Pattaya has a reputation. Anyone who thinks this reputation is built on beaches, restaurants and access to the nearby Islands is deluding themselves. Pattaya’s reputation is built on the sex trade. The majority of foreign visitors, traditionally, head there to retire and die happy, preferably mid coitus with a partner less than half their age.
In recent times, however, the place has been changing, particularly in the Jomtien area. The influx of Russian tourists in particular are not here as sex tourists. Some might be, of course, but I think it’s fair to generalize that they’re more often here with their families or in couples. Jomtien feels like the Costa Del Sol from it’s 1980′s hey day, only it’s Russians, rather than the Brits, who are wandering about like baked lobsters in speedos or, for the ladies, thong bikinis.
At the weekends Jomtien is fascinating mixture of Thai, usually down from Bangkok, and Russian holidaymakers. The sun loungers along the beach are packed with families, couples and groups of young people eating and drinking and having fun. There are children playing in the sea and building sand castles. The Gogo bars of Walking Street feel a million miles away.
It seems a pity that the groups of Thais and Russians rarely mix. The language barrier is a major one, with English normally used as the common language. The Russian tourists I have met so far have been, as a group, indifferent to English and the Thais tend to learn only what they need to to conduct their trade.
The weekend Thai visitor and the Russian holiday maker do have one major thing in common though and that is the desire to have a good time.
This means that there are all sorts of fun things to do in Pattaya and Jomtien if girly bars, gay bars or lady-boy bars are not your thing.
You could do a day trip out to the white sandy beaches of Koh Larn. Google learn to windsurf Pattaya and you’ll get several results. I’ve also seen kite surfers and a guy with a kind-of water powered jet pack. If that seems like to too much effort you could get some people together for a banana-boat ride, hire a jet-ski anywhere along the beach or join in with some people playing volleyball at the beach court about half-way along Jomtien beach road.
Try some of the food from the numerous beach vendors or if you’re feeling flush head into one of the more up-market restaurants along beach road for some Russian, Thai or almost any world cuisine you can imagine. I particularly recommend heading south along Jomtien beach until you reach the restaurants with tables on the footpath next to the beach. You can get some excellent seafood in a quiet, and if you’re feeling that way, romantic setting. On a clear day, go just before sunset, you will not regret it.
After dark, if you want to relax, the same little restaurants and bars along Jomtien beach will fill you full of your favourite drinks in a friendly and comfortable, sex-trade free environment. Or if you are looking for something a bit more energetic, why not get your glad rags on and go clubbing on walking street. You’ll be surrounded by all the garish exuberance of Pattaya’s aforementioned, traditional entertainments but there are night-clubs where you can drink and dance the night away with your friends without feeling pressurized into picking up a new friend for the night. Of course, you can if you want to.
There is a new market to explore on Jomtien beach road and the famous Thepprasit market has just announced it will be opening every day, rather than just at the weekend if shopping is your thing.
I wont bang-on about all the available entertainment here, those were just a few examples. The point I am somewhat belabouring is that if you are, for example, visiting Bangkok and you want to escape the heat and manic bustle for a day or two, don’t let Pattaya’s reputation put you off. It’s less than two hours from Bangkok to Jomtien beach in a taxi and if you head straight there you can avoid any sign of the sex trade while enjoying all the aspects of a large beach resort town.
Of course, if you get lonely, central Pattaya is only a short ride away by motorbike taxi.