Beach Life: Tourist City

Pattaya Travel Blog

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Fri 30 January 2009

 I woke up early in the morning and fixed myself some cereal before heading out for a bike ride before everyone woke up. This time I was well intent on not getting lost. Not only had we drove in an out  of the entrance an extra time, but my GPS was not working.  So I headed out of the gated community, getting saluted by the security officer, which made me feel special. I wanted to take something in my own hands for once during my stay here, thus my reason for exploring.


We’d driven down the main road a few times and there wasn’t much to engage in.  However, I thought I’d have a go anyway. Then I noticed that even though most short roads turned into gated communities, some didn’t.  So I decided to turn down a few of them, going only so far as I thought I could without getting confused and lost.  Then, I began to see more food stalls �" even right outside homes, or small shops right underneath homes.  These were more low-income families.  I viewed with curiosity, but held back from staring. I didn’t want to intrude by taking close up photographs, so I was initially shy with my camera.  Every time I returned back to the main road.  I kept moving onwards. I passed two overhead walking bridges and a school. I decided to turn back once I reached the cross expressway.  There is no pedestrian crosswalk, so I had to patiently wait for a break in the traffic, which took some time since everyone was heading to work.


I spotted a temple and decided to check it out.  There, I found a school of kids preparing for a parade. I decided to stick around and see what all the activity was about.

Hundreds of kids were dressed in a rainbow of colors. The marched from the temple to the school grounds. After a short speech, the national anthem was played, flags were raised, and there was a fireworks display.


Then the kids received medals and relay races ensued. The kids divided into their color groups and cheered on their colors. Each group had a team of cheerleaders and some members of the band. It was a very loud sports day celebration. I watched along with one of the moms, who’s daughter was sporting an orange cheerleader outfit.  The mom spoke little English, but was very nice and bought me some snacks while we watched the events.


Around noontime, my family: Mom, Tu, Gang, Papie, Ball, and me set out for Pattaya. The beach city was more than a couple hours away, so we stopped at the Tiger Zoo along the way. At one point, they wouldn’t let me in as a Thai person and wanted to charge me for the tourist rate, but my uncle threw a fit, and angrily talked to the entrance workers, at which point, I was allowed in for the discount rate.  At the zoo, we saw a bunch of crocodiles, tigers, and elephants and watched all the shows with the school groups.


Arriving in Pattaya, we drove down the street and I immediately knew I was in a tourist city. Everything was written in English. There were restaurants featuring every ttype of international cuisine. And there were the all too common Thai massage and tailor shops. Not to mention all the hoards of tourists. We checked in to Sa-was-de-ka hotel, then headed to dinner. For our evening meal, we had individual thai dishes inside a mall. We walked passed several shops selling merchandise, then watched a Cabaret show. The show was very interesting. Most of the men easily passed as women. Of course, we were very far away. I used my telephoto lens to clearly see where the body suits began and the skin ended. The dancing was mediocre, but the energy, lighting, costumes and cultural themes were impressive. Mom kept whispering which culture was being presented and sometimes, there would be a random scene such as when a man played half man, half woman. He was literally dressed as both sexes and the change occurred right now the middle.


After the show, Mom and Pa Tu went to bed. The rest of us, walked down the main road across from the beach and down the “Walking Street.” It was here that all the bars were located – and workers trying to grab tourists with flashing neon signs of lady figures stating things such as “Go-Go Girls” and “wet, sexy girls now.” Not gonna lie, it was kinda weird having my aunt and uncle around then. The hookers had pounded so much make-up on their faces that it was hard to believe there was a natural face underneath. I can’t understand why someone would find that attractive. And they would just sit at a bar and stare out into the crowded street, waiting to be picked up by someone. It was only about 10pm, so I understood why most of bars weren’t crowded yet, but the street was definitely packed with tourists.


Sat 31 January 2009

In the morning I woke up before breakfast and walked along the beach for a short time. The town was so much different in the early morning. Everything was closed and most of the people out and about were exercising. The beach umbrellas were all closed and the beach was empty except for a few people jogging in the sand.  It was pretty mellow out, and there wasn’t much people-watching to do, so I headed back for breakfast.


After my family ate, we discussed what we should do – well, they discussed in Thai while I checked out the city from the car window. After some driving around, my aunts asked if I wanted to walk down the beach. Yes, I did, but felt quite awkward that the rest of them were just going to sit in the car and wait while I did so. Then Pa Tu said she’d walk with me and off we went. Afterwards, we went up to a lookout point were we could see an excellent overhead view of the beach.


Then, after hearing that I was interested in seeing a floating market, we did just that. It was pretty mellow there, maybe because it was still morning. Like what I’ve read, the floating market is entirely tourist based now. It was all for show. There were shops all around with tourist merchandise and some people paddling around in boats selling food. My family bought some sticky rice stuffed inside bamboo stalks, which were delectable.


Next, we drove down the road and came across a large gold Buddha image set against a mountain. It was magnificent from quite a ways away. When we arrived at the foot of the mountain, my family again stayed in the car and Pa Tu walked with me to take a photo. I thought it was rather strange that they were taking me to do all these touristy things, and wondered how much they were getting out of it. It makes me feel awkward when they all wait in the car.


Silverlake vineyard was the next stop along our drive. This time all but Pa Tu and Mom got out. The grape juice was absolutely delicious.  Silverlake doesn’t make wine, but does sell an assortment of grape products: fruit, candies, juice, etc.


Our second to last stop was a Chinese temple/museum. Again, I was accompanied only by Pa Tu. (No surprise why she’s my favorite.)  There were a variety of sculptures to view, and if I didn’t have family members waiting in the car outside, I would have spent much longer viewing them. Instead, I walked around, photographing the pieces I found most interesting and quickly reading the descriptions beside them.  Despite slightly rushing, we walked around for quite awhile, since there was an outdoor area, and 3 levels inside the building, with an outdoor terrace on top. I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork at this place and loved the views from the upper terrace.


From upstairs, my aunt had spotted the temple of King Rama IX (current king) and she decided that would be our next stop. When we arrived there, the temple was closed, but Pa Tu and I walked around while the others waited patiently in the car. Notice a pattern???


Before heading home, we stopped to get a few groceries and my uncle insisted that I choose some fruit and ice cream. When I struggled to buy some medicine with my own money, Pa Tu came to the rescue. I’m forever being spoiled on this trip.

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photo by: Kju