Pattaya is the closest major seaside resort to Bangkok and is a comfortable two-hour drive or taxi ride from the capital – transfer from Bangkok’s international airport is easily arranged. If you’re looking to add on a beach holiday to your Bangkok visit, Pattaya can be an ideal choice, especially if you also like the naughty nightlife that the city has to offer.
On your first morning here, getting out on the water can be a great start to your short holiday. From points along the waterfront, you can arrange to take a boat ride to Koh Larn, also known as Coral Island. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a number of water sports, including parasailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, water-skiing and windsurfing. There are also glass-bottomed boats that take visitors over the coral reefs for great views of the marine life below.
Later in the afternoon, on returning to the mainland, you can take a drive to the top of the hill for a view of Pattaya town and the bay, as well as Jomtien Beach. After you’ve enjoyed the gorgeous sunset, you will most likely be ready to sample the local cuisine. If you don’t like things spicy, there are restaurants offering cuisines from most every country in the world, in addition to Thai specialties. Don’t shy away from street stalls as there’s plenty on offer that’s interesting and quite tasty, and at prices that will be sure to please.
Whatever you decide on for dinner, make sure to sample the nightlife afterwards. Pattaya truly wakes up after dark and boasts entertainment catering to everyone who still has a pulse. Transvestite cabaret shows draw large crowds and huge raves from tourists. The glamour ‘girls’ (katoey) at Tiffany’s and Alcazar strut their stuff in sequined gowns and feather boas, performing musical and comedy numbers nightly. Afterwards, a stroll along the streets around Beach Road will give you a chance to bargain for souvenirs. Street vendors are everywhere selling local handicrafts, art, Buddhist objects, clothing and designer knock-offs of all sorts.
A good choice for your second day is to enjoy a bit of leisure at Pattaya Beach, or the quieter beach at Jomtien, or perhaps one of the many excellent golf courses. Traditional massage is offered on the beach, and also at spas in upmarket hotels nearby. If golfing is your choice, you’ll find over 20 courses in the greater Pattaya area, all meeting international standards. Costs are a fraction of what you’d pay at home and you may also find that an international tournament is on during your stay.
Horseback riding is quite popular in Pattaya and there’s a variety of stables offering lessons and treks – a well-known operator is the Horseshoe Point Riding Academy. The International Polo Ground, a favourite spot of the Thai royal family, is located just outside Pattaya, as is the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, which is definitely the place to be when one of the world championship regattas is held here.
At night, the bar and club scene is as varied as the people who come here. One of the most frequently-visited areas is Walking Street in South Pattaya – closed to traffic at night. There’s a network of streets in this area packed with beer bars, go-go bars and massage parlours, as well as restaurants and the occasional English or Irish pub and discos. The action continues until around 02:00. The gay scene is a few short blocks away in an area known as Boyz Town, where you’ll find quite a range of gay bays, including the instant-companion variety, massage parlours, shows and restaurants.
Pattaya boasts a range of popular theme parks, which can provide a good day of activity and particularly if you’re travelling with family. Mini Siam offers up a tour of all of Thailand’s highlights, recreated in miniature of famous world attractions. Enjoy a waist-high replica of the Grand Palace without having to travel to Bangkok!
At Pattaya Elephant Village you can hire an elephant and guide for a short jungle trek. If that’s a bit too slow for you, Pattaya Go-Kart has a 400m track that’ll let you and your kids move at a faster pace. Nong Nooch Village promises lots of fun and boasts an elephant park, too, as well as lush botanical gardens – you can see performances here with elephants, dancers and musicians. Don’t be surprised to see upwards of 1,000 fellow spectators enjoying the show here. The Million Years Stone Park and Crocodile Farm is an attraction spread over 70 acres, featuring museums and performing animal shows – watch crocodile wrestling, in which local men and women take on these fierce creatures.
Back in the centre, a visit to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum can be a fun way to finish off your attractions tour. It’s located in the heart of the restaurant and nightlife scene, making it a convenient place to end your short holiday, along with dinner and a drink or two afterwards. If you’re a culture-vulture, we recommend you pay a visit to the extraordinary Sanctuary of Truth in Naklua before the sun goes down. By day three you might have had enough of all the neon and beer bars, but a stroll along Pattaya Beach is safe, quiet and soothing.