Pattaya (Bangkok)

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Pattaya (Bangkok)

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Review of "Pattaya (Bangkok)"

published 10/07/2009 | rosebud2001
Member since : 04/05/2009
Reviews : 444
Members who trust : 189
About me :
Off to Vegas for some sunshine...back soon :-)
Super
Pro Offers something for everyone, cheap
Cons Not easy on the eye, choose where you stay based on the kind of holiday you want
exceptional
Value for Money
Sightseeing
Shopping
Nightlife
Ease of getting around

"Bangkok on Sea or Family Friendly Fun?"

View from Pattaya Park Tower towards Jomtien Beach

View from Pattaya Park Tower towards Jomtien Beach

I am sure, up until the day he died, my husband wondered how he managed to convince me that Pattaya would be a great destination for a family holiday. However, he did manage it and more to the point, our visit was a memorable one. Whilst I cannot say I have any desire to ever go back, I am glad I have seen one of Thailand’s main beach resorts which is the antithesis to more traditional destinations such as Koh Samui or Hua Hin.

Pattaya is often known as “Bangkok on Sea”, and the town itself is situated just over 100 miles from Bangkok, or about a 90 minute drive away.

We arrived in Bangkok and as ever, spent the first night there attempting to sleep off our jetlag. Next morning found us at the Ekamai bus station purchasing tickets from a woman who was most reluctant to give my husband his change.

We had decided to travel from Bangkok to Pattaya by bus despite the fact it wasn’t much cheaper than taking a taxi. This is because we had had some terrible experiences with Thai taxi drivers in the past – including one who was drunk and spent most of the journey on a motorway talking into his mobile phone. We felt, perhaps vainly, that a bus driver might not indulge in such reckless driving.

Pattaya owes its existence to US soldiers on so-called RnR visits during the Vietnam war. My husband had discovered the place still offered RnR in the early 80s when he found himself working in Saudi Arabia. He had little experience of travel up until then but Bangkok and Pattaya were recommended to him as somewhere to go on his 2 weeks off as it’s not such a long flight from Riyadh – and a love affair, tempered with frequent bouts of frustration, with the country began for him.

Once he settled down with me he didn’t go to Thailand for some time, but he never lost his love of the place – and he viewed Pattaya as a place to go to escape the stifling heat and madness of Bangkok for a few days. When he inevitably tired of the stifling heat and craziness of Pattaya after a few days, he would head back to Bangkok, cursing Pattaya and vowing never to return, a vow he never kept, because secretly he loved the craziness that both places offered equally.

The City

Pattaya has three main beaches – Naklua to the north, the main Pattaya beach, and Jomtien to the south.

The main part of the city is easily navigated and you only tend to deal with three streets – Beach Road, which is pretty self explanatory and runs along Pattaya beach, Second Road and Third Road run parallel to this, with numerous Sois in between.

The main area that Pattaya is famous for is “Walking Street” – a street littered with bars offering girls galore. We only visited with our daughter once, and all the people shouting “handsome man” and other cries to get men inside their establishments fell silent when they saw a child. It is all a bit crazy once you get inside the bars but walking past with a young child it is fairly innocuous, although I must stress we did go without her later in the evening on another night when it was less innocuous. However if you want to visit the excellent King Seafood Restaurant in the city, you have to visit Walking Street which is why we were there with our daughter.

Where to Stay

Accommodation in Pattaya is varied – you can stay in absolute luxury here or slum it in a hostel – the choice is yours. There is a Hard Rock Hotel slap bang in the middle of town for instance, but there are cheaper establishments and the choice is vast.

We decided to stay in Jomtien however – this area isn’t quite so brash and has a more family-friendly air. It is quieter too – some of the hotels close to Pattaya beach have establishments blaring music out to the wee hours which is fine if you want to stay up into the wee hours, but not so good if you are travelling with a child.

We ended up staying in the Rabbit Resort, one of the few, if not only, low rise resorts in Pattaya. It is run by a Thai man and his American wife who call themselves Mr and Mrs Rabbit. Mrs Rabbit made herself known to all guests whereas Mr Rabbit was invisible during our stay.

