Pattaya was hot and humid like the rest of Thailand. We were roaming around in the Beach Road looking for a cheap hotel or a hostel. In all fairness, we did find a few of these hotels but all of them came with shady receptionists who would offer us girls within minutes. And as soon as they did, we would be out on the streets again. We roamed around for about an hour and a half as the afternoon sun roasted us.
Every now and then, Damien would stop at some store and buy some drinks. To our right, was the Pattaya beach. It was filled with old white guys hanging around with Thai girls. The beach was crowded with people of all ages, some just hanging out in the numerous colourful seats, with umbrellas providing them protection from the sun, and some splashing around in the water. Even though, Pattaya by the looks of it seemed to have everything, it did lack something. Seclusion.
Pattaya was congested with shops, pubs and go-go bars. Every now and then, we would come across people selling jewellery made out of sea shells, or pirated DVDs, or some sea food.
“This is crazy.” Damien said, “We are never going to find a decent place to stay.”
He was right. We were looking for a place close to the beach and the only decent place we had found was the Hilton and I was pretty sure none of us could afford it.
“Let’s get something to eat.” I was hungry and couldn’t carry my heavy hiking bag any longer. We entered a cafe which was playing some heavy rock music. We wanted to take a seat facing the sea but all of those seats were taken.
A small Thai girl handed us the menu. It had about ten pages. That’s a lot of choices.
“Do you have wifi?” I asked the waitress as she waited for us to place the order. Damien was browsing through the menu.
“Yes.” She nodded and took down Damien’s order. He ordered a burger with fries and a small Chang beer. I asked for some pad thai and Coke.
We browsed through the various hotel websites on our phones and wrote down the names of the promising ones on the napkin of the cafe. We asked the waitress where these hotels were. Most of them were not more than a block away.
“Let’s just take the first one…. Oh..this one. Sawasdee Sabai.. The reviews are good.” Damien got excited and splashed some tomato sauce on his phone.
So, we quickly finished up the food and with the help of the Pattaya locals, we reached Sawasdee Sabai. The hotel was a nice, clean property. As soon as we entered, we were asked to sit in the lobby and were offered welcome drinks. We booked two rooms on the ground floor and sure enough three minutes into the booking, a guy came and asked us, in a whisper, if we wanted to have “boom boom.”
We were too tired to look for another place, so we decided to stay here at least for the night. We politely declined the offer. We decided to meet in the lobby in 30 minutes after a quick shower and a change of clothes.
The rooms at Sawasdee Sabai were pretty nice. It had air conditioning, a TV, a private shower, a big bed and a mini bar. The room tariff was 500 Bahts. The hotel lobby also served a limited variety of foods and many of the guests would hang around in the lobby, while watching the TV at the reception or using the hotel computers which had internet.
- There are plenty of budget hotels near the Beach Road. Sex touts are usually in some way associated with most of the hotels. However, if you tell them you’re not interested, they won’t bother you.
- Most of the pubs and restaurants on the Beach road are a bit expensive. In case you are a budget traveller, try visiting the numerous small eateries just away a few blocks away from the beach.
- Pattaya isn’t the place for you, if you are grossed out when you see old men flirting with young girls.
It was 7.30 pm or so, by the time I left my room. Damien was waiting for me in the lobby, talking to the receptionist. The receptionist was a tall, heavy looking guy in his early twenties.
“I am pretty sure he is gay.” Damien declared as we left the hotel lobby and into the main street. Few meters away from the main street was the Beach Road, which was full of lights, shops, touts, and tourists in the evening. The beach side bars, which were offering happy hour rates, were full.
We decided to go to the Walking Street and grab a couple of drink. The Walking Street is a street filled with Go-Go bars and pubs playing live music. Outside every bar, there were girls wearing provocative dresses, enticing the visitors to enter their bars. Apart from the local Thai girls, there were….
“Russian Girls!” Damien pointed at one of the big Go-Go bars which advertised the fact that they have European girls, “Look at that one!”
