Pattaya lies a hundred miles southeast of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. All it takes is a quick two hour bus ride to get there. Once a quiet fishing village, the town became famous (or infamous) after the Vietnamese War. It was a rest and recreation destination for American soldiers who were stationed in the country, and now it is a bustling metropolis with tourism being one of its largest forces in the economy.
Pattaya has a reputation for being the sex capital of Thailand. It is also not the ideal beach city as the main beach here, Pattaya Beach, is quite polluted and crowded. However, most travelers don’t look beyond this. But this city is more than a crazy nightlife and dirty beaches. With plenty of other sites and opportunities for adventure, it makes for a great one day exit from Bangkok.
A delicate wooden tower reaching the skies
Once you get off the bus and do a quick stretch, hop on a tuktuk (an auto rickshaw) to the Sanctuary of Truth, an architectural masterpiece made entirely of wood, that reaches for the skies. Despite looking ancient, it was built only in recent years, and construction started in 1981.
This structure of intricate woodwork sits on the edge of the beach, overlooking the ocean, and each delicate carving inside the various chambers was made by hand. There are many activities within the complex such as ATV touring, boat trips around the coast, woodcarving workshops and cultural and martial arts performances. Unfortunately, there is even elephant riding offered and dolphin shows, which we recommend you stay away from, given how the animals are treated in order to make these possible.
Back to the city center
Once you’ve had your peaceful introduction to the city, it’s time to head back to the city center and check out two awesome museums. First is Art in Paradise. This art gallery is full of 3D paintings that are interactive optical illusions, closing the divide between display and spectator, something most museums cannot do. Thanks to the clever use of shading and borders, the artists have created an illusion of depth in their works, allowing visitors to become the subject of these paintings.
With your photos, you can trick your Instagram followers into thinking you’re running away from a giant leopard, balancing over a wooden bridge between two steep cliffs, and quietly tiptoeing past a sleeping T-Rex. The museum has over 100 art pieces separated into themed sections such as wild animals, nature, ancient civilizations and classical art.
Next, head to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Most of us are fans of the weird and quirky, and this is a place all about that. This family friendly attraction is home to rare artifacts and thrilling interactive exhibits that allow visitors to revel in the unusual, the unexpected and the unbelievable. Walk through various exhibits: a mask made from human skin, a shrunken human head (a real one), a replica of the Titanic made using a million matchsticks and more. This museum will certainly add a more fun twist to your time in Pattaya.
Lunch for a good cause
Cabbages & Condoms is ideal for this. Yes, this is indeed a weird name, but here’s why. This restaurant operates as a Business for Social Progress and a huge chunk of the profits goes towards supporting the Population & Community Development Association (PDA) of Thailand. This organization has various programs devoted to health, education, HIV/AIDS, rural development, environmental sustainability and more and aims to improve the quality of life in Thailand.
Cabbages and Condoms initially started out in the 70s as a small vegetarian food stall on the premises of the PDA office, one of many that lined the sidewalk. These other stalls would sell many items such as T-shirts, key chains, and contraceptives. The food served at the stall became a hit, skyrocketing its popularity. Today, Cabbages and Condoms is an award-winning restaurant that attracts tourists from all around the world. It has even gone international, with locations in Bangkok and Japan.
As for what you should try? Try the Massaman chicken curry, som tam (spicy papaya salad), the larb gai (spicy chicken salad), and the ko moo yang (Tha-style grilled pork neck) with some rice. Of course, don’t forget the pad thai.
Finally, beach time!
This is why you decided to visit the resort city, right? Well, our first piece of advice for you – stay away from Pattaya Beach. This 4 km crescent is home to a large number of bars, restaurants, anchored boats, and also hoards of tourists and a lot of trash.
Instead, look just 2 kilometers south of Pattaya beach and you will find Jomtien Beach, a 6 kilometer stretch of sand that is much quieter compared to its rowdy neighbor to the north. It is home to many attractions such as the Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Pattaya Floating Market, and Pattaya Park. Of course you can not cover all in a day. So maybe just claim a beach umbrella and get to work on your tan.
Dinner and a show
Save your tummy for the street stalls at the Thepprasit Night Market. You’ll find all kinds of food here, from barbecued meats, grilled seafood, and spicy salads to large bowls of noodle soups, fried rice and other Asian delicacies. Your meal will be accompanied by loud music and entertaining street performers. You can also get some souvenir shopping done!
Next, grab a seat at the legendary Alcazar Cabaret. This world famous ladyboy cabaret was established in 1981 with only one performer. It is now an entertainment show full of colorful lights, traditional music and exotic dances, expertly put together by a talented production team. The show is the perfect blend of impersonation, comedy and drama. It is infused with influences from all over the world, including China, Vietnam, Korea, Russia and more, taking you on a journey around the world. You’ll even find a Bollywood number thrown in at the end!
Go with the flow
Once the show is over, it’s time to party. The Pattaya Walking Street is pretty much the epitome of nightlife in Pattaya and the madness here is unrivaled in all of Thailand. Full of flashy bars, glamorous nightclubs, gogo bars, muay thai rings, cafes, restaurants, and street food stalls, just walking through this street is an experience. Soi Cowboy and Khaosan Road are miles behind. Come sundown, the street closes off to all kinds of traffic, which is a smart idea given how many drunken people you will see stumbling around.
Don’t stick to just one bar a night. Go bar hopping, meet people and dance the night away! Grab a kebab when you feel hungry and remember not to oversleep through your check out the next day.
Pattaya really is an interesting experience and if you have the opportunity to, then head there for a day. Keep an open mind and leave the judgment behind, you will have a grand ol’ time!