Pattaya: Sin City

Ty had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the Lub-D Hostel and take us to Pattaya for the last two weeks of our South East Asia sojourn. At around noon a taxi pulled up out front and tried to scam us into thinking he was the driver for which we’d arranged. As we were talking to him, the actual driver arrived in a luxurious white SUV and whisked us away while the taxi driver pretended not to see. Although we know about the city’s bad rep, we selected Pattaya solely for convenience, being the nearest beach town to Bangkok, from which it’d be easy to get to the airport when it was time to go. We were hoping that we’d be able to find a decent part of town to relax in before heading back to North America.

After a reasonable two hour drive, we arrived at the KTK Royal Residence serviced apartments to find it in the middle of an active construction site. The noise from grinding saws, banging, shouting, and clanging, and the dust raised by men and machines working, made for a not very pretty picture. At the front desk, we asked to be placed in a quiet room away from the noise; the 4th floor room we got was the worst possible room we could have been given in terms of noise, right next to the construction site, across from a neighboring building from the front of which the noise reverberated as if an echo chamber. While the baffled bellhop waited with our bags, I asked again at the front desk for a room on the quieter side of the building, only to be informed that the hotel was full. The only other room available was the one right next door to ours, the second worst room in the hotel. Well, in the day that we spent there, we saw only three other people – it looks to me as if there’s no one staying on this side of the hotel and very few on the other side, which actually is not much quieter.

Deciding after about two seconds of listening to the noise that we weren’t going to stay, Ty and I headed out down the road to look for another room. After checking five or six hotels in the same area, and being told they were full (without any of the clerks actually checking their records), we grabbed a song thaew bus and headed north to Jomtien, a beach area I’d read was not as over-developed or sex-tourist-oriented as Pattaya. There we just happened to walk down a side street at the end of which we found the Inn Place, a brand new residence only open for a month. At the front desk the personnel were friendly and helpful, showing us a couple of rooms that were available for our stay, and we booked it then and there.

We assume that the reception at KTK thought that, because we’d booked through Agoda and paid for our stay in advance, we were trapped and couldn’t do anything about the situation. However, after a phone call to Agoda, we were able to get a refund for all but one night and off we headed to Jomtien.

One of the reasons we selected the KTK Royal Residence was because we wanted to cook some of our meals; the KTK was billed as a “serviced residence”, with a kitchenette. Interestingly, while the room does have a kitchen area, it has no pots or pans, no utensils other than 2 spoons and 2 forks, no dishwash cloths to clean anything. It has a fan to take away the smells of cooking but no way of cooking anything (no hotplate, no stove, no oven, only a microwave). It has kitchen cupboards, but the cupboards are bare.

The Pattaya/Jomtien area is huge – the beaches are long and quite narrow, carpeted the entire length with mushroom clouds of umbrellas cheek by jowl, beneath which the sand is dark with shade. Water sports boats, jet skis, and parasails are all available here; right now the international wind surfing championships are on at Jomtien, with very light high tech sails and small, light boards (not like the old days in 80’s Vancouver with boards so heavy it was almost impossible to drag them out of the water unless one was a gorilla).

Song thaews drive day and night along the beach roads honking for passengers; the official rate between Jomtien and Pattaya is 10 baht each – our first trip the driver asked for 100 each, which we paid not knowing. The accommodations in this area range from enormous skyscraper hotels to smaller serviced residences to a few bungalow operations to hotels for those in a hurry (!) renting rooms by the hour.

Once unpacked, we walked out down the main beach road, looking for a decent restaurant for lunch. Most of the places at our end of the beach have menus in Thai and Russian with English in small print as an afterthought. It’s easy to tell who the dominant tourist group is these days – mostly, we hear Russian.

We have found that those restaurants which cater mostly to foreigners have, unsurprisingly, the worst crap for food – cold, tasteless (because farangs don’t like spice), bland, and really unappetising. After a walk of about six blocks down the beach, past several large unfinished hotel complexes rusting in the sun, we found a small place which served excellent Thai food. [Note: now, 5 days later, the place is closed – damn]

Walking back along the beach, we saw a few very tiny clear round tentacle-less jellyfish and many small squid washed ashore. Since it was Sunday, lots of local families were at the beach picnicking and we enjoying seeing all the kids playing in the water. The many small soi (side streets) off the main drag have four and five storey walk-up guesthouses, many with small restaurants out front, and noodle, fruit, and soup wagons and tuk-tuks ply the alleys all day long. Massage parlours are plentiful, as are girlie bars with the usual occupants. The average age of the tourists here is probably in the early sixties, with large retired out-of-shape white men being the biggest, in every sense of the word, segment of the population here. From what I can tell, about 90% of the older occupants of Jomtien area are white male pensioners, about 98% of these with a young Thai woman in tow.

However, according to a couple of blogs I read the character of Pattaya is changing, with more couples and families coming than before – especially Russians.

See more pics here.