“How do you know she is Russian?”
The loud music was coming from every pub and bar, all playing at the same time. That coupled with the sound of people talking, shouting, and hooting made the whole street sound like a big wave of indecipherable noise.
“Look at her hair.” Damien replied as we walked past the Go-Go bar.
The girl he was referring to was tall. She wore a red dress and was standing on the top of the stairs of one of the biggest Go-Go bars of the street. She had long curly brown hair, and was wearing a lot of makeup.
“What about her hair?” I wondered how he can tell about a person’s nationality just by looking at the hair.
Damien didn’t reply. He just looked at me as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
We took a seat in one of the pubs which was hosting some muay thai fights. Even though, the fights were not real, it was pretty entertaining. We knocked down a few beers before continuing on down the street.
Few meters away from the pub was another pub which looked inviting too. Live rock music was being played by some Thai band and even though most of their songs were in Thai, they sounded pretty good.
After a couple of hours, we headed back to our hotel and called it a night. We were tired.
Next day I woke and headed to the beach pretty early. The plan was to do nothing, just hang back at the beach and eat good food. So, I took a seat and ordered a soft drink and some noodles. The Pattaya beach, actually is pretty dirty. The reason I feel Pattaya is still attractive to tourists, goes beyond the beach. If one is looking to visit Pattaya, the nightlife and all the jazz surrounding it, probably has something to do with it as well.
I watched two Asian kids splash around in the water, as their parents hung back and took pictures. It was a bright, sunny day with clear blue sky, which was dotted with birds, or tourists trying out parasailing. Unlike the atmosphere at the beach in the evenings, the mornings seemed a lot more relaxed. And amidst all this, I fell asleep with the half eaten plate of noodles in my hand.
I woke up to find the seats next to mine occupied by a bunch of old white men and a couple of Thai women. One of the men was working on his laptop. He had long hair and had a bunch of tattoos on his arms and chests. He looked like a man with some artistic inclinations. Or maybe he was a sailor. The rest of his mates seemed like any other white old men who visited Pattaya. Shady, creepy and retired. Another thing they all had in common was probably the fact that they all either had (or had hired) some Thai women for companionship. Sexpats was the technical term to define these old men.
These men, most of them old, had lived through the prime of their lives and were probably very successful professionally. They had kids, wives, a happy family and almost everything that a normal human being usually craves for. Then they got retired or lost their wives, or their marriage ends in a divorce and they set sails to find themselves here, in Pattaya. Some of them are completely detached from their lives back home and are settled here in Thailand, sometime doing small odd jobs. Some just visit Pattaya a couple of months a year. Of course, all of these are just theories.
I went to the nearest 7-11 to buy a drink. It was 1pm and having skipped breakfast, I felt really hungry. I walked to the Central Festival mall which wasn’t far away from the beach. Right near the entrance of the mall was a Mc Donald’s, where I decided to have my lunch. As I waited for my order, I watched a couple of kids having french fries. Looking at them, I realised the fact that there was a time when eating out, even at Mc Donald’s, actually meant something. Something exciting. Something to look forward to. As I went to the seat in the back, right next to the glass wall, I realised that the excitement of eating out at these fast food joints was fading. And fading fast.
In the afternoon, I went back to my hotel to find Damien sitting in the front step of his room, reading a pamphlet. It was of a crocodile farm.
“350 Bahts per person. With pick up and drop.”
I looked at the pamphlet. It did look pretty awesome.
“Let’s do it.” I said. I haven’t been anywhere since morning and the thought of seeing crocodiles was pretty tempting.
We hurried off to the travel desk of the hotel. The lady at the counter made some calls and booked us for the afternoon trip to the farm.
“Stay here. The pickup will be here in 20 minutes.” She announced, as she counted the 100 Baht notes we showered her with.
I quickly went to my room to grab my camera, have a quick shower and a change of clothes.
