Craving dolce vita ?

p2Subtitle: Pack up and head to Pattaya Intro text: This sun and sand paradise has it all from marine sports, good food and great people… When was the last time you had a blast? Pattaya, a popular Thai beach resort two hours from Bangkok by car, has it all for you. Pattaya attracts local families and holidaymakers from around the world.

The plethora of hotels and guest houses, and easy access from the capital and airport, make it a popular weekend getaway. Catering for over five million annual visitors, Pattaya is also able to offer an excellent range of dining options and a wide variety of things to do. Its population is a colorful mix of nationalities and ethnicities from near and far. Pattaya’s name was originally “Thap Phraya,” meaning Army of the Phraya—commemorating the surrender of Nai Klom’s army to that of Phraya Tak (later King Taksin the Great), without a fight.

Thap Phraya became Phatthaya (the name of the north-easterly wind at the beginning of the rainy season), and then Phatthaya (the true phonetic spelling). The Vietnam War made Pattaya a well-known recreational center, especially among American GI’s. From its beginning in 1959 with a small private bungalow where American officers on leave took turn for “R and R” (rest and recreation), this sleepy village by the sea has grown and changed dramatically into one of the world’s tourism hot spots. The opening of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (located east of Bangkok, alongside the expressway to Pattaya) has made visiting easier than ever.

Pattaya is popular not only as a beach resort and for its entertainment, nightlife and shopping, but also for the broad selection of pastimes it caters for, from golf and horseback riding to bungee jumping, karting and shooting— not to mention a wide variety of watersports such as scuba diving, jet-skiing, sailing, water skiing, windsurfing and kitesurfing, and a whole lot more. Pattaya is also very popular as a conference, convention, and seminar venue, and the grapevine hosts rumors of future developments of varying degrees of plausibility, such as a horse racing track, casinos, and a tram system.

Pattaya occupies most of the coastline of Bang Lamung District (one of the eleven districts that comprise ChonburiProvince). Pattaya’s downtown area is easy to get around. Running north-south, a few hundred metres apart, are Beach Road (Thanon Hat Pattaya, sometimes also referred to as First Road) which borders the main beach (Hat Pattaya), Pattaya Second Road and Pattaya Third Road (with the smaller but busy Soi Buakhao in between), and the main Sukhumvit Road coastal highway.

Beach Road is one-way (southbound), likewise Second Road (northbound). Beach Road south of South Pattaya Road is closed to vehicles in the evenings (currently 18:00-02:00) and is called Walking Street. It’s the main tourist area, both for nightlife and shopping. Other major tourism areas include the section of Second Road between Sois 1-4, and the Sois immediately north of South Pattaya Road. At the southern end of Walking Street is the New Pier, usually called Bali Hai Pier (sometimes “Pattaya Pier” or “South Pier”). The Old Pier, close to the junction of Beach Road and South Pattaya Road, is still shown on most maps but was dismantled and removed at the beginning of 2006. Some of the nearby islands are accessible by speedboat in less than 15 minutes and by ferry taking about 45 minutes. The three kilometers long Pattaya Beach runs along the city centre. The beach is full of life with hotels, restaurants, shopping malls all along the road facing the beach. The street south of Beach Road, Walking Street, comes alive with rock music as the night sets in. People throng the street to experience the night life, which is unique in all respects. There are hundreds of beer bars, go-go bars, discotheques around the area.

Muay Thai, the Thai Boxing, an open arena in some of the beer bars are exciting to the hilt. Another beach in Pattaya, Jomtien Beach, more popular among family vacationers, is on the southern part of the city, and separated from the main Pattaya Bay by Buddha hill. Jomtien is more calm and serene compared to the crowded Pattaya Beach and a paradise for water sports enthusiasts.

Jomtien is also popular for its amusement park and tower, to keep children entertained. The one-kilometer long, Wong Phrachan Beach, situated on the Northern part of the Pattaya Beach is a favorite among swimmers. There are acres of sand jam-packed with recliners and umbrellas (usually with an “in-house” supply of drinks), serviced by an army of laid-back but tenacious hawkers offering anything and everything from food (especially seafood, fruit, ice cream) to massage, manicure/pedicure, tattoos, lottery tickets, newspapers, herbs, flowers, gems, perfumes, sunglasses, CDs, watches, lighters, clothes, toys, souvenirs, handicrafts (it’s a bit like TV shopping – as soon as you’ve declined one offer, it’s time to consider another) and so on. Eventually you buy a very dark pair of sunglasses, and after that you just pretend to be asleep. Have fun!

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