west end, a brand new shopping center and McDonalds.
At the end of Beach Road is Walking Street, which, for more than one reason, used to be known as "The Strip". Walking Street is closed to traffic, but only in the evenings. On the seaward side of the street are Cabaret Shows, Thai Boxing, and many seafood restaurants, built out over the sea. Some of the restaurants are quite good - I have tried Nang Nual, for instance, several times over the years and never been disappointed.
Walking Street by Night
On the opposite side are lots more bars, mostly empty during the day, but livening up as the evening progresses. Walking Street does indeed get very busy some evenings, so pick-pockets are a danger.
Several streets branch off Beach Road towards the parallel Pattaya 2 Road, most with the same mix of bars and small hotels.
A few recommendations:
Soi Yamato has a decent Japanese Food Center, reasonably priced.
The Wonderful Bar (corner of Pattaya 2 rd. and soi 13/1) - beers 55 baht until 8 p.m.
The Shamrock bar and Restaurant, soi 2, an outdoor bar famous for occasional impromptu Irish Music, Thairish stew (weird but tasty), and owned for as long as I can remember by Terry, an Irish American refugee from the sixties.
Les Parapluies de Jomtien Somewhat less brash than Pattaya itself is Jomtien Beach, the next bay to the south. An enormously long, though narrow beach, fronts an equally long stretch of shop-houses, bars, restaurants, condos and small hotels.
The beach itself mainly features umbrellas and deck chairs set close together, and a throng of hawkers, selling everything from fresh seafood (from the many restaurants) to beach hats, beer, fruit and fake watches.
Les Parapluies de Jomtien
South of Jomtien are some quiet beaches, restaurants and resorts, such as Sunset Village and Sea Sand and Sun (about 20km from Pattaya), Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, also about 20km south of Pattaya, and the fishing village of Bang Saray, about 22 km south of Pattaya, with a couple of seafood restaurants and several places where you can hire a fishing boat for the day.
Pattaya Historical Notes
The name Pattaya is said to derive from "Phraya Tak" who later became King Taksin the Great of Thonburi. Just before the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767, Phraya Tak (Phraya is equivalent to "Governor") broke out of the besieged city with around 1000 followers and marched east to Prachinburi, with the Burmese in pursuit, then south towards Sattahip on the Gulf of Thailand.
When his army arrived in Na Klua (north Pattaya), he was faced with a local chieftain, Nai Klom, and a force of about 10,000 men. Fortunately Nai Klom was much impressed with the virtues of Phraya Tak, and joined up with him, rather than fight a battle. They then marched south via Na Jom Thian (Jomtien) to Sattahip, then on to Chantaburi on the Cambodian border where Phraya Tak rebuilt his forces, and prepared for the re-conquest of Central Thailand.
The main road to Jomtien Beach from Pattaya is still know as Thap Phraya ("Army of the Phraya") Rd., and the full story can be read in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Also see Ayutthaya
on this site.
Pattaya: The Vietnam War
Old Thai friends remember Pattaya prior to the Vietnam war as a tiny fishing village, with no continuous road link from Bangkok - the Sukhumwit Road was divided, about 45 kilometers south east of Bangkok, by the mighty Bang Pakong river which though now crossed by many bridges, in those days had to be crossed by ferry.
The Vietnam war changed things for ever. On the Gulf of Thailand, near Sattahip, was the huge US air-base of U Ta Pao, from which B52 bombers flew regular raids into Vietnam and Laos. Up to a few years ago the huge area of the old air base was still littered with detritus of that disastrous conflict, but more recently part of it has been developed into a small international airport. The major consequence for Pattaya was the near presence of a large number of American GI's seeking R & R. The beginning of the Pattaya entertainment industry dates from that time.
When I first went to Pattaya, around 15 years ago, its most noteworthy features were the huge beautiful sweep of the bay and the ugly sprawl of bars and bawdy houses at the southern end of Beach Road. The latter feature had already given the town a reputation as the most notorious watering hole west of Manila, though even then there were a few higher class hotels and resorts such as the Amari, the Dusit resort, Ambassador City, and the venerable Royal Cliff Resort.
In those days there were no major highways in the area: the main road to Pattaya was the Sukhumwit Road, which starts near the center of Bangkok and meanders its way to the mouth of the river, then follows the coast south to Pattaya & Sattahip, then southeast to Rayong and beyond, terminating near the Cambodian border, more than 300 km from Bangkok.
Even telephone services were fairly primitive: in 1992 when I stayed in Sattahip, the navy town south of Pattaya, there were no phone links to Bangkok. The only way I could contact my company in England was via an HF Radio link into the Bangkok telephone system.
Even since my first visit, Pattaya has grown enormously, as has the road infrastructure, with two expressways covering most of the distance. The bars and bawdy houses have spread to cover much of the beach road area, and many of the streets leading off towards Pattaya 2 Road: huge numbers of small hotels have opened to cater for their customers.
Walking Street by Day
More recently Pattaya has tried to clean up its image. "The Strip" a notorious area of girly bars at the south end of Beach road has become "Walking Street", closed to traffic during the evening, and combining a still large number of bars with Thai Boxing, Cabaret Shows, and some good, though pricey, sea-front seafood restaurants.
The number of three and four star hotels has also much increased, as has the number of good restaurants away from the beach area, where excellent Thai, Chinese, Japanese and European food can be had at reasonable prices. The usual western fast food chains are also much in evidence, if such is your taste.
Pattaya's sleazy reputation is not without justification. The lure of tropical lifestyle, lax law-enforcement, cheap sex (some of it under-age), boy bars and girly bars, has attracted criminals from all over the world especially from Europe and Eastern Europe. A casual scan of news websites such as Pattaya One News
and the Pattaya Mail
, reveal a startling amount of petty and more serious crime directed at foreigners. Late-night muggings are a regular event.
Please be warned: Pattaya is not as safe as Bangkok or Chiangmai.