When you travel in Thailand, especially when it is hot and sticky, one important thing that you need to do, is to ration your clothes and get them washed every time you get a chance. I deposited a bunch of my clothes at the reception and they promised me to have them delivered by next morning. The rate was something like 100 Bahts a kilogram.
Soon, a half filled minivan arrived. Apart from the two of us, there was a group of three guys, all of them had some really high-end cameras. After picking us, the minivan stopped at the Hilton, from where a family of four got in. Mom, Dad and two little boys.
The Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile farm is located outside of Pattaya and is home, not only to a lot of crocodiles, but also of a really beautiful park. The park is filled with trees of different kinds. It has a small lake, with water so clear that you could see the beautiful red fishes from a distance. All around the park were these statues made of stones.
“Take a picture of me with that one in the background.” Damien said, handing me his camera. We were standing at one of the caged pathways which went over the crocodile enclosure. There were a hundred crocodiles playing dead at the same time, but every time someone threw in a piece of chicken (they were being sold for 100 Bahts a basket) the whole place erupted. It turned out to be a fun outing, and by the time we were dropped back at our hotel, we were pretty tired.
- The Pattaya beach is pretty big, dirty and full of touts. If trying out the water sports options you can save some money by bargaining.
- The crocodile farm and the stone park are a good outing option, in case you are tired of being lazy at the beach.
- The sea food is cheap and delicious. Make sure you try some.
We decided to head to the Walking Street for some food and drinks in the evening. It was business as usual at the Walking Street.
“What a freak show this is.” I heard the guy sitting next to us say to his girlfriend. We were at the pub we visited the night before. The music was rocking as ever and we were lucky to find a couple of empty seats facing the street outside.
By the time, we finished our food we had seen a magician, a guy dressed like a Zombie, a guy with a komodo dragon on his neck and about a thousand Go-Go girls roaming around in the street outside. All trying to make a buck.
“Let’s go to that Go-Go. The one with the Russian girl.” Damien said as he knocked down another Singha.
“She is not Russian. And that place looks expensive.”
“Yeah. The girls out there are exotic.” He smiled as he ordered another Singha. “Wonder how much the bar fine is.”
We sat there for another half an hour, discussing terms like bar fines, short time, long time etc. Every now and then we would attract the stares of the neighbouring tables by saying something explicit.
“How can they hear us over all this noise?” I asked Damien. He shrugged his shoulders.
“So, we will be here for another two days? I have to be on a flight to Phuket on Thursday.” Today was Monday and I had an afternoon flight to Phuket on Thursday.
“Yeah, I guess that leaves us with another two days.” He said. “I am off to Ko Tao after this.”
“And how are you going there?”
“Oh…. it’s going to be an adventure. First a train from Bangkok to Chumphon. And then a ferry to Ko Tao. Interested?”
“Yeah, but I have these non-refundable tickets to Phuket.”
Outside, a guy with a snake was roaming around, trying to find tourists who would pay to get a picture taken with the snake.
We added each other in Facebookt and decided to try to somehow meet up later in the trip.
The next morning, I woke to the irritating ring of the doorbell. I looked at my watch, it was 8.00 am. It was the receptionist with my clothes. She told me that the breakfast is ready and I shouldn’t miss it like the day before.
“Thanks, I’ll be right out.” I closed the door, quickly brushed my teeth and splashed some water on my face. I didn’t know that our room rates included breakfast.
“Did you know that our room rates included breakfast?” I asked Damien as we had the stale bread with jam.
“What good is this breakfast? The bread is cold, the bananas are awful, and the coffee is just…” He searched for a word.
“Bad?” I suggested. He shook his head.
“Ineffective.” He concluded in a whisper.
“Yes, ineffective.” He said with a mouthful of banana.
We decided to spend the day visiting Sriricha Tiger Park, which was located a bit outside Pattaya city. It was pretty crazy out there in the park mainly because we got to take pictures with the wild beasts. We met the same group of guys with whom we visited the crocodile farm.
