Pattaya, the Sodom and Gomorrah of Thailand, is the first stop for old white men in their quest for cheap escorts and beer. Or is it? Though the seediness that gives Pattaya its reputation still exists, these days there are more and more opportunities for some clean fun, from grape picking to a creepy house of wax.
The Great Outdoors
Only a few minutes from Central Pattaya, the Pattaya Floating Market (Talad Nam Si Pak, 451/304 Moo 12, Sukhumvi Rd., Pattaya, 038-706-340, www.pattayafloatingmarket.com) recently opened on an old, abandoned pond. Custom-built for tourists in search of a slice of the old Thailand, its four sections represent the kingdom’s four regions: North, Central, Northeast and South. Each region sells its own food, from Isaan somtam to sai-oua sausage from the North.
For a European day trip, head to the 10-year-old Silverlake Vineyard (same entrance as Khao Chee Chan Buddha Mountain, 31/62 Moo 7, Na Jomtian, Pattaya, Chonburi, 038-938-250, www.silverlakethai.com), 20 minutes from downtown Pattaya. Go Sideways with a stroll through the vineyard and a visit to the winery while enjoying the 1,500 rai of beautiful rolling hills surrounding a lake.
We recommend renting a bicycle, but the lazy can opt for an ATV. Admission is free.
Bang For Your Baht
The beachfront Central Festival Pattaya Beach (Pattaya Beach Rd., between Soi 9-10, 038-930-999, www.centralpattana.co.th) has the same brands as every other mall but the sea views are pretty unique. Every Friday sees the front square host Indie in Town, the same flea market concept as Bangkok's CentralWorld, where teenagers and young adults come to sell their quirky merchandise. It pales in comparison to the original, but, hey, you're on holiday, right?
For something a bit more offbeat, try your luck at Naklua Walking Street, which runs from the front of the Government Savings Bank to Saphan Yao (Pattaya-Naklua Rd.). Every weekend from 2pm-10pm, this century-old local market becomes a more civilized walking street, offering local merchandise and street food, from vintage toys to T-shirts and deep fried chicken to mango salad.
Real or Fake?
For kicks without the ping pong balls, there's always Ripley’s (2/F, Royal Garden Plaza, 218 Moo 10 Beach Rd., 038-710-294/8. Open daily 11am-11pm), though we've been told that it's not a "real" Ripley’s Believe it or Not. But that’s not the only fake in Pattaya. Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks (2/F, Royal Garden Plaza, 218 Moo 10 Beach Rd., 038-710-294/8. Open daily 11am-11pm.) is banking on the fame of the real deal Madame Tussaud, but is not affiliated with the London wax museum. One visit, and this will be painfully clear to you. Tata Young looks like she’s 200 years old.
Where to Sleep
Recognised as one of Pattaya’s most outstanding and established properties, the Siam Bayshore Resort & Spa is nestled in 20 acres of lush, tranquil greenery. Guests enjoy an exclusive location on the peaceful southern end of Pattaya’s world-famous Beach Road. Twelve low-rise pavilions comprise the resort, including seven bars and restaurants, two swimming pools (garden & beach), children’s playground, games room, six tennis courts, fitness centre, meeting rooms and Lotus Spa of Siam. Rates are from Bht 3,900 including taxes and breakfast.
The Siam Bayview Hotel epitomises the best in beachfront boutique living. Steps away from all the fun on lively Beach Road, the 250-room hotel fuses together a relaxing tropical seaside holiday and vibrant city living. A world of stylish and artistic comfort awaits you in thus sumptuous, modern and relaxing hotel. Best of all it’s located right next door to Asia’s largest beachfront shopping complex – CentralFestival. The Siam Bayview Hotel is an oasis of calm amid the hurly-burly of Pattaya. Rates are from Bht 3,200 without taxes and breakfast.
How to get there
Bus: Large buses leave from Ekamai Bus Terminal (BTS Ekamai) every hour and take about 1.5-2 hours. They run from roughly 5am-8pm and cost around Bht 150-200.
Vans: You can get a mini-van (16 seats) from Century Movie Plaza beside BTS Victory Monument (just up the road from Siam City Hotel). Only Bht 120 for a single trip (discounts for students) taking 1.5 hours.