Pattaya is a two hour drive from Bangkok and is the closest beach destination from the bustling city. It has many beaches as well as sights to see. Pattaya’s most famous attraction is the nightly cabaret shows by the “ladyboys”.
How to get to Pattaya from Bangkok
The easiest way to get to Pattaya from Don Mueang airport, Bangkok is by taxi. Avoid the drivers who approach you as you walk towards the airport exit. They can be rather persistent and even resort to following you. Some of the prepaid taxi counters too are expensive and charge 2400 THB. Instead walk towards your extreme left, towards the last exit. The prepaid taxi stand there is reasonable, it will cost you 1500 THB including toll fare, do make it a point to confirm whether the quoted fare includes the toll price.
Where to stay in Pattaya
The best area to stay in Pattaya is the Jomtien beach area. It is close enough and yet far from all the action. What I mean to say is Jomtien is a quieter area to reside and only about ten minutes away from central Pattaya or the walking street area. There are plenty of accommodations available to suit varied budgets. You will also find ample, tasty street food and small restaurants there.
How to get around
Uber is not available in Pattaya. A good alternative is an app called Grab Taxi. You can also flag down regular taxis and tuk tuks. Always negotiate the price before embarking. Knowing the fare estimate can give you good ground to bargain. This can be done with a simple google search. The truth is you will always have to pay more than the actual estimate, however you can reduce the amount which you have to pay. Another option and the most inexpensive one, is the Pattaya bus. Not a bus in the traditional sense, it is a converted pickup truck. You have to flag it down as you would a taxi. Ask the driver if he would go to your destination and for the fare. Simply head to the back and hop on. Most of the buses are equipped with a bell which you ring to indicate to the driver to stop, else you can tap on the divider or shout to them. These open aired buses are also a great way to see the city.
What to see in Pattaya
These are the popular sights and attractions to see in Pattaya:
- Koh Larn or coral island, plenty of beaches and water activities
- Cabaret show, Tiffany and Alacazar are the popular ones
- Walking Street
- Big Buddha
- Pattaya Floating market, it is open daily unlike Bangkok’s floating markets which are only open on the weekends.
- Sanctuary of truth
- Nong Nooch Tropical Garden
What we saw
We only had one night in Pattaya. Being hard pressed for time, meant that we had to pick and choose specifically what interested us, as well as what seemed unique to Pattaya.
Sanctuary of truth
Sanctuary of truth is a 45 minute drive from the Jomtien beach area. It will cost you around 150 THB, one way by taxi. Try negotiating a return trip with your driver. You will find taxis readily at the Sanctuary of truth, although they will be pricey. However if you are willing to do a bit of walking, walk out of the sanctuary of truth and you’ll find cheaper taxis or Pattaya buses.
The entry fee to the Sanctuary of truth is 500THB per person. Your driver will most likely volunteer to buy the ticket for you, they receive a commission for bringing you there. You can pay more to include an elephant, horse ride or ATV biking experience.
Walking down a dirt path you reach an area with a couple of restaurants and a view point for the Sanctuary of truth. It is a good spot for a couple of photos. To get to the temple you need to descend a flight of stairs. You are promptly handed helmets for your safety. A Thai cultural dance is also included with the ticket and takes places at certain time slots. We were in time for one, it however turned out to be lack luster. Disappointed we decided to get to the main attraction.
Made of wood, the Sanctuary of truth has been in construction for the past 36 years, and will only be completed in another two to three decades. Hence, the helmets for safety. As you approach the temple you will hear constant ‘whirs’ and noises of workers, chipping away at the wood. The temple presents a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu mythology, or stories with the help of intricate carvings and sculptures. You can walk around the temple as well as have a better look at the carvings inside.
The temple is no doubt magnificent and a sight to see, however you are left wondering if the experience is really worth the price you pay.
Pattaya Beach Road
Adjacent to walking street, Pattaya beach road is the stretch by Pattaya beach. Bustling with bars, restaurants and shops it is almost like a precursor to walking street, which only comes alive when the sun sets. Get to Beach road in the late afternoon, at around 5:00 pm and walk the stretch all the way till Walking Street. If you can’t make it simply get on a Pattaya bus which will get you there for 10-20THB. Witness the sun dip slowly and steadily into the horizon as you walk along. Take a break to do a spot of shopping and feast on the street food dotted across the expanse.
A large neon, lit up sign, welcomes you to the Walking street. Vehicles are not allowed beyond that point. So as the names suggests you have to get on your feet and get walking. You are instantly assaulted by flashing lights and by the many lady boys. If you are a man you will find yourself constantly being pulled in by them. Our visit was close to the Thai kings passing, hence the activities in the walking street were relatively tamed, and the music subdued. If you are uninterested in partaking in the activities, once you’ve had your fill of looking around, turn around and walk back to the entrance.
Nong Nooch tropical gardens
It takes a good hour from Jomtien to get to Nong Nooch located in southern Pattaya. It spans a large area and includes a resort as well as the gardens. The entry fee is 500 THB, you can choose to walk around and explore or get on a buggy or elephant if you are willing to pay more. Bring a good camera as there are plenty of photo opportunities.
Nong Nooch is divided into a couple of sections such as animal gardens, pottery, orchid etc. I would say most of the gardens are fashioned around the various animal sculptures. Meerkats, alligators and penguins the list is endless.
You can walk around the gardens or climb onto the sky walk, a raised platform circling the gardens. There is even a section inspired by Angkor Wat featuring beautifully trimmed hedges.
An unexpected feature of the gardens were tigers, we spotted two tigers, placed in the center of the gardens in the midst of people. The tigers were restrained with thick metal chains. I also suspected they were drugged as they lay there almost motionless. People can take photographs with the tigers for a fee of 700THB. The visit to Nong Nooch culminated our Pattaya visit.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Pattaya to anyone. Pattaya is really a paradise for middle-aged men looking to have some fun. You’ll constantly see these men with significantly younger and beautiful Thai women. Though Pattaya has some good beaches, you are better off skipping it especially, if you are visiting another Thai island.