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Pattaya  
 
   
     P
attaya can perhaps best be summarized as a tiny piece of Thailand carved out as a showcase for the country’s unique offerings to the world. It is a place of contrasts. Pattaya blends together natural tropical beaches with urban convenience, coastal sanguinity with the rush of modern entertainment and warm Thai hospitality with the predominantly foreign tourist presence.
 
   Modern Pattaya’s story begins during the Vietnam War as the United States Army’s favorite R&R destination. Pattaya is unique in that the whole focus of the tiny coastal strip has been the foreign tourist and the diverse sort of entertainment that would keep him/her excited for as long as they were there. A remarkable feature of Pattaya is that it has managed to concentrate rather than dilute the “Thai-ness” of the area in spite of the host of modern conveniences that have sprung up over the years.

The heart of Pattaya is the beach which, from November to June, is sunny and boasts of all the lushness of a true tropical beach. Jet-skiing, Windsurfing, Parasailing, Snorkeling and Diving are some of the activities one could indulge in here pretty much throughout the year. On land, golf, the nightlife and of course shopping are some of the more popular choices. Pattaya, when it comes to food, has a truly mind-boggling range of offerings starting from street-shops selling fresh sea-food and international fast-food chains to quite expensive restaurants. As can be imagined, there is no dearth of choice for places to stay at during a vacation.
 

   Diving in Pattaya, quite in order with the rest of Pattaya’s uniqueness, occupies an exclusive place within Thailand’s range of dive-locations. What makes Pattaya unique when it comes to Diving is not so much the grand beauty of the underwater experience which is decidedly ordinary but rather the fact that Pattaya is perhaps the best place to learn Diving in Thailand. The relative lack of visibility and relatively strong currents make Pattaya’s waters great for instruction to beginners. There is enough of the underwater beauty to captivate a new diver yet enough challenges to keep his/her mind focused on the actual activity of diving.

    One of the most pleasing features of Diving in Pattaya is the fact that one can dive all-year-round here. For those in the know, diving around (and sometimes through) ship-wrecks is one of the favorite dive choices. The Pattaya area has no less than three ship-wrecks: Kram, Hardeep and Petchburi Bremen. Kram was sunk by the Royal Thai Navy for the purpose of growing corals and lies at a depth of about 30m. Hardeep was an Indonesian commercial ship that sank and currently lies at a depth of approximately 25m. Petchburi Bremen was an 88m long Thai commercial ship that sank in 1930 and lies split into three parts at a depth of about 22m.

There are four beautiful little islands off the coast of Pattaya that have a good variety of both underwater flora as well as fauna. Koh Larn has the famous shark-point as well as stretches of hard coral reef. Koh Marnvichai features a breathtaking wall of coral reefs 7m high. Koh Lin is just a bit further than the other islands but presents a sea less disturbed by human contact. The predominantly sand covered sea-floor adjacent Koh Sark makes it a favorite destination for beginning divers. This of course is the briefest summary of what

these islands are famous for amongst divers and nothing can replace the feel of the place obtained through a real Diving experience.

    Having dwelt on Pattaya’s offerings to the foreign tourist, it seems appropriate that a few words be spared to describe the influence on the town due to Thai natives. Apart from perhaps those directly involved in the entertainment and services on offer in Pattaya the greatest local influence on the town comes, perhaps not surprisingly, from Bangkok. It is not too much to say that Pattaya is far enough from Bangkok not be tainted by the city’s mendaciousness yet close enough to benefit from the investment and infrastructure Bangkok has to offer.

   There are two recommended transportation options by which to get to Pattaya from Bangkok. The first and most popular is by car. Whether by the Bangna Trad (that offers a tolled expressway as well as a toll-free road) or the Motorway, one can make the journey from Bangkok to Pattaya in about two hours. The second option is to take an air-conditioned bus which leaves every half an hour between 05:30 – 22:00 from the Ekkamai Bus Station (or Morchit Station) and typically reaches Pattaya in one and a half hours. The other available options, namely to take a train or fly down to Pattaya are painstaking and superfluous respectively. A train journey (from Hou Lumpong Station) would take about five hours and the ride is usually far from comfortable. A flight from Bangkok (by Bangkok Airways) would get one to Pattaya in almost no time but the journey from the Au-Tapao airport (next to Pattaya) down to Pattaya generally takes almost an hour thereby making the saved time redundant.