The Rabbit Resort is on the part of Jomtien known as Dongtang Beach, which is Pattaya’s gay beach. The resort does have part of the beach exclusively for guests’ use, which is a nice touch as the beach can get busy. We went in July, which is the rainy season, so it was quieter than usual.

This part of Jomtien beach cannot be accessed by vehicles during the day, making it a pleasant place to walk along and safe for children.

The resort itself is set in lush tropical gardens and comprises 49 small holiday homes all built and furnished in traditional Thai style. They are spacious and you have the choice of a traditional Thai mattress on your bed or a western one. We had to opt for Western ones due to the Thai ones being quite literally, rock hard.

The one downside we found to these little bungalows was the fact you sometimes found the place invaded by creepy crawlies. On the first day when I went to use the toilet, upon reaching for some toilet paper a rather enormous cockroach emerged from the roll and toddled off at alarming speed to find an exit. We also had to contend with a huge flying beetle on another occasion.

I must add that the resort itself was spotless and given how normal it is to see insects which seem huge to our tame Western eyes, you have to understand the occasional sighting isn’t really a problem, especially in the Rabbit Resort where everything is low rise and traditionally Thai.

Family Friendly

Next door to the Rabbit Resort is Pattaya Park, a hotel and entertainment resort. It was only a short stroll from the Rabbit Resort to this place but in the heat it could be oppressive.

It was ideal for us however because there was a funfair there, a waterpark and Pattaya Park tower – all family friendly daytime activities.

The funfair was great and our daughter went on several rides which I felt were expensive – however this being Thailand the prices were clearly set with the farang in mind. Rides included a chair swinger and a monorail that enabled you to see the whole complex. The topiary you find in the grounds is charming too.

The tower was definitely worth the admission price – it afforded wonderful views of Pattaya and I really enjoyed it. You can reach the top of the tower two ways – if you are brave you can take a cable car which runs from the beach straight to the top. If, like me, you are cowardly, you just take the lift inside.

We visited the waterpark on a separate trip and we were actually very disappointed in it. There’s no attempt to landscape it at all so all you are left with is a large pool with occasional water features surrounded by concrete everywhere. Our daughter enjoyed the huge water slides, but my husband got a particularly nasty insect bite here which tempered his opinion of the place. The sun loungers and chairs were old, rusting and uncomfortable which didn’t add to our mood and the bar service was expensive and surly.

I would add that it was at this waterpark that a 14 year old boy from the Isle of Man was killed in July 2009. Reading media reports of this incident it would appear that in the three years since I visited, this place hasn't improved at all.

We really needn’t have wasted our money given the pools at the Rabbit Resort were so good. Despite the fact we had a child, we were located in a bungalow beside the “adults only” pool. This meant we had a lovely view when we sat on the terrace outside the bungalow but couldn’t go into the pool with our daughter.

The family pool, which was a short stroll away, was larger and had lovely water features to add to the fun. We went every day at least once a day during our stay and the water was always clean and a joy to swim in. Both pools were surrounded by lush vegetation.

Through the hotel staff, we booked a trip to Nong Nooch, a tropical garden located just outside Pattaya. Nong Nooch is easy to get to – they run mini buses from all the hotels in Pattaya and you pay a small supplement to your entrance fee to use this.

The gardens are absolutely stunning – and beautifully maintained. You could spend the afternoon just strolling through them if you wanted, enjoying the tropical blossoms and stunning topiary.

However there is more to Nong Nooch than that – there is a traditional Thai show, which features Thai dancers and kick boxers which is definitely worth a look. It was the best opportunity I ever had in my visits to Thailand to enjoy the dancing in particular, and towards the end a couple of baby elephants joined what seemed to me to be a cast of thousands.

We then moved on to the hugely popular elephant show. Here you see highly trained elephants dance, play football and basketball, paint pictures and hold their mighty feet just above brave (or should that be stupid?) tourists’ heads.

Now I appreciate a lot of people will be appalled at the entire concept of an elephant show, however I couldn’t see evidence of mistreatment anywhere (and we did see where the elephants are kept before and after shows in the park) and at the end of the day when I travel I adopt a “when in Rome” attitude towards these things. However overall I did have mixed feelings about how the animals are used here, and I say that as someone who isn’t particularly an animal lover.

