While the lure of Pattaya’s go-go bars and beautiful Thai women may have attracted hordes of male visitors over the years, earning the city something of a reputation, over the past few decades the city has evolved info a family-oriented destination. Pattaya is by no means a secluded seaside getaway, but what it makes up for in tropical tranquility, it more than makes up for in the wide spectrum of facilities and amenities on offer.
The expansive grounds of Chaloemphrakiat Park provide visitors and locals alike with an excellent space to enjoy Pattaya's balmy climate and a rainbow of flora and fauna. The 6 acre park was dedicated to His Majesty King Rama IX in celebration of his 60th birthday in 1988.
For travellers that enjoy filling up on knowledge, Pattaya is interspersed with a selection of museums and galleries, including Anek Kuson Sala. This art gallery houses an impressive display of antiques, including terracotta soldiers and horses taken from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. If you are travelling with children, a trip to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is a fun way to break up a week of poolside activities. Children that visit the venue are delighted by the “Haunted Experience” show, the 4D movie theatre and the “Infinity Maze” game. The relatively new Art in Paradise is a 3D art gallery with plenty of optical illusionary photo opportunities.
Travel tip: From waterparks to miniature cities, Pattaya is a playground for children as much as it is for adults. Here are some activities to do with the younger members of the family.
Islands: The islands scattered off the coast of Pattaya make for a great day trip for travelers that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Koh Lan is just 45 minutes off offshore, and offer snorkeling opportunities from its Laem Thian and Thong Long beaches. Another nearby snorkeling and scuba diving hotspot, though not the most brilliant, can be found in the waters off Koh Phai, which is situated eight miles west of Koh Lan and a one hour ferry ride from Pattaya.
Opened in 2009, the expansive Central Festival Mall puts Pattaya on the map for high end shopping and dining, and is one of the largest malls in Asia. Located near to Pattaya Beach Road, this shopping centre offers shoppers fashion, health and beauty, electronics and food. Central Festival also boasts its own cinema complex and bowling alley on the top floor. Other malls include the P.S Plaza, the Royal Garden Plaza and Mike Shopping Mall, where visitors can hunt for clothing bargains on the ground floor before heading to the fifth floor food court for a bite to eat.
In Central Pattaya, the Made In Thailand Night Plaza sells a hodge podge of everything from household items to same same t-shirts. In addition, while the Market Pattaya on Second Road may not have the same hustle and bustle of its rival bazaars, on some evenings it is possible to catch students performing traditional songs and dance on a small stage.
The best place to head for food is Pattaya Beach, where you can find a multitude of cheap diners or roadside stalls serving delicious meals for under THB50 (US$1.50). There is a lot of competition for business, so visitors will find that prices are generally competitive. There are also a great many places to eat at Jomtien Beach, although the cuisine on offer probably is not as varied as what is on offer at Pattaya Beach, save for some fine establishments including Pu Pen, a seaside open air restaurant serving fine seafood prepared in a mouthwatering number of ways.
However, visitors in the mood for a party should head to Pattaya’s Walking Street at about 10 p.m. as the vivid colours of its night scene begin to come alive.
Over the years, it is perhaps the energetic reputation of Pattaya's nightlife that has made the city such a hit with foreign tourists. Indeed, after Bangkok, Pattaya is the second most visited destination in the whole of Thailand. For a relaxing, family-friendly evening visitors usually head to the Jomtien Beach area where an evening stroll along the Bay Promenade followed by a tip to the bowling alley makes for a fun-packed evening.
If the songtaew is not for you, a local bus route was introduced in March 2012, which runs in a circular loop beginning at the Pattaya Floating Market, stopping at popular tourist destinations like Pattaya Beach Road, Walking Street and Jomtien Beach Road. A bus ticket will set you back THB30 (US$0.90).
If you find yourself short of time, the quickest way to navigate your way around the bustling streets of Pattaya is by motorbike taxi. Drivers wear brightly colored vests, so they are easy to identify. Though cheaper than songtaews, passengers should make sure they hold on tight as they thread through the traffic that clogs many of Pattaya’s main roads.
Car rentals are available, however, the standard of driving on Pattaya’s roads may be something different to what you are accustomed too. Visitors who want to explore Pattaya independently and get a little exercise whilst they are at it can hire a bicycle. One rental shop, Kokonok, is situated at the northern end of the city while another, Canterbury Tales Café, is situated just of Soi Buakhao near the LK Metro. Bicycles can be hired from around THB75 (US$2.40) per day.
Due to its close proximity to Bangkok, many visitors choose to drive to Pattaya in their own privately rented vehicle. Drivers can take Bangkok’s Outer Ring Road and follow the Bangkok-Chon Buri-Pattaya Motorway down to the seaside resort in a comfortable two hours or less, depending on traffic.
Pattaya’s airport, U-Tapao-Rayong-Pattaya International Airport, is situated 30km south of the town. While it is the closest airport to Pattaya that is served by commercial flights, there are no direct connections to Bangkok, with the only domestic connections being to Phuket and Koh Samui.
Alternatively, Pattaya can be accessed easily by visitors who fly into Thailand’s national Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is situated on the outskirts of Bangkok approximately 110km from Pattaya. Connecting from Suvarnabhumi to Pattaya by road only takes around 90 minutes in good driving conditions.
Buses from Bangkok to Pattaya depart from the eastern Ekamai Bus Terminal and the northern Mo Chit Bus Terminal on a regular basis, usually every 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the time of day.
The journey usually takes around two and a half hours, although if you catch the bus from the Southern Sai Tai Taling Chan Bus Terminal it may take a little longer.
First class services drop travelers off at the bus terminal on North Pattaya Road, which is a THB25 (UX$0.80) ride to Beach Road on a songtaew. Passengers who want to save a little money can pay just THB100 (US$3.20) for the second class bus to Pattaya, though they should bear in mind that there is usually no toilet on board and due to the high frequency of stops the journey tends to be a lot longer.
For tourists set on experiencing Thailand’s public transport system, rail is the most economical way to make the journey from Bangkok to Pattaya. Paying THB31 (US$1) for a third class ticket can be an interesting experience for many travellers. On weekdays, a third class train leaves Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station at 6:50 a.m. and arrives into Pattaya at 10:18 a.m. Despite being the cheapest way to get to Pattaya, the train is fairly slow and can take as long as three and a half hours in comparison to two and half hours on the bus.
By Mini Van
Again, the trusty mini van comes through.