plenty of Pros in the great diversity of Pattaya

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Pattaya has a sordid reputation - but there are a surprising number of positive points here

The PROS in Pattaya might be divided into two groups to reflect two very different visitor groups who flock here in droves – single men, and the rest. The broad latter group includes couples and a surprising number of families, each coming for different reasons. Widely differing preferences means these groups will often hold completely opposing ideas of the positive and negative aspects in Pattaya. While single males love the sexy bar scenes, parents with children will see it otherwise. So our placement of particular items in the Pros or Cons list will not match all perspectives, and will contradict some ideas about this hedonistic, yet amazingly diverse destination.

Pattaya's wild, exciting & colourful nightlife

Wild and diverse nightlife is Pattaya's single greatest attraction that helps draw millions of visitors each year. Poor country girls are the power behind this, making themselves available through go-go bars, massage parlours, beer bars, discos, and various other thinly-disguised fronts for commercial sex. While this male-oriented side of Pattaya dominates after hours' activities, there are also plenty of places where foreign couples enjoy themselves. Hundreds of open-air beer bars lining streets throughout the city are not particularly raunchy, and create vibrant social life for all sexes and ages. These are particularly popular with retired Western couples.

many other attractions for all ages, all tastes

Pattaya has golf courses galore, an open tiger zoo, an ancient stone park, a few Thai cultural centres and displays, Ripley's Believe It or Not, an amazing temple at the Sanctuary of Truth, several Buddhist monasteries, an elephant village, a huge tropical garden at Nong Nooch - and the list goes on and on.

One website lists 50 attractions in Pattaya, far more than any couple or family will be able to take in during a week-long vacation here. So there is indeed much more to do here than the city's popular reputation might suggest.

one of the top family & children's beach resorts in Thailand

In view of Pattaya’s sordid reputation as a haven of commercial sex, drugs and wild nightlife, this categorization for children might seem rather contradictory. But no, in the greater Pattaya area business entrepreneurs have built quite an amazing and diverse range of attractions and theme parks, a large number of which target the family market. More families come to Pattaya than most people realize.
Further, the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya is more than a beachfront resort, it is also an exceptional theme park designed to keep kids and families entertained for days. Kids love this place so much that True Beachfront is doing something quite unusual here – naming a single beach resort as a full-blown attraction and a Pro for this destination.
Take a look at the Centara Grand Mirage Resort photos to understand just why this is such a fun water-world for children. But do remember that each weekend an influx of Thai families from Bangkok checks in here to give their children lots of active fun in the waterways, while their parents grab a chance to relax.

a wide range of good Thai and other restaurants

Pattaya and environs has a big Thai population, and thus there are many authentic Thai restaurants – something lacking in many other Thai beach destinations. If looking for good Thai restaurants with Thai clientele head to Jomtien Beach; there are many in this area.
There are also many establishments set up specifically to catch the foreign trade which serve tourist-style Thai food. If you want 'real' Thai cuisine find out where the locals eat, for Thais are exceptionally particular about the spicing and flavours in their food, and they avoid 'tourist' restaurants.
Also, the approximately 70,000 expatriates of diverse nationalities living in the area support a wide variety of specialist restaurants with national cuisines, including numbers of Russian establishments, plus Japanese, Italian, British, Korean, Chinese, Indian and European food in various styles.

Pattaya is just 1 ½ hours from to Bangkok's main airport

From Bangkok's Souvannaphum Airport you can be checked into a Pattaya hotel within an hour and a half. Most Bangkok taxis will make the hour-and-a-half drive to Pattaya, and hotel rooms are easy to find there save during a few peak seasons. It makes Pattaya ideal for those with only a few days to spare, or for those who have already travelled long and far. Airport proximity also makes it easy for families with young children. Easy access encourages visitors to Bangkok to tag on a few days by the beach.
But before choosing Pattaya just because it is close to Bangkok and the international airport, first time visitors should really know what to expect here, and be aware that Pattaya is more a city and entertainment destination than a beach resort.

some quiet & peaceful resorts a short drive away

Pattaya is not a quiet place. If you seek peaceful accommodation yet want to be within reach of Pattaya's nightlife and entertainment, head south to Jomtien Beach or Bang Saray. The south end of Jomtien Beach has a number of very attractive beachfront resorts, with these three neighbours among the best; Dor-Shada by the Sea, Ravindra Beach and Botany Resort. Further south at relatively tranquil Bang Saray Beach things are even quieter, and the beach is prettier, with the drive from Pattaya taking 15 – 20 minutes.

Pattaya has modern, comfortable, 4- and 5-star resort hotels

As Pattaya destroyed its original natural beauty, its hotels and resorts compensated by becoming more up-market and stylish. A few even have excellent tropical gardens. Today Pattaya offers everything imaginable from cheap, noisy rooms within walking distance of the bars to 5-star luxury really by the beach. The astronomical cost of beachfront land means that most resorts on the beach are in the luxurious class, though a few comfortable, mid-range options do still remain. If you need your room in Pattaya to be truly quiet, find a true beachfront resort facing the ocean with its back to the urban mayhem. Most accommodations like this are found on the headlands and small beaches just north of the city centre (Wongamat Beach) and to the south (Royal Cliff Bay).

a range of excellent MICE facilities

Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH) is one of Thailand's foremost meetings and conventions centres, located in the hotel district of Phra Tumnak, a part of the Royal Cliff Hotel on the south edge of the city. Its largest hall is 5,406 square metres. Many hotels here also compete for smaller groups, with the Dusit Thani Pattaya offering a pillarless 2,400 sqm room, and others having smaller, but still quite substantial convention halls and ballrooms. Pattaya's Meetings Incentives Meetings & Exhibitions (MICE) facilities are thus second only to those in Bangkok, though here visitors have the added advantages of better environment, beach nearby, no big traffic jams of the Bangkok kind and lots of nightlife, entertainment and attractions..