“What are the odds of that?” Damien asked when we were on our way back from the park.
In the evening, I visited the Alcazar, which is like a cabaret with every character played by lady boys. It was pretty enjoyable. Another show that one might want to check out is the Tiffany’s show. Similar to the Alcazar, Tiffany’s also has all the ingredients for a fun filled enjoyable evening. After the show, one can get their pictures taken with the stars of the show, for a certain fee, of course.
“You went out and watched both the shows?” Damien asked me that evening with a bottle of Singha in his hand. We were sitting at our usual seat, facing the street at our pub. Live music was being played by the house band as usual and we watched as the Go-Go girls from the bars next door tried to lure the tourists in.
“It’s better than sitting at the beach all day, looking at the old men hanging out with girls half their ages.”
“So you went out and watched both the cabaret shows? That was your solution?” Damien asked me as he looked at me, almost as if he was judging me. He was sporting a tan, thanks to all the extra time he spent at the beach.
I was about to say something, when we saw her. It was the “Russian” girl from the exotic Go-Go. She was out on the street today, luring in innocent tourists into her bar.
There was a minute of silence as we both watched her move around the street, occasionally smiling at the tourists and handing them some pamphlet.
“She is not Russian.” I said, breaking the silence. “She can’t be. Look at her.” I didn’t know where I was going with this, but it was just that I didn’t want to admit to the fact that someone can tell the nationality of a person by just looking at the hair.
Damien got up from his seat. “Let’s go.”
“Let’s talk to her.”
Before I could say anything, he was out of the pub. The lady behind the counter of the pub looked at me. I smiled to reassure her that I was there to pay the bills of our table. She must have known us by face by now, because the moment she saw me, she waved her hands smiling as if we knew each other for a while.
The house band played their Thai songs, as I watched Damien talk to the Russian girl. I ordered another beer as an elderly gentlemen took the seat next to mine. He smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Ukraine. She is from Ukraine.” Damien said as he took his seat and ordered another beer.
We spent the next couple of minutes in silence, staring at her. She was wearing a bright blue dress and high heels.
“So what are we doing tomorrow?” Damien asked, breaking the silence.
“Let’s not do anything. Let’s just hang out at the beach all day.”
“Sounds good.” He said, finishing up is beer in record time. “One more?”
I nodded. “I’m here as long as she is here.”
We knocked down a few more beers staring at the Ukrainian, as the freak show continued all around her.
The next day was the last for me at Pattaya and knowing that fully well, I got up a bit early and went for a quick walk. I saw some of the expats jogging around in the beach road, many of them with their dogs. Almost all the shops were closed at the time and the beach wasn’t crowded either.
I took a walk on the beach with my ipod plugged in my ear. Cool breezes every now and then would encourage me to keep walking. Far away, I could see “Pattaya city” written on one of the hills. I walked for about a couple of hours before the shops started opening up and the sidewalks started filling up with people again. The sun was out and it was getting hotter by the minute.
I went in one of the small cafes and asked for some pad thai and orange juice. I decided to use the wifi to check my facebook account. It has been a while.
“Bring me a shark tooth.” It was my brother’s message. He has been poking me like crazy. I wondered where I could find some shark tooth. Apparently, it was considered lucky.
After breakfast, I went back to my hotel to find Damien sitting in the lobby having his breakfast. He smiled as I came in.
“Let’s hit the beach.” He said as he had the last of his pancakes.
“Sure, I’ll be right out. I need to take a shower.”
In about an hour, we took our seats on the beach. Damien went in and swam for a bit, while I hung back and caught up with my reading.
Every now and then, I would be disturbed by people selling ice creams, sunglasses, temporary tattoos, offering massages, etc. The sun was out and the sky was bright and blue. Every time, I got thirsty or hungry, I would just put my hands up and the owner of the seats, who also ran a small shop, would come and take down my order. For the next couple of hours, I just sat around in my seat, shaded by a big umbrella, with a drink in my hand, as I watched the world go by.