One thing that did disconcert me was a baby tiger that you could pay to have your photograph taken with. It was patently obvious that the tiger was drugged – it was listless and looked utterly miserable, and as a result there was no way on earth I was paying anyone to have my picture taken with it.

My husband did have his picture taken with two very friendly and energetic urang utangs – he asked our daughter to join him but she has a terror of any living animal so that was never going to happen!

I do find the Thai attitude towards animals to be very strange. Dogs are a common sight on the beaches, with many of the strays being fed by locals, whereas others see fit to poison them. There was a piece of disused land close to where we were staying where we noticed a litter of abandoned puppies, and they were being fed by local people. Sadly later on we walked past and saw one had been run over and killed – surely it would have been kinder to take them somewhere safer? There are several charities in the country which try to help reduce dog numbers by sterilisation but many Thais are opposed to this on religious grounds.

Entertainment

If you want to do shopping in Pattaya, you will find much of the same stuff available in Bangkok. If you want to escape the heat for a while, I recommend a visit to the Royal Garden Plaza, an air conditioned shopping centre located between Beach Road and Second Road. There is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not in here if that sort of thing interests you.

Dining in Pattaya should be a cheap and pleasant experience. There is so much competition within the city you shouldn’t have to pay more than the equivalent of £1 for a bowl of noodles or Thai curry. If you do fancy something a little more western, you have to be a little more careful in choosing but we found the Pig and Whistle pub was good for traditional British fare (and was beautifully air conditioned!), and we travelled a little further afield to a restaurant called the Captain’s Table which offered us the chance to choose the meat we wanted and wait for the chef to barbecue it.

Getting about in the city is easy. Walking is a chore during the day due to the heat, but you can hop on and off the songthaews which ply their trade day and night.

We managed a couple of evenings out with babysitters arranged by Mrs Rabbit for our daughter.

Visiting Walking Street late on gave us an entirely different perspective – it’s loud, tacky and has a slight air of desperation about it as countless bars strive to extract cash from tourists any which way they can, with girls posing in a supposedly seductive manner as drunken Western males of varying ages leer over them.

One of the funniest things we saw was a bar claiming to have “Western” girls inside. To draw them in there was a small window above the bar where a person of indeterminable gender wearing a blonde wig would dance provocatively with only their back facing the street. It was one of the most obvious cons I have ever seen and I have to say I’d be hard pushed to have much sympathy for anyone who fell for it.

There are lots of ladyboys to be found out on the streets, trying to lure you in to see their shows.

Bars offer a variety of entertainment which range from nothing whatsoever to Thai Elvis impersonators. They also may not be what they seem - for instance we discovered a distinctly Dutch looking pub called the Windmill which had a very Dutch decor but was actually in the hands of a couple of blokes who wouldn't have looked out of place in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.

Drinks are cheap and the music is loud, and while it’s fun to see it and then laugh about it later, overall I preferred staying in Jomtien for a few drinks where things were more sedate and less “in your face”.

Overall

If you want somewhere cheap and cheerful by the sea in Thailand, Pattaya may be the place for you.

You do have to accept the obvious (ie the sex tourism) and I would recommend choosing your hotel location wisely. If you want to be in the midst of the action stay somewhere on Pattaya beach and enjoy the “delights” Walking Street has to offer.

You also have to accept that Pattaya isn’t an idyllic looking place – it’s completely overdeveloped and is actually pretty ugly. If you want idyllic you will have to look elsewhere because even the beaches here aren’t the best in Thailand in my erstwhile opine.

It is, however, perfectly possible to have a family holiday in Pattaya and completely avoid corrupting your kids.

A bit like the much maligned Benidorm, Pattaya really does offer something for everyone!

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Comments on this review

  • silverstreak published 16/07/2009
    A colourful place, indeed!
  • paulpry118 published 15/07/2009
    E review
  • wigglylittleworm published 13/07/2009
    Really nice review.
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Product Information : Pattaya (Bangkok)

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Listed on Ciao since: 15/07/2000