When you think of Thailand, you immediately think of islands, beautiful beaches with snow-white sand, turquoise water and endless sunsets, not to mention the superb food and smiling people. Then there is the culture shock of note, with beautiful temples and palaces.
Then there is Pattaya!
Pattaya is approximately 150 km south of Bangkok, down the coastal road running along the Gulf of Thailand. Once a sleepy fishing village on a beautiful bay, Pattaya rocketed into prominence with the US forces in Vietnam looking for a place to go for some R and R, and it has boomed into a rabbit warren of high-rise hotels and apartments, bars, restaurants and strip-clubs.
Let me tell you about a restaurant my wife and I went to one evening. Wanting to find a half decent restaurant in this den of inequity for our supper, we selected a restaurant on a jetty at the southern end of the strip of pubs and dodgy show bars. It looked great, it was one of those seafood restaurants where you select your fish from an aquarium just inside the front door and once you have selected your meal, the staff scoop the poor unfortunate creature out with a net and scuttle off to do the necessary. We settled in at a really nice table overlooking the ocean. It was perfect, soft music, starlight reflecting off the water and a candle on our table flickering in a red glass holder. Maybe Pattaya wasn't going to be such a disaster after all! After a couple of beers, nature called so I made my way to the men's-room. Once inside, I was pleased to see that they didn't have one of those awful squat toilets that are so popular in South East Asia. Lifting up the seat, I gazed into the bowl, as you do, and to my immense shock, found myself looking straight down into the sea! No messing about with plumbing, everything you did here plummeted straight into the bay! It certainly gave the term "long-drop" a whole new meaning!
The pollution can be quite a problem, for example, one morning I was walking along the beach when the tide was out, you can't really call it beach sand, more like a thick, glutinous mud. With each step, this goooey substance clung to your feet and emitted a sickly smell of something I'd rather not mention! Definitely not great! The trouble is that the Gulf of Thailand where Pattaya is, doesn't have a current, just a tide, so whatever goes into the sea, goes out with the tide, and then comes straight back in again! No wonder "Which Holiday" voted Pattaya as being in their list of the worlds top ten worst beach resorts!
If you ever find yourself in Pattaya and feel like a good day at the beach, rather grab yourself a taxi and go about two miles further south to a place called Jomtien, you'll find a cleaner beach, slightly cleaner sea and far more space as the buildings aren't quite as jam-packed together as Pattaya Bay.
As with all resort towns in Thailand, water sports and excursions can be easily arranged, just walk down the beach and you will be swamped with offers of trips, boating and various other "services" Be warned though, some trips offered may sound great, but can be absolutely shocking! The favorite "bad" trip is to the "Coral Island", the pictures look great but when you putt-putt out there on your tour boat, you are confronted with a filthy beach lined with hotels and apartments in various stages of collapse, in fact the whole place looks like it has been hit by a nuclear strike! For the record, this "island paradise" is named Koh Lahn. You have been warned!
Pattaya is definitely not the place I would choose to return to, the filth, sleaze and the awful spectacle of middle-aged German and Scandinavian men picking up young bar-girls,(and sometimes boys) is just not up my street. The way the town was thrown together in the 60's and 70's to cater for a US military long since gone, has left its mark on what once must have been a tranquil and quite beautiful bay. Thailand is a beautiful destination, but rather go to Phuket or Koh Samui, where slowly the spread of mass tourism is creeping up, but you can still find very beautiful places to go.
When to go:
Rainy season is roughly June to October, cool season is November to February, but it can still get to a steamy 30 degrees and the hot season, March to May. The rainy season varies slightly year to year and I would not really recommend going then as some of the roads turn into muddy rivers, and it can be very difficult to move around. Bankok is susceptible to flooding at this time so you may get trapped!
In Thailand, all is not as it seems! You always get the feeling that there is something a little more than is obvious behind the smiling faces, in fact, I have heard that Thai girls refer to their foreign boyfriends as "it" rather than "him" or "them"! I asked the reception at the hotel I was staying at for some advice about going into town at night, and they told me "Keep away from the police!" It just goes to show!