Presenting the Quieter Side of Pattaya26 March, 2016
People have an obsession with beauty. I don’t know when it first occurred to someone that being around or possessing beauty was something that would give them undeniable joy. Pattaya is one of those paradoxes that stands on the edge of beauty; an almost unbelievable oasis that sparkles with natural beauty in the daylight, then gets rowdy, full, and almost claustrophobic when the sun sets.
It was easy getting used to the wonderful bits of Pattaya – its sun-kissed beaches, tepid climate, and laidback atmosphere. Then came the challenging parts, and first on that list was money. If you’re looking for a moneychanger, the easiest one to locate is T. T. Money Exchange, which can be found along Pattaya’s main shopping road. As a rule of thumb, moneychangers are usually strict, so unless you’re exchanging US$1000 or more, do not get your hopes up on haggling for a better deal.
The first thing I like to take care of when planning a trip is accommodation. It is relatively easy to find something that suits your needs in Pattaya, with its assortment of hotels in the city and resorts overlooking the sea. I personally found it is convenient using holidayme.
The next thing that needed to be taken care of was my cellphone. I’m an avid believer in grabbing a SIM card wherever I travel and making the most out of better rates and service in my destination. When it comes to Thailand, the rates are so cheap that I often find myself wondering if I should make my next trip there permanent.On top of that, I had free wifi at the guesthouse; the perfect combination for keeping the cost of my trip low.
When it comes to Thai SIM cards, AIS and DTC seem to have to have the best rates, and I’ve used both providers throughout my travels. They are readily available at one of the service provider booths scattered all over Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. It is a simple process, but be sure to stow your own SIM card away somewhere safe.
Lastly, I tested out a few Thai phrases that I had been practising en route to Bangkok. It was harder than expected – the characters are still foreign to me, and the non-English sounding words left me tongue-tied. However inadequate I was, I gave it my best shot, and with most tourists opting to speak English, the locals appreciated the extra effort to connect with them; some broke into wide smiles in between pleasantly-amused giggling at my abysmal pronunciation.
Here are some basic phrases that will come in handy:
Hello: สวัสดี (sà-wàt-dee)
Happy to meet you: ยินดีที่ได้รู้จัก (yin dee têe dâi róo jàk)
Cheers!: ไชโย! (chai-yoh)
Do you speak English: พูดอังกฤษได้ไหม (pôot ang-grìt dâai măi)
Sorry: ขอโทษ (kŏr tôht)
Thank you: ขอบคุณ (kòp kun)
Goodbye: บ๊ายบาย (báai baai)
While Pattaya is seen by many as a luxurious beach destination, there is, surprisingly, an abundance of places to get acquainted with the local way of life. If you’ve got the time to wander, these are a few of my favourite (I have left the Elephant Village out for animal conservation reasons):
1. Pattaya Floating Village
Personally, the floating village in Pattaya was one of the main reasons I found my comfort zone in the city. I could not appreciate the crazy night-life and distinctive resorts – 2 aspects Pattaya’s city is famous for-, but its floating village gave me a safe haven, offering vibrant and colourful realness that defies description.
To get the best sights and sounds,hire a boat for a 30-minute ride around the village. The boats are large enough to fit 4 people, so the fare can be split amongst yourselves. With the gentle, rhythmic rocking of the boat, and over 100 shops to browse (set off in the morning to get choice products), it is hard not to lose yourself in the moment.
Pattaya Floating Village
Address: 451/304 Moo 12, Sukhumvi Road, Pattaya
Telephone no.: +66 (0) 8 6313 7595
Opening hours: Daily 10.00AM – 11.00PM
2. Thai Boxing
Thai boxing, better known as Muay Thai, is the national sport and its athleticism is certainly something to behold. When it comes to checking it out in Pattaya, you can visit one of the local gyms for an informal session, or grab a show on The Walking Street or at Pattaya Boxing World, which has varied show times throughout the week.
