14 DAYS IN // Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya is a beach resort, located on the Gulf of Thailand, about 100 kilometres south of Bangkok. Pattaya caters to most tastes, with excellent beaches and resort hotels focused on families, as well as livelier areas with energetic nightlife catering to more eclectic tastes. Pattaya is busy at all hours however, even late at night, it felt safe.

We were fortunate in that good friends, Leila and Amyn, have been holidaying in Pattaya for many years and were kind enough to show us around.  This blog would not be the same without their input.

Magnificent 7 // Pattaya, Thailand

  1. Enjoy the beaches
  2. Visit the Sanctuary of Truth Museum
  3. Be active
  4. Take in a show
  5. Go island hopping
  6. Luxuriate with a massage or two
  7. Indulge in retail therapy

Getting there –

We flew Qatar airlines via Doha. Qatar airlines has allegedly won airline of the year seven years in a row.  We flew Economy and it was fine.  It took 6’ 50” to get to Doha and just under six hours to fly from Doha to Bangkok.  We had around 1’ 45” in Doha airport on the way out and just over an hour on the return journey.

Like most airlines, there is a mad scramble 24 hours before the flight to get seats unless you pay for them when booking, which we did.  We paid for the “preferred” seats which offer slightly more room than the standard seats. Our bags were checked all the way through to Bangkok, so we only had to take our hand luggage through Doha airport.  The transit was easy. 

The flights were fine; A380 to Doha and 777 to Bangkok.  The movie selection was good, everything worked, no problems storing our hand luggage, and the food choices were also good.

Bangkok airport was very busy.  Although you get a visa on arrival, do not follow the signs that say, “Visa on Arrival”, get into the long queue and shuffle forward with everyone else.  It took us about 40 minutes to get through passport control, by which time our bags had arrived.

Where we stayed

In Pattaya we stayed at the A-One Royal Cruise Hotel.  The building is shaped like a cruise ship and the room décor is based on cruise ship cabins. Check-in was straightforward forward although if you do not have a credit card (we didn’t bring one) you have to lodge 3,000 Baht cash which is returned when you check out. They would not let us use a debit card to lodge a deposit. Breakfast was included in our room rate. The location was excellent in the north end of Pattaya beach which is much quieter than hotels further south.  Thoroughly recommended.

To eat and drink –

Finding somewhere to eat will not be a problem as there is an abundance of street food, restaurants in malls and on every street you walk down.  Allegedly there are about 2,000 beer bars in Pattaya if that is your thing.

Something we were not expecting was the quality of the food courts in malls.  Terminal 21 had a large food court called Pier 21. At the entrance to Pier 21, you go to a booth and put money on a card they supply.  You then choose the food you want from the hundred or so food outlets and the card gets debited. At the end of your meal, you claim back the unspent money. Great choice and inexpensive – for around 300 Baht you can eat very well.  

Magnificent 7

1. Enjoy the beaches

The weather in Pattaya was delightful.  We went in February/March swapping chilly single-digit weather – and snow – for a constant 31 degrees Celsius.

Our hotel was literally a stone’s throw from a lovely beach at the north end of the main Pattaya beach that had a roped-off area for swimming with lifeguards on duty. A morning swim is recommended.  The water temperature (28 degrees Celsius) is significantly warmer than the Atlantic coast in Portugal!  The sunsets are gorgeous, and we spent time in the evening playing cards on the beach.  When the sun goes down a lot of Thai families gravitate to the beach giving it a nice atmosphere.

We also visited Jomtien beach to the south which was quieter than the main Pattaya beaches with lots of areas shaded by palm trees however, our favourite spot was the “Secret Beach” on the very south end of Wongamat beach.  Wongamat beach is generally quieter than both Pattaya and Jomtien beaches.

As you would expect there are many opportunities to hire jet skis, get soaked in a banana boat, etc.  Lots of activities are available from all three main beaches.

2. Visit the Sanctuary of Truth Museum

This is a very interesting building. Superficially it is a fantastic and very Instagrammable structure.  It is built using pure carpentry/joinery skills.  Without a nail in sight and crafted with such skill and love, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Please take one of the guided tours and do not be tempted to wander off and take photos during the tour.  There is plenty of time to take pictures after the tour and you will get better shots with fewer people around.

Our take on the Sanctuary of Truth (built in 1981) was the emphasis on family, doing good deeds and being a positive member of the community.  The stunning wooden sculptures help with the story. There is much more to it than this simplistic explanation, so go and see for yourself.

If this sounds a bit too much for a holiday, the building itself is terrific and we enjoyed it much more than the bling of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

3. Be active  

While it is lovely just sitting on a beach or in the shade of a palm tree or an umbrella on a sunbed, some exercise is good. There are a lot of options:  jet ski, speedboat, banana boat, parasailing, tandem parachuting, go-karting, diving, snorkelling to name a few.  We spent a relaxing day on a dive boat that also offered snorkelling. Of the 20 or so people on the boat, 5 of us – plus a crew member – went snorkelling and the rest were involved in diving.  The tour offered dives for people new to diving and those more experienced.  After the divers had left the boat, in we went and spent 40 minutes at the first site, just off Koh Larn Island, snorkelling.  Not a great deal of fish, but some great sea life and coral to look at.  Our next site was closer to a smaller island off Koh Larn and this was much better as the currents were stronger and the fish were feeding.  Again, we spent around 40 minutes snorkelling.  In between sites we had lunch and relaxed.  Hotel pick-up and drop-off was included.  It was a lovely way to spend a day on the water for around 1250 Baht per person.

