Pattaya was a fishing village until the 1960s. Then, during the Vietnam War, American servicemen stationed at nearby U-Tapao or other US bases in Thailand began visiting Pattaya. One story, unverified by a reliable source, notes that it all started when a group of 500 American soldiers stationed at the military base in Korat were driven to Pattaya on 29 June 1959 for a week of rest and relaxation. They rented several houses at the south end of the beach from a prominent Thai, Lord Sunthorn. Despite their short stay, the soldiers had a great time and raved about the place. The word spread among other American soldiers stationed in the region and Pattaya quickly became a hot alternative to Bangkok.
Today, Pattaya is a melting pot of bars, shows, shops and family attractions. It feels like Pattaya is a bit confused over what it wants to be. On the one hand, there is the infamous Walking Street at the southern end of the beach road. It’s pretty much an R rated destination and obviously not one for the kids! Yet, just back up the road is a huge Ripley’s complex with plenty of kid-friendly activities. Maybe Pattaya needs to lose some more of the “bar trade” and inject a iittle more of the family-friendly areas. It has a lot going for it in the picturesque location which is the Gulf of Thailand. Even though it is known for it’s sex trade, don’t write it off as a destination for the family. It’s not difficult to avoid these areas, and there’s plenty of things to see and do away from this.
Arriving in Pattaya
The most common way to get to Pattaya is by road from Bangkok. It’s a little over 2.5 hours drive, depending on traffic. The highway is a good road but the drivers are crazy – just like everywhere else in Thailand. The speeds they do are almost nauseating. We booked a transfer from Suvarnabhumi Airport by mini van. It was the easiest option. You can catch a bus down also but it does take longer, even if it is cheaper. As we had stepped off a 9 hour flight and had another 2.5 hours to drive, we wanted comfort and the quickest possible trip. Our driver was at the airport gate to collect us. A very easy option. Plenty of transport companies offer transfers from Bangkok to Pattaya. Watch the video below for some good advice on how to catch the bus from the airport.
Getting Around Pattaya
Public transport consists mainly of baht buses, plus a smaller number of taxis. They are super easy to use. Just wave one down and negotiate for where you want to go. Sometimes they will want too much baht, other times it will be reasonable. Determine how much you wan to spend on the journey and negotiate accordingly. You can always let one bus go as another one is usually right behind it. They are very competitive!
Staying in Pattaya
There’s a huge number of hotels and options in Pattaya accommodation. Just like Bangkok, you have the 5 star hotels and boutique hotels. It’s pretty easy to decide on a location – north, south or central. We stayed central as it was the easiest location to travel where we wanted to go. The next decision is how close to the beach/gulf do you want to be? The hotels on the beach road are the most expensive as most rooms have ocean views. Further back you have the 2nd road and 3rd road. These run parallel to the beach road and are connected by lanes and streets. We stayed on the 2nd road as it was alot cheaper but still close to everything. Yes, it will be cheaper to stay on 3rd road but you will spend more time in traffic and each trip will cost more.
Areas of Pattaya
The main sweep of the bay area is divided into two principal beachfronts. Pattaya Beach is parallel to the city centre, and runs from Pattaya Nuea south to Walking Street. Along Beach Road are restaurants, shopping areas, and bars.
Pratumnak is on the south side of Pattaya and is popular for its viewpoints and the temple (Wat Phra Yai) on top of the hill. Pattaya Park and Pattaya tower are at the south end of Pratumnak and the Pattaya Exhibition And Convention Hall (P.E.A.C.H), is positioned at the north end of Pratumnak. In recent years, Pratumnak has gained in popularity because of its more natural environment, nicer beaches, and its convenient location between Jomtien and Pattaya city.
Jomtien is divided from Pattaya by Thepprasit Road, the southern route into Pattaya city. It consists of high-rise condominiums, beach side hotels, bungalow complexes, shops, bars, and restaurants.
The northern end of Pattaya is where you will find Naklua Bay. It’s far less busy then Pattaya, and has less accommodation and facilities. However, it is a nice, quiet area if you prefer to be outside the craziness that can be Pattaya. It is also home to the beautiful wooden Sanctuary of Truth.
How long to stay in Pattaya
As Pattaya is so close to Bangkok, alot of tourists visit for a weekend. There’s plenty to see and do in Pattaya so a week could easily be filled with activities. It’s very easy to spend an entire day by the pool if you are staying in a resort. With day trips to islands, shopping malls and nightlife, Pattaya will give you as much, or as little as you want from a visit.