Pattaya 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.
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
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.