“I swear I saw a girl who looked like Jennifer Aniston.” Damien as he sat in the sand right beside my seat.
“You saw what?” I asked just to be sure.
“A girl… She looked exactly like Jennifer Aniston. She was wearing a blue bikini and she had blonde hair.” He said as he took a piece of prawn out of my plate. There were a lot of people on the beach selling sea food as well.
“Dude, wash your hands. You have sand all over you.”
“She looked at me with her big blue eyes and smiled.” He said as he took another piece, clearly ignoring my objections.
“I am sure she was just another lady boy with a lot of makeup on.” I said handing him the entire plate. “Do you know where I can get some shark tooth?”
“Yeah, it is supposed to be lucky.”
He shrugged. “I’ll let you know if I see anything.” He got up from the sand and ran into the sea again.
That evening we decided to watch some muay thai at the nearby Fairtex stadium. We were told the tickets will be available at the stadium, so we just hired a couple of moto-cabs. The event started at around 6.30 pm and was scheduled to have around eight or night bouts.
Even though the action inside the ring was pretty intense, with high kicks and deadly punches, the real action seemed to be ringside. It was organised chaos, as people were shouting their lungs out, supposedly placing bets.
“The Walking Street fights are a lot more exciting.” Damien declared after a couple of bouts. I had to agree. Real muay thai involved a lot of planning and strategizing, which if you were ignorant morons like us, may seem a little boring.
We sat for a couple of more bouts, hoping for some blood splashing action.
“This is so freaking boring.”
We got out of there, took a cab and within half an hour or so, we were where we wanted to be. At our pub, on our seats, facing the street, with Singhas in our hands. The receptionist welcomed us, and brought us the beer without even asking. The house band was playing their songs as usual, as the zombie roamed around in the street outside, taking pictures with the tourists for money.
“Hope she is working today.” Damien said when we couldn’t see the Ukrainian for a while. “I want to see her one last time.”
“Maybe someone paid her bar fine.”
We ordered our food and some more drinks.
“Email me from Phuket. We will try to meet up again.” He told me taking a spoonful of his noodle soup.
“Yes I will” I said knowing quite well that the chances of meeting up with him again on this trip were pretty slim.
After finishing our food, we decided to take a quick walk down the street. Everything on the street seemed to be on the exact same spot, as they were on our first day here. The Go-Go bars, the bar girls in their weird dresses, the sea of people, the touts, everything. The only difference was, all this didn’t seem that weird and shocking anymore. After a couple of days of our stay here in Pattaya, we didn’t get offended every time someone offered us the services of a girl.
We just learned to say no, smile and walk away.
That night the Ukrainian didn’t show up. We didn’t see her “one last time”.
We booked the shuttle bus to the Bangkok airport early next morning. It costs about 400 Bahts per person and takes about two and a half hours.
When we reached the airport, Damien said he was going back to Khao San Road for the day and he will embark on his journey to Ko Tao the next day. We said our goodbyes as quickly and painlessly as we could. I watched as he hired a cab to Khao San Road.
My Oriental Thai flight was delayed by about three hours, but as they say, all’s well that ends well, and the flight did land safely in Phuket.
- The Siricha Tiger Park doesn’t only have tigers, but it also home to crocs, elephants, pigs and lot of other animals. Visitors can get their pictures taken with these animals.
- The Fairtex stadium hosts muay thai events quite frequently, so in case you want to witness the action first hand, contact a reliable tour desk or just show up at the stadium and buy the tickets then and there. Foreigners are charged a bit more than the locals which is a bit unfair.
- Many hotels and tour operators in Pattaya operate shuttle buses to the Bangkok airport. So, in case you have a flight to catch, make sure you book a seat on one of these buses. They are cheap, reliable and by the looks of it, safe.