Pattaya had always been with friends and it was all about rowdy fun, adrenaline rush and non stop madness. All of us were flight attendants and maintained throughout the year a restricted, disciplined life, contrary to most people’s ideas of us being in constant vacations. Restricted by time, duty limitations and catching up on sleep debt, in Pattaya we used to let our hair down like crazy and do things silly enough to put Koh Phangan full moon party goers to shame. We always stayed at Furama (now D Varee) at Jontiem Beach and pool in money for the amazing ocean facing large suite. The room was spacious and luxurious enough for us to go hippy happy and the sunset evening views never failed to mesmerize us.
A “fun” beach resort, located in the east coast of Gulf of Thailand, Pattaya is only 2 hours drive from Bangkok and is sleazy Thailand at its best. Cheap, very very sleazy and teeming with fun things to do, Pattaya till today remains one of Thailand’s hottest tourist destinations. With its infamous Walking Street, line up of brothels, go go bars, “fun” massage parlours, nightclubs and more, Pattaya is a tourist magnet and has something for everybody. Sight of old, wrinkled expat men walking around hand in hand with teeny bopper Thai girls, some with babies, nearly bare women propositioning on streets and single women travelers approached by male travelers’ groups due to mistaken identity, Pattaya can be very hard to love. But love it or hate it, Pattaya is like no place on earth.
For all its tainted reputation and booming sex industry, origin of Pattaya is as gentle and noble like rest of Siam. An old fishing village, Pattaya was born out of a brave encounter between marching Phraya Tak (King Taksim) and a local leader named Nai Klom. Phraya Tak was marching from Ayutthaya to Chanthaburi, when this encounter happened. Nai Klom was so impressed by Phraya Tak’s courage and his army’s discipline, that he gave up without a fight and joined forces with him. The place where the 2 armies met, came to be known as Thap Phraya (Army of Phraya).
Later the name evolved as Pattaya, after the monsoon winds which blow from the southwest. Pattaya remained a sleepy fishing village until 1960’s when American off duty servicemen of Vietnam War, started arriving for R n R and the rest is history. Suddenly nearly overnight Pattaya expanded, developed at break neck speed and became what it is today. Attracting more than 4 million tourists, yearly Pattaya is hardly a family holiday destination, but that does not stop a lot of foreigners from invading it throughout the year with their entire families in tow.
Pattaya airport, bus stop and streets are often filled with entire families complete with children, parents and both sets of in laws if not more. Indians love Pattaya and hardly any urban family in India will not have memorable Pattaya memories, especially of “shocking” walking street sights. They form a bulk of its tourists along with Russians, Australians and rest of the world and this has lead to Pattaya having restaurants, bars, nightclubs and even discos (they even have traditional mujras, ancient Muslim courtesan dance performances) which cater to different nationalities.
Old, traditional Indian couple gawking wide eyed at Walking Street sleaze, bored pre teens slouching over electronic gadgets in malls or fuzzy soft children building sand castles on Jomtiem beach are in fact common Pattaya sights. Mostly a single traveler’s destinations, Pattaya can be a lot of fun if traveling as a couple or with friends.
In Pattaya, we used to indulge in its amazing array of water sports, get ripped off by the mafia who infest Pattaya beaches and hunt around the sin city for more fun things to do. Go karting, banana boating, para sailing, diving, wake boarding, fishing, kite surfing, Pattaya Park tower jump (170 meters), tandem sky dives-our days used to be one streamlined adrenaline rush and evenings would see us tumbling back to Walking Street and its neon garishness. We dined, danced, shopped for cheap souvenirs, ocean bags, clothes, got fish spas done and raided 7/11’s for endless cheap beers, which we gulped from sidewalks. Our rental motor cycles helped us zip around, party till wee hours of the morning and explore the quiet rural country side around Pattaya.
Pattaya countryside is exceptionally tranquil, pretty and a far cry from the gregarious city. Our day trips to Krok and scuba diving trips to Bamboo islands were spectacular and a hushed relaxation from the action packed mainland days. Now as I try to write about Pattaya, its strange how less I remember of that place. Perhaps the reason is that being part of a big group, I never observed beyond our little circle of activities or it did not touch my core as other places in Thailand.
Somehow my most unfortunate distasteful Thai travel memories revolve around Pattaya and they all involve getting scammed/making an ass out of myself. The rip offs by the water sports mafia, gemology tours which always ended in subtle pushy sales techniques (I even ended up buying an emerald of dubious quality at exorbitant price) and faulty rental motor cycles had plagued our Pattaya trips and created some unpleasant moments. Add to that overcharging songthaew drivers (with free wifi), garrulous drunk co travelers and condescending attitude of golf clubs staff (and we are all experienced golfers), I would not have liked Pattaya, if not for my friends. Having said that, our tandem sky dives, coral dives, bungee jumps, yellow submarine trip (embarrassed ourselves by being the only adults, unaccompanied with kids) and elephant village trips were undoubtedly loads of fun.
Keeping my travel tradition alive of being a complete ass, whenever with friends, Pattaya too has it’s shares of bloopers. While the elephant farm sits heavy on my responsible travel conscience but the reality is that my bungee and tandem sky dive experiences are the ones which still make me cringe. We loved getting dolled up in Pattaya and as if I had not embarrassed my self enough by zipping down 170 meters from Pattaya Park Tower, my dress flying around in proper Monroe style, we took our gamboling to the next level at the bungee jump park.
Pattaya bungee jump ( (248/10 Moo 12, Thepprasit Road, Nongprue, Bang Lamung, Chonburi, Thailand, tel: +038 300 608) is one of the highest in Asia (56 meters) and it was not a very memorable or funny experience at all. If the ride up to the creaky platform, with wind blowing faster with every ascent was scary, the moment before jumping off was intensely hair raising (literally, it was very windy). I froze, refused to budge, tried bribing my way out of it and took more than 45 minutes till I was pushed off by the bored staff.
It is till date, the most terrifying moment in my life and I swear, I could feel my heart fly out of my mouth with every recoil. I landed, with my pretty dress all strange and leaving nothing much to imagination, shaky and numb when the sky dive happened the next day.
We chose to go with Skydive Pattaya (http://www.skydivepattaya.com/index.php) and while most of my friends opted for a package later, I stuck to my tandem jump. We flew out, increased in altitude and everything seemed normal until the airplane door was opened and we got prepared for the dive.
Immediately my heart again froze, throat dried up and words came out in incorrigible squeaks. I refused, blustered, threatened, made excuses and cried buckets till my tears got mixed with sniffles. With mascara running down, and nose all red from sniffling, I made a sorry picture and looked worse after landing. While nearly all sky divers have recognized it as the most exhilarating experiences they ever had, I was only happy to have gotten over with it. I sulked the rest of the day, gorged on seafood and sun at the umbrella sheltered Jontiem Beach and visited the Teddy Bear Island in the evening.
Good, bad and ugly..Pattaya was one hell of a trip(s).
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE
Some photos have been taken from internet.