The CONS: there also quite a few negatives in hedonistic, over-developed Pattaya

The list of Cons for Pattaya could get quite lengthy, though again the concept of 'negative' changes with viewers' perspectives. Many people condemn the open commercialization of sex here, while single men are drawn from around the world by the charm and magnetism of Thai working girls. Not everyone agrees if these are positive or negative points.
One thing we cannot deny is Pattaya's negative reputation as a major Asian centre of sex, crime, and even suicide. But again, these rarely affect the average tourist doing safe, everyday things.
I thus try to avoid the most controversial aspects of this city that stir the passions so vehemently – in both positive and negative directions – and look for things that most people will agree are true positives and negatives for the majority of visitors.

Pattaya beach is crowded, not at all natural or beautiful

Before tourism arrived, Pattaya Beach was attractive, and certainly peaceful, but never strikingly beautiful. None of the beaches in the upper gulf of Thailand can match the natural, postcard-perfect beauty of those on the islands further south, nor the geographic wonder of Thailand's Andaman beaches. Today, with urbanization pushing hard against Pattaya and nearby beaches, the limited natural beauty it once had has taken a terrible beating. There's not much 'nature' left at all. Pattaya and neighbours are now just the meeting of ocean and land – good for a suntan, some relaxation and a sunset beer, but not much else – not when compared to Thailand's other beaches.

Pattaya's water is polluted – and perhaps even dangerous for swimming

In 2009 the Thai government's Pollution Control Department tested and rated the water quality on hundreds of Thai beaches, awarding them from one to five stars (the top). Pattaya scored a miserly two stars, meaning the water is polluted enough to be potentially dangerous to the health of people swimming in it.
Unfortunately Pattaya suffers the triple whammy of pollution coming from multiple directions. Thailand's major river, the Chao Phraya, empties the garbage of tens of millions of people in the centre of the country into the Gulf nearby, much of which washes up on beaches along the Pattaya coast. Immediately north of Pattaya the country's most heavily industrialized zone is blamed for chemical contamination. Then Pattaya city itself is the source of all kinds of black water and pollutants reaching the ocean. Look carefully at the colour of the water, and swim off these beaches at your own risk.

that ugly, uncontrolled development of Pattaya

How ugly is Pattaya? Very. The streets are lined with no-design, cheap commercial shop-houses, and those unpainted horribles are adorned with the drooping masses of wiring for which Thailand is infamous. The streets are often hot and dusty, and sometimes dirty. The pavements are poor, or sometime non-existent. The development model by which this city was built is the exact same one that has blighted Bangkok with a horizon-full of soulless, concrete suburbs with few trees in sight. And around Pattaya the concrete monster continues its menacing creep, concreting over the countryside kilometre by kilometre.

gangsters love this place, so the crime rate flies high

Thailand's crime rate is relatively low – in comparison to most countries on the planet. But Pattaya is different, and crime is rampant by comparison – some might call it an epidemic. But strangely, it's not dangerous for everyone.
Pattaya is a master alchemist, mixing a potent blend of mass tourism, seedy nightlife, bars, drugs, gangs, prostitution, petty criminals, beautiful women and fast-found wealth. Throw in lots foreign gangsters on the run from their own countries, international 'businessmen' laundering ill-gotten wealth and tax-free profits. Then, finally, pour in plane-loads of gullible foreigners.
Victims? Of course there are plenty of victims. However, average visitors enjoying a normal holiday while taking everyday precautions will probably never smell even a whiff of this city's international underworld. For those who do not come looking for commercial sex or drugs, and are not drunk on the streets late at night, this place is surprisingly safe.

Read more about the dangers here at Pattaya: how safe, or dangerous is it?

no beachfront resorts on Pattaya Beach, but a few nearby

Pattaya is another famous beach destination where it is statistically difficult to find a room on the beach – only about 5% of the total number of hotels here are beachfront. Pattaya's main beach doesn't have a single beachfront hotel due to the beach road running its entire length. Beware of hotels in central Pattaya claiming to be on, by or near the beach or ocean, for that beach road is especially busy and noisy, and often difficult to cross. As shown on The Club's detailed beach maps, all nearby beachfront resorts are found on the headlands and beaches to the immediate north and south.
The beachfront resorts at two most popular areas, Wongamat Beach and Phra Tumnak Beach (sometimes called Royal Cliff), have the advantages of being rather quiet, while giving quick access to the entertainment areas. They also have narrow beaches that offer relaxation, attractive sunsets and atmosphere far superior to that of the hotels locked into Pattaya's noisy streets.

'kratoeys', Pattaya's lady-boys, can be a real problem

'Kratoey' is hte local name for Thailand's famous lady-boys. Many are exceptionally feminine-looking, and a full sex-change operation can make it virtually impossible to tell them from the real thing. Kratoeys working in go-go bars often partner with foreigners for the night – gullible foreigners who believe they are taking home a truly beautiful Thai lady.
Back in the man's hotel room, however, if the deception is discovered, all kinds of scenarios soon develop. Some can be quite violent. The lady-boys invariably have a hustle of tough friends nearby to help when the foreigners get physical, and the result can be a violent and bloody end to the foreigner's fun evening, or even his holiday.
Here again, the average tourist not engaging in the local attractions in this manner will find kratoeys an entirely safe curiosity – if they can recognize them.

by John Everingham