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Fair dinkum, mate. Keywords1

Fornication capital of the galaxy or family friendly frolic?

"If there are aliens or other life forms in our universe, the best place to look for them is Pattaya.  Even Martians or Venusians enjoy a seedy go go bar pickup now and then." Pattaya is the closest you'll get to Bangkok and still be on a beach. " Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

After Bangkok, Pattaya ranks as Thailand's second most visited city.  There's a good reason.   It's just 90 minutes to two hours from Bangkok, it's got a beach, and for men, you could be fat, aged, and missing half or possibly all of your brain and still score a beachside pickup for as low as USD 16. 

In one respect, Pattaya might be called a sister city to Hua Hin, with Hua Hin being the prim and proper sister and Pattaya being the sister who got knocked up and pregnant at age 15.  The two cities face each other across the Gulf of Thailand, looking similar superficially (Hua Hin here and Pattaya here) and there's now an ultra expensive ferry service linking them together several days per week. 


Beach front action in Pattaya

Pattaya is the much bigger town.  If you count greater Pattaya as the Pattaya-Chonburi Metropolitan area, you're talking about an area of over 1m people. 

Pattaya JomtienIt's completely understandable why older unattached gentleman would relocate here.  The town offers a bargirl selection par excellence for those into that kind of thing.  Etiquette gets put on the back burner.  A friend of mine was once in a bar here and watched as a chubby German senior citizen 'got oral' with a bargirl in public.  Pattaya is designated as an SPZ -- a special perverted zone -- where anything goes; and anything isn't limited to heterosexuals.  The largest gay scene in Asia is purportedly in Pattaya.  Transsexuals, ladyboys, and transvestites flaunt their stuff with no worry of shame.   Ladyboy cabaret shows are popular.   I watched one in Hua Hin around 2008, but it was far from packed, and the cabaret house eventually folded altogether.  Hua Hin didn't have enough perversion present for the fringe to thrive.

American servicemen stopping off here for R & R in the early 1960's planted the first seeds of the wild Thai nightlife scene to come. Deride sex tourists all you wish but give them their due. Sex tourists flocking to a locale leads to more development. Resort hotels spring up to replace cabanas and fisherman shacks. Other amenities like good restaurants, golf courses, and art galleries follow. At that stage, families without a perverted bone in their body can recognize that Pattaya might offer a lot more than just threesomes with a video camera. More families mean better schools available to educate the kiddies. Pattaya currently has several international schools.  The moral of the story is that balanced development of the sex industry sector can trickle over to other areas of the economy.

But Is Pattaya Fun?

I wasn't very impressed with central Pattaya in 2007.  It's quite built up and very touristy.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but none of the ones I passed looked like they'd be very good, and the few I tried were not. 

Pattaya isn't a place away from it all, by any measure.  I can well understand the appeal Hua Hin and Pattaya, nearby beach cities, would have to the residents and tourists in Bangkok.  And if appeal is measured conventionally, wider and more expansive Pattaya would have more to offer those fleeing Bangkok than Hua Hin.  When I visited in 2007, Russians were starting to flood in, and signs for many restaurants and guest houses were in Russian.  Of the two beach cities surrounding Bangkok, Pattaya has done more to package itself to the masses as a family destination.   There's an underwater park, aquarium, museums, theme parks.  For the more adventurous, there's bungee jumping, scuba diving, go kart racing.  It has clubs, more and better restaurants, a range of real shopping malls, and a strong expat scene.  Pattaya is the closest you'll get to Bangkok and still be on a beach. 

A short ride out from central Pattaya, moving southwards, is Jomtien Beach.  This is where the athletic come to windsurf or kitesurf, and families congregate to spend time on the beach away from freelancers selling their bods for an hour for less than the price of a champagne brunch Indian buffet. 

I returned for the first time in over 4 years in August 2011, staying one night in central Pattaya in a dumpy but well situated hotel near the Beach Road.  My wife and I strolled over to a newly constructed shopping mall and dined on superb Thai food and draft beer at a chic bistro.  The next day we moved to Jomtiem, and I could see firsthand Pattaya's creeping expansion on the motorbike drive out.  The resort where we stayed had two dedicated Pattaya channels, on in English, one in Russian, both essentially streams of local ads with some 'news' tossed in to make them look like legitimate channels.  

Eager to join the rest of the other 5m tourists who come here annually?  Why not?  With 5m people already coming, nobody will be put out by your arrival. 


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Insights From A Travel Mastermind

 Sex on your mind? Then Pattaya is the place. For a ladyboy, gay, or transsexual pickup. Jomtien is there for watersports.