Prices for tickets can range around 900 THB, so if you’re on a budget, I suggest popping into the local gyms for a practice round and skipping the more formal showings; plus practices tend to be less showy and more technical.
The Walking Street
Address: South Pattaya Beach Road, Pattaya, Chonburi 20150
Telephone no.: +66 (0) 8 4845 0464
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 7.00PM – 7.00AM, Sun: 7.00PM – 12.00AM
Pattaya Boxing World
Address: 387 Moo 6 Sukhumvit Rd, Pattaya
Telephone no.: +66 (0) 3 8726 2034
Opening hours: Daily 6.00PM – 12.00AM
3. Big Buddha Hill
There’s literally no missing the Buddha statue. At 300 ft. tall, it is an imposing presence to both locals and tourists alike. Littered with candles, flowers, and other offerings from devout Buddhists, Big Buddha Hill is always crawling with tourists hoping to get a look at the sculpture, the 7-headed mythical beast called Nagas, as well as to take pictures of the city of Pattaya from above. There is no admission, making this an extremely fruitful activity.
Big Buddha Hill
Address: Sataranaprayot Road, Pattaya, Chonburi 20150
Opening hours: Daily 7.00AM – 10.00PM
4. Sanctuary of Truth
This twenty year-old building, which is still in the making, is not only a prime example of classic Thai architecture, it is also quite the sight from its cliff-side perch. Covered from head to toe in intricate carvings, in accordance to the ancient Thai style, this recreation is all about preserving the art form of bringing heaven to earth. Booked ahead, tickets are 450 THB per person, but getting up close with the architecture is worth every cent.
Sanctuary of Truth
Address: 206/2 Moo 5, Soi Naklua 12, Banglamung, Chonburi 20150
Telephone no.: +66 (0) 3836 7229
Opening hours: Daily 8.00AM – 5.00PM
5. Ko Phai
Uninhabited. That’s exactly what is most important about Ko Phai. For anyone looking for solitude on your getaway, the only people you’ll find on this island located 21km west of Pattaya are travellers looking to take shots on its remote beaches or to lounge and sun-tan away from all civilisation. Take a walk to the lighthouse, dive into the world-famous coral reefs, or climb along the rocky coast to check out the local flora and fauna; all of that, alone.
While the Pad Thai may be the most famous Thai dish (and most widely-eaten outside of the country’s borders) don’t let your knowledge of this one culinary masterpiece dictate your choice of food. I was drawn to the street carts with tantalising scents wafting into the streets. Be warned – Thai dishes are notorious for their intense spiciness, so thread carefully!
- Tom Yung Goong: a hot and sour soup with shrimp: delicious.
- Grilled Pork and Sticky Rice: a perfect midday snack from street vendors. The pork comes on a kebab and the rice is a great complement.
- Fish Kidney Curry: a Southern Thai dish, it’s usually made with shrimp and grilled chicken so don’t turn up your nose before you taste it!
- Stink Beans: Yes, they’re smelly, but delicious. Usually fried with garlic and curry paste for a delicious snack. This is one of my personal favourites.
- Rice Porridge: Jok, as it’s called in Thailand, is the preferred breakfast meal. Rice stewed with garlic, ginger, fish sauce and eggs, pork or chicken – it’s a hearty way to start the day.
- Mookata (Thai Barbeque): It gets its unique flavor from the marinade – a trade secret.
While Pattaya (and Thailand in general) is home to amazing architecture, unspoiled natural wonders, and delicious food, it is the genuine hospitality that keeps me coming back for more. The locals are some of the warmest people you will ever come across, and they are so eager to share their rich heritage to you, as if it were a prized jewel -and in some ways, it really is one.
So if you’re a backpacker just starting out, or even one who’s been roughing it for a few years and looking for a great, jovial place to travel alone, Pattaya is the perfect place. Not only are you very likely to meet fellow travellers, but with the city bursting at the seams with wonderful things to do -and all for a modest sum-, what more can you ask for?
Featured Image Credits: Shutterstock