4. Take in a show    

We went to the Alcazar theatre for a ladyboy show.  It was an explosion of colourful costumes, choreographed dance moves and lip-syncing to a wide variety of songs.  We paid 600 Baht – around£15 – for VIP seats for this family-friendly show that lasted around 70 minutes. It was hard to believe that all the performers were male.  The theatre was packed and some of the performers must have been famous given the reaction to their appearance on stage.  Recommended.

5. Go island hopping!

We spent a day on Koh Larn, the closest island to Pattaya City.  Ferries go to both sides of the island. We took the 0900 ferry to Tawaen Pier. The ferry is inexpensive (30 Baht – 75p) and was packed with people doing the same thing as us.  Once at Tawaen Pier you can walk to the main Tawaen Beach which is large, has all the water sports options you can want as well as retail shops and even an Amazon café.  Alternatively, you can take the right fork and go to Laem Sangwen beach which is very small but has sunbeds, beach umbrellas, and a roped-off swimming area as well as a small shop selling food and drink.  We took the right fork and were very glad we did, as the main Tawaen beach seemed so busy when we went over to look at it later in the day.  The last ferry from Tawaen Pier leaves promptly at 5pm.  Don’t miss it!

6. Luxuriate with a Massage or two

One of the most common retail outlets in Pattaya, other than restaurants and bars, is massage parlours.  There are many options, from foot massages to full body oil massages.  We had half a dozen massages each on our holiday and they were professional and enjoyable. I much preferred the foot massages, which last for 60 minutes and cost 200 Baht (around £5). Not only are your feet massaged, so are your calves and at the end you get a bit of a shoulder and neck massage as well.  Most shops close around midnight so get there well before 11 pm if you want to avoid having a massage with someone at the end of a long shift.

7. Indulge in retail therapy

As tempting as it was to spend all our time on the beach, it is good to get out of the sun in the early afternoon, so on a few days we explored shaded markets and shops.  There are malls to go to; Terminal 21 has different cities themed on each level.  Central Marina has outlet shops such as Sketchers and Adidas and there is another large mall – Central Festival Mall -which is one of the largest shopping centres in Asia underneath the Hilton on Beach Road. There are also street markets and the Pattaya Night Bazaar. See if you can resist the elephant-patterned shirts!

Of Note

  • If you are arriving from a European winter, you will be overdressed.  We had a change of clothes in our carry-on and changed at Doha. Even in the evenings we didn’t need any form of cardigan/jacket.
  • There are different clothing requirements for sites in Thailand. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is very strict, other sites less so, but generally, no short shorts or bare shoulders.  Look up individual sites beforehand.
  • Changing money is easy; just go with your passport to one of the many booths along the main streets.  They all offer very similar rates which are better than you will get in the UK. Bigger shops will take card payments, but most transactions are made in cash.
  • Look out for festivals. While we were in Pattaya there was a kite festival on Central Pattaya Beach followed by a music and food festival a few days later. On our last day there was a celebration of Holi, with food, music and splashes of colour.
  • Facemasks are still worn by a few people, but they were not compulsory.
  • There are a lot of bars showing English football;  smoking is allowed in these bars.
  • Transport in Pattaya is easy to use. The most common are the Songthaews, also known as Baht Buses. These are basically pickup trucks with two benches in the back and space for standing at the end. Songthaews operate on fixed routes around Pattaya and generally cost 10 Baht per journey.  You simply flag one down from the side of the road and to get off, push a button and walk around to the driver’s side to pay for your fare.
  • Motorcycle taxis are also very common; however, we did not use them. I guess we were not brave enough as few passengers had helmets.
  • To get to The Sanctuary of Truth we used the Bolt app and paid an agreed amount in cash.
  • The Red Light district is mainly along Walking Street.  We did not go there at night; however it is the main route to walk down to get to the port during the day.  Soi (road) 6 is also lively at night with various types of entertainment available.
  • There are good golf courses in and around Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard. I was kindly invited to play the Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club by a good friend Ken, a fellow member of the same club I play at in the UK.  This has three 9-hole courses (Mountain, Ocean and Lake courses) with the most inviting and deep bunkers I have ever experienced.  I should have taken a deckchair, the number of times I went in them.  Lovely courses, tricky greens and a magnificent clubhouse
  • The Thai people we came across were unfailingly polite, friendly and honest.  We accidentally overpaid in a bar (the 1000 and 100 Baht notes look very similar in dim light) and the barmaid came running after us to return our money.
  • Day trip to Bangkok; It is a long way from London to Thailand so we spent a day and an evening in Bangkok.  We stayed at the Movenpick hotel at Sukhumvit 15 for one night.  Superb hotel. We arrived in time to get showered and changed and enjoy ”Chocolate Hour”, which Sue thought was the perfect introduction to a holiday. Bangkok is a large city, with around 10 million people and there is so much to do.  In the evening we walked around with our friends Amyn and Leila, we all had a foot massage (very welcome after a long day travelling) and ate at Terminal 21.  The following day was full on, and we hired a driver to take us to various sites.  Some of the places we went to include the Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talad) which is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok, a river/canal cruise on a Longtail Boat which gave us a glimpse into Bangkok life, a visit to Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) and the Grand Palace before the journey to Pattaya.
  • Our thoughts on a day trip to Bangkok are to recognise that it is spread out, hot and humid and there are a lot of things to see and do.  Trying to do too much will exhaust you, so we would recommend choosing one of the famous temples, take a cruise, go to the Grand Palace and choose something else from TripAdvisor (we loved the flower market). Drink plenty of (bottled) water and factor in some rest periods, ideally in the shade.

Finally, thank you to Amyn and Leila for showing us the ropes and Ken for a golfing lesson.

Fun Fact

Pattaya has the world’s only Bottle Art Museum .  Yes, really.!

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