If you have never been to the coastal city of Pattaya that is located in the Chonburi Province of Thailand, you have missed an excellent opportunity. Pattaya is a great example of how foreign tourism can completely define an area. Originally founded as a fishing village, Pattaya was transformed in the 1970’s due to the influx of soldiers seeking ‘R&R‘ from Vietnam. While it is claimed to be a great destination for a family-oriented vacation, Pattaya primarily holds entertainment and excitement for the latter. To say that the sex industry isn’t a very large component of the city’s economic viability would be a falsity. With the excessive variety of go-go bars, massage parlors, saunas, cabarets, and ‘by the hour’ hotels, it’s not hard to see who is being catered to here. Oh those pesky sexpats…
Families beware, these gremlins along with the thrills they seek are largely prevalent on Walking Street and basically every single soi (ซอย, street) along Beach Road. And Cambodia. And Vietnam. Damn, basically the entirety of Southeast Asia. To say someone is a sexpat is generally stereotypical, as anyone seeking “romance” in another country could fall under this category. However, a sexpat is anyone who engages in tourism with the specific intention of procuring sex. Stereotypically speaking, sexpats are usually older in age, potentially overweight, bearing too much cologne with retirement funds in absolute excess. They’re everywhere, athough most likely found with their arms wrapped around a girl that is a quarter of their age.
One might also notice an interesting facet of the atmosphere in Pattaya. It’s nearly impossible to not see the amount of Russian influence present in the area. From restaurant menus being offered only in Cyrillic, to being mistaken for speaking the Russian language. The influx of Russian tourists over the years has brought forth accusations of money laundering and organized criminal activity alike. Who’s really to blame though, when prostitution is illegal, yet widely practiced in many areas of Thailand. Laws and the lacking enforcement thereof provide for a societal disconnect. Nonetheless, the Russian influence of the area can ultimately be traced back to 2007, where Russia and Thailand entered into a mutual visa wavering program.
Walking Street (pictured to the left and above) can be considered the “red-light district” of Pattaya. From the nightclubs and the many go-go bars, to the adequate selection of alcohol and flavored tobacco, your night is guaranteed to be more than vibrant. Karaoke, live music, billiards, muay thai matches, and a variety of shops and hawker stands are all at an arm’s reach. Songthaews readily drive the North end of Walking Street and are easily available to hire. Simply signal one, seat yourself in the back, and hop off at the nearest soi of your destination. Don’t talk to the driver to give directions as it will often happen that the driver will try and charge a higher price if you are a foreigner. The fare should run 20 baht (Approx. $0.65 USD) one way between Walking Street and the beginning of Beach Road. Motorbike Taxi’s are also readily available for hire, and usually run around 50 baht (Approx. $1.60 USD).
If you have never had the opportunity of having your worn and tired feet cared for in a fish spa, you might actually be avoiding a health hazard. The process is simple; your feet are submerged in a tank where a variety of small fish (species: Garra rufa) clean the dead skin off of them. While fish spa treatment is good in practice, the vast majority of these business are unlicensed and unregulated according to Thailand’s Public Health Ministry. This means that the fish tank that your intoxicated (or maybe sober) self is sticking your feet in is probably contaminated by bacteria from the previous customers’ feet. The risk of infection from these tanks is quite high, so enter at your own regard and risk. I consider myself lucky, as I only felt as if I had caught the common cold the next day.
As this is the first in the Pattaya series, I will be covering this gem of a city in future articles. Specifically, I will discuss travel methods to Pattaya, what the assorted islands off the coast of Thailand have to offer, ans the adventures one can have while diving in the Gulf of Thailand!