A Return. Was Pattaya Worth The Wait? Part 2
Sat at home during the ongoing train smash that was Covid, I, like many others, watched lots of reviews from YouTubers streamed from the ruins of Pattaya, the once great mecca of the single man with a functioning kidney had become the town of “to rent” signs and food handouts. Those halcyon days of ice-cream jugglers and menus in Russian, impassable pavements crowded with humanity from the four corners of the earth, mini bars inside other bars and screaming partially-clad Isaan girls with outstretched arms just a few dozen beers away from being the next wife were replaced with clean air, family beach picnics and all the space you could ever need.
Or exactly the opposite of what readers of this column were looking for.
I don’t think I ever really liked Pattaya. Sure I’ve been dozens of times, in fact more times than places I do like. That’s because it’s a spectacle. There are millions of iconic beaches in Thailand that kick it into a cocked hat, but crucially there’s nowhere that can give you the sort of holiday stories that spellbind a whole bar when you get back to reality land. If I had a cent for every time a mate said to me, “You’re full of sh@t mate, you never did that!”, I’d be rich. Well, yes I did – and anyone who’s actually been did too.
So that bit of Disney cartoon holiday in a BBC news type of factual world keeps me returning just to see if what I think I did last time actually happened or maybe it was just a dream that got confused with a few too many Changs.
Hijacking a taxi in Sukhumvit and negotiating a 1,500 baht one-way fair was pretty easy. Less big fish and more hungry cab drivers. My man was chatty and full of gossip. He knew how to tell a good story about his family and of course the 500 baht I’d haggled off the fair ended up as the tip. I guess we’re all in it together. I was amazed at how quiet the motorway was down to North Pattaya and we made good progress at less than two hours. From big smoke to beach in no time. My regular hotel near Buathong beach was actually fairly busy but the huge pool and dining area was almost empty the whole week I stayed. My mate remarked it was almost like our private pool , not sure if most people were staying for a single night or maybe Tha’s don’t like wasting their time swimming about in the Asian sun like deranged seals in a fetching shade of lobster red. Either way, I have never had the run of such a huge place almost to myself. A villa-style hut next to the huge pool for 30 USD a night at a 4-star resort. Yes, please.
North Pattaya. Or little Germany as we call it, it always had a bit of an outlier expat feel and was always a precarious prospect in the long term. I have to say 60% of the places have evaporated and the remainder are a mix of established German and Italian restaurants with regular customers and small bars hopeful that next plane from the West or East will bring salvation. I can’t see it. The smell of death for that type of hostess bar in this area lingers in the air. The huge new developments around Terminal 21 will further marginalise what’s left. The last few dozen grannies and tubby salad dodgers waving hopefully like seaweed in the current as a shark swims by may be on a starvation diet.
My old go to breakfast joints around Pattaya Naklua and Dolphin roundabout are currently doing a good breakfast and passable coffee / orange for around the 300 baht mark. However, Terminal 21 does a good main dish in the food court for 45 baht and coffee for 35 baht. The quality up in Pier 21 is excellent. I’ve migrated from Foodland / Took Lae Dee to there for my breakfast. If you’re on a budget or wish to remember Thailand from 20 years ago when everything was cheap, I recommend you try it. The Thai food is very, very good. Choice is better than the local, sometimes very tired haunts, whilst I always support the little guy against “the man”. I’m a firm believer in evolve or go extinct.
OK, baht bus to town! Enough watching YouTube videos on my phone. I’m here now and it’s time to ride that boney donkey again without a saddle and clutching a beer Singha in my hand attempt to steeplechase like a professional jockey in a pitch black obstacle course. Or in other words, a normal night out in Pattaya.
I have to say on Tuesday night there was indeed quite a buzz, most punters were expats or Indians but there was a growing band of white-skinned arrivals fleshing out the bar stools around soi 6. Some looked like they couldn’t believe they were back. Others just looked like they didn’t know why they’d come back. I alighted outside the Tahitian Queen, electing to walk the last bit to nosey in the Walking Street area.
