As far as down and dirty reputations go, few places are a match for Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. One place most certainly is, though: Pattaya. While more recently the government have done their best to shut down the sleazier side of Pattaya, it’s still the kind of place where sex tourism thrives, many bars feature depressingly under aged women doing unthinkable things with ping pong balls and bananas, and – clearly – a huge amount of local goings on sit well outside the law. Fortunately, sleaze is no longer the only draw of Pattaya.
Having reduced its sex industry side to a less obvious, backstreet focused trade, Pattaya has been able to draw attention to its stunning beaches, and has recently become one of the top locations for expat resettlement in Thailand. The main draws – apart from the obvious life in the sun and affordable cost of living – revolve around the obvious side to it all: a big city with a sense if the international, plus a beach and minus the smoggy rat race of Bangkok.
That’s not to say there’s nothing for tourists: abundant temples and the beautiful Buddha Hill (looking down over the entire city) make for attractive sightseeing, while an abundance of theme parks feature anything from crocodiles to fire swallowing. There are plenty of less dubious drinking holes and cabaret shows to be enjoyed, too, and off shore you’ll find abundant, thinly populated islands that take you away form the hustle and bustle of the main beach and out into something more resembling the tropical paradise you might have seen in the brochures. There’s a hefty ecotourism niche building around the islands, and heading to help with anything from turtles and coral to local monkey houses is a great way to pass your time and delve deep into Thai culture.
In truth, Pattaya is one of those destinations you’ll either love and hate, and the prudish will have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. If you can handle passing glimpses of the seedier side of life (do yourself a favor and don’t get involved, it tends to be highly amoral as well as illegal), you’ll find plenty to enjoy.