It’s hard to imagine now, but Pattaya was once a hidden gem. It first developed as a holiday destination in the 1960s – offering respite to servicemen seeking some much needed R&R from the Vietnam War. In the intervening years, Pattaya has developed into an urban jungle, where anything definitely still goes.
You don’t have to dig deep to uncover the cultural wonders of Pattaya – it doesn’t really offer any. But what this city lacks in virtuosity it makes up for in vibrancy and unapologetic self-indulgence. Pattaya wants you to spend the day sunbathing or jet-skiing, then dine in luxury on Jomtien Beach before watching the moon dance on Pattaya Bay.
It wants you to have your back massaged on Naklua and to sip martinis well into the night at a bustling Walking Street bar (where more than a massage is always just a suggestion away). It wants you to get baked in as many hedonistic ways that occur to you.
Like many cities in Thailand, Pattaya doesn’t care if you sleep through the sunrise, or if you don’t get a photo from the top of Big Buddha Hill – the only requirements are that you’re not too offended by the sight of a young girl (or boy) on the arm of an ageing foreigner, and that you wake up in time to live the excitement all over again the following evening.
Pattaya’s Top 10
10. Mini Siam Of course these miniature replicas of famous structures don’t do the originals justice, but where else can you see the Emerald Buddha Temple and the Eiffel Tower at the same time?
5. Sanctuary of Truth ‘Old values’ are celebrated at this culture vulture must-see, though the dolphins kept in captivity here probably don’t think too much of them.
9. Siam Country Club Whoever said golf was just a way to ruin a good walk clearly didn’t live in Pattaya. This 30-year-old institution is so popular it’s best to tee off on weekdays.
4. Khao Kheow Open Zoo Get right up close with the animals. You can even have breakfast with the orang-utan.
8. Underwater World The best way to get out of the sun.
3. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden A half-day worth of flora and fauna for those with green thumbs, plus elephant rides and shows for those without.
7. Horseshoe Point Resort The pampered horses and superior riding facilities will make any horse-lover want to stay longer than one day. Since it’s also a hotel, many do.
2. Jomtien Beach No less vibrant than Pattaya Beach, but your view of the ocean is not obscured by moored boats.
6. Sriracha Tiger Zoo If only the tigers loved this place as much as the children do.
1. Pattaya Elephant Village The animals are treated well here – you can still ride them, but sword fighting is strictly ‘human only’.
- Buddha Hill – At the summit of this hill, one of the highest points in Pattaya, sits a gargantuan Buddha statue designed to pay homage to Wat Khao Phra Bat.
- Sanctuary of Truth (Prasat Sut Ja-Tum) – Since its inception in 1981, this ongoing project showcases the four most important philosophical and artistic influences that can be seen around Thailand.
- Wat Yanasangwararam Woramahawihan – Constructed in 1976 in honour of Somdet Phra Yanasangwon, this ostentatious temple is home to a large Chedi containing the relics of the Lord Buddha.
- Chaloemphrakiat Park – Situated at the foot of Khao Pattaya, this glorious six acres of magnificent flora and fauna was dedicated to the king on his 60th birthday in 1988.
- Ban Sukhawadee – Visitors are encouraged to enter Dr Panya Chotithewan’s residence to pay their respects to the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin.
Pattaya Art & Culture
- Anek Kuson Sala (Wihan Sian) – This amazing art gallery is filled with swanky Chinese architecture and fine art pieces.
- Mini Siam and Mini Europe – An adorable replica park containing miniature versions of some of the most famous landmarks known to man, including the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Trevi Fountain.
- Songkran (Thai New Year) – This celebration takes place in mid-April and features a lot of throwing of water at anything that moves.
- Thai Alangkarn Theater – This theatre showcases cultural Thai performances on a 70m stage.
- Tiffany’s Show – This family-friendly cabaret show features Thailand’s (in)famous “ladyboys”.
- Central Festival – This beachfront shopping area offers grand-scale shopping and dining.
- Tuk Com – This IT mall is filled with gadgets sure to make tech-savvy customers salivate.
- P.S. Plaza – This three-storey plaza offers spa, dining, bowling and shopping in one Pattaya location.
- Thepprasit Market – This bazaar-style night market is a really good place to practice bargaining skills.
- Pattaya Floating Market – Enjoy a true “local” experience in this authentic Thai market.
Gay & Lesbian Pattaya
- Boyz Town – This predominantly gay bar features some of Pattaya’s finest exotic male dancers.
- Dave Man Club – Themed events and special offers abound at this late-night disco.
- Two Guys Guesthouse – This LGBT-friendly guesthouse is a one-of-a-kind establishment.
- Themae Sauna – This spa-sauna is also home to some of the friendliest massage boys around.
- Dongtan Beach – Enjoy even more massages at this gay beach in Jomtien.
- Pattaya Elephant Village – This attraction offers the chance to see elephants or ride one.
- Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden – An outdoor park with a variety of things to do and see.
- Million Years Stone Park & Crocodile Farm – Enjoy a relaxing walk around the park or take the opportunity to feed some crocs.
- Herb Garden Pattaya – A truly amazing garden, and free entrance makes it well worth a visit.
- Siriphon Orchid Farm – Here, visitors can view (and purchase) some rare floral beauties.
- Get your adrenaline rush at the Pattaya Kart Speedway.
- Run or walk along the tracks in the landscaped Pattaya Fitness Park.
- Show off your golfing enthusiasm at Pattaya City Golf.
- Go zip-lining through tree canopies at the Flight of the Gibbon.
- Skydive with Thai Sky Adventures.
There’s always something to do in Pattaya, whether it’s mid-morning or 4am. So deciding where to spend the day, if you don’t sleep through it, can mean seeking an escape as well as seeking something to explore. The best experiences lie off the beaten track, although there’s always still time to return to the inner-city excitement by nightfall.
North Pattaya includes the centrepiece of Pattaya’s not-so-virtuous vibrancy – Pattaya Beach. Embrace the brash atmosphere of one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand by visiting Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, or have a more relaxed meal at The Balcony Restaurant and Bakery before returning to the beach to catch an after-dark cabaret. Despite Pattaya’s reputation – deserved, it has to be said, as Sin City, this area is relatively tame and is not a bad place to take young children for a beach holiday, although the waters are constantly being churned up by water sports enthusiasts.
South Pattaya’s main beach, Jomtien Beach, is a little quieter than the sands further north. Regardless of whether you see that as a good or bad thing, it’s certainly a refreshing change. South Pattaya is also home to the aptly named Walking Street, which is anything but quiet. Experience the uniqueness in all its unruly glory at Soi Pattayaland, known locally as ‘Boyz Town’, or at the open-air go-go bars of Soi 7 to 8. And for the record, this is definitely not the place to be taking young children.
Not far from Pattaya Tai is Pattaya Klang, or Central Pattaya, which shares its neighbour’s taste for late-night bawdiness. Places like Amy Bar, Cocktail Bar and Paddy’s Bar have relatively unspecific names, but most people know what they’re in for. During the day, Pattaya Klang offers more respectable activities such as the Central Pattaya Market and the Elephant Village.
Even further north than North Pattaya is Naklua, which is as popular with German visitors as it is with those who feel they have seen one too many young Thai boys linking arms with overweight old men. The main beach here, Naklua Beach, is by far the smallest in the Pattaya region and is neither as over-developed or over-sexed as those to the south. Naklua Market is also a main attraction in this more morning-appropriate district, as are cultural sites like the Sanctuary of Truth.
Big Buddha Hill
The Buddha Hill and the Big Buddha overlook the city as the protectors of Pattaya. Whether or not you think Big Buddha is doing a good job, he’s as high as a three-storey house and rather phenomenal to behold. The area also encompasses the Admiral Hill Viewpoint and Pratamnak Hill, which both offer amazing views of the city, plus the Chinese Temple and a still-active Buddhist Temple.
Pattaya Eat & Drink
The Art Café They do have actual art exhibitions, though the French Mediterranean menu is pretty creative in itself.
Caprice Restaurant & Bar Pattaya’s first designer restaurant, Caprice exudes as much cool as it does booze
Casa Pascal So unpretentious you’ll forget this is one of Pattaya’s fine-dining gems – until your main course arrives.
Mantra Foie gras at 11am? Mantra’s extravagant brunch is the perfect excuse to hang with Pattaya’s cool crowd.
King Seafood You can’t go wrong with lobster. Well, OK, you can – but not here. And being situated on Walking Street, you get to do some pretty interesting people watching while eating.
Mata Hari The bar alone is sensational, but try not to inhibit your sense of taste too much before heading to the dining room.
Street Life The restaurant formerly known as Amor. It’s still in the heart of Pattaya’s Boyz Town gay district only the décor has changed to modern and funky (albeit with art nouveau pics covering the walls). Oh, and the food’s still pretty good. Pattaya Tai
Bruno’s: The pioneer of Pattaya’s fine dining scene is still ahead of the pack.
Grill Room Draws well-dressed crowds for its extensive wine cellar, but the food menu has won its fair share of awards, too.
Minus 5 Supper Club -5 degrees? In Thailand? Only if you pay 500 baht – but once you’re inside you’ll see why you did.
Thailand’s huge Chinese population means the Chinese New Year (January/February) is one of the biggest festivals in Thailand. Of course, it’s the most fun in Pattaya.
If you find Pattaya’s vibrancy a little overwhelming, it’s probably best to avoid the Pattaya International Music Festival in March.
The focus of April’s Wan Lai Festival is water-pouring activities – if anyone can make this exciting, it’s the Pattayans.
You don’t need to have Thai ancestors to enjoy the Ancestral Spirits Ceremony Festival (also in April), which is accompanied by folk performances and local cuisines.
April is a busy month. It’s also when Pattaya puts on its most festive face for the Pattaya Festival, held to promote the city’s energetic reputation – not that it needs to.
Dedicated sports enthusiasts put their partying on hold in July for the Pattaya Marathon – one of the toughest events in Thailand.
It’s not just the impassioned races themselves that draw crowds at October’s Chonburi Buffalo Races – local ladies vie for the enviable title of ‘Miss Farm Maiden’.
Neon bar lights are replaced with candles and moonlight in November for Loy Krathong, one of the most recognised festivals in the country.
Pattaya lifestyle not fast enough for you? Experience the end-of-year Bang Saen Speed Festival, a huge street racing circuit with class drivers and racing cars.
The date of Boon Klang Ban is determined by one of the village elders, but whenever it falls it’s marked by merry making, folk games and sharing of meals. So if you’ve spent all your money on those nice people in Walking Street, this could be your saviour!
When To Go
Prices escalate during the high tourist season, which runs from November until February.
The wet season runs from June through October, though rain has never been known to dampen Pattaya’s spirits.
Temperatures hover between 22 and 32°C (72-90°F) for the year, so winter is actually a rather pleasant time to visit.
What To Miss
Pattaya is raunchy enough as it is and really doesn’t necessitate a trip to the red light district – even if just for the photo ops (honest!).
Street stalls are fun, but the ones lining Pattaya Beach Road should be avoided unless you want to be ripped off.
If you want to hire a jet ski, do it somewhere less crowded than Pattaya Beach – isn’t the point to be able to go fast?
More adventurous travellers can rent a motorbike relatively cheaply.
The most common form of transport is a songthaew, although riding in these pick-up trucks is more expensive for tourists.
Taxis are useful if you’re travelling more than a couple of blocks, but you’ll have to negotiate a price in advance.
Pattaya - General information
Pattaya official guide
Like so many beach resorts in Thailand and indeed, Southeast Asia, Pattaya's origins are rooted in subsistence fishing. Pattaya’s development as a holiday destination, as legend has it, began in the 1960's after a group of U.S. servicemen on leave from the Vietnam War came ashore. As more and more well-heeled residents of nearby Bangkok got wind of the hidden gem, the town on the Gulf of Thailand evolved into an alluring getaway from the sweltering capital.
Easily accessible from Bangkok and a mere 120 km from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Pattaya now welcomes well over five million visitors every year, the vast majority going the city centre to enjoy nightlife music at various clubs. The circular bay area of Pattaya that forms another area of tourist activity has two wonderful beachfronts to explore. Together, Pattaya Beach and Jomtien Beach have it all: luxury hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment, watersports and boats for hire to ferry visitors to beautiful offshore islands.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
Pattaya has a typical tropical climate, with a wet season that runs from June to October and temperatures that hover between 22°C and 32°C for the year. High tourist season is from November to February.
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