My Hawaiian shirt got a chorus of cat calls and rude gestures from the ladies outside in similar attire. Now I’ve never set foot in there but I hear it is Pattaya’s oldest gogo and I also heard it had closed. Being as it’s an institution, I apologised for never having patronised it before and agreed with the ladies I should help to keep it open. Herded inside by my new team of enthusiastic fans, I was seated at the bar and proffered a menu of such variety that unless you like gin or shiskey you were out of luck. The girls were of modest looks but they were also of modest clothing, mainly none at all. As a gentleman I literally had nowhere to avert my gaze from the wonders of the female form. Another stiff drink and I managed to rest my gaze on a set of jelly moulds made by the good lord on a day when he was really on form. Soon I had plan A and plan B hoovering up lady drinks and telling me that they couldn’t believe the smooth skin on my thighs wasn’t bottox.
Plan B had a wager with me she could guess the exact length of my pipeline using my fingers inserted into hole cut in a piece of paper. Since this isn’t scientific and rests on guesswork I demanded a 1,000 baht wager on this, clearly things like this are just random guesswork. As the bet was now so large and a real risk was being undertaken by the girl, she demanded the umpire (plan A) adjudicate in the toilets with the exact measurement drawn on a piece of paper. Plan A was to ensure that the pipeline was fully deployed to avoid any appeals by either side. Plan A did a better job than the pipe layers on Pattaya Second Road and when placed on the paper, by god she was right to the millimetre! Witchcraft! I left the bar with AC-DC ringing in my ears and my tail back between my legs. Note to self. It’s a Pattaya bar girl, she isn’t going to lose 1,000 baht to a sunburnt, middle-aged tourist. I’m not a gogo bar guy but I really enjoyed an hour in there with a fun and very vivacious gang. Highly recommended as it’s really not like anywhere else. Once these odd little places are gone you’re left with LED-lit agency dancers in supermarket-style check outs. Use it or lose it.
Walking Street. Hmmmm. Well it’s a cross between 20% 0f its old self and the most uneven cobbled surface I’ve seen since Ancient Rome. It’s going to be a long walk back to 2019, assuming you don’t trip over a manhole cover. I had several occasions to walk through the road during the week I was there and to be honest, there was more buzz behind Walking Street in Little Delhi. There were a few bars going again but in my opinion, less than 25% of the customers needed to break even. I stopped for a drink to watch the scene unfold but without the Chinese, Japanese or Russian crowds that you can hide in, I felt a bit naked. The gravitational pull of the hostesses was a little too strong for my tastes. I like to be cat-called but not harangued. When you’re one of many you can watch from the sidelines, when you’re one of few there aren’t any shadows. Never was my type of thing, even less so now. In ten years’ time I can’t see it being there in this format. Maybe if they demolished the beach side buildings so it’s actually on a sea-front road the magic might come back. With no Chinese tourist visas being issued til 2023 at the earliest and sanctions on Russia, this model of business will see its customer base erode to Soi Buakhao and Tree Town.
Speaking of which, I spent a lot of my time there for the first time. I’ve always drunk on the front in past times or on Soi 6. I do visit the Billabong bar for a spot of early evening gossip. This time I hardly left the area. It’s certainly got a good buzz, there were plenty of choice drinks offers and shapely maidens to chat with. Many bars had to put up with me as the only customer. If you ever kicked yourself because some lucky sod just bar-fined the beauty of the bar because you were too slow on the draw, tetter get to Pattaya now. I bar-fined every girl in a small bar and we decamped to Tree Town for food and live Thai pop music. I had a great night dancing with the girls and learning Thai. Every one of them was a stunner and a great dancer. Thailand always amazes me with the endless possibilities for even a jaded traveller. The food they ordered was spot on, the giant beer dispenser took a beating and the final track of the night had us dancing together on the tables. Given how much conflict and war this planet now has, I’m pleased to say humans from opposite sides of the planet with very little common ground can come together within a few hours of first meeting each other and make love, not war. I hope enough Russians and Ukrainians have visited Pattaya to make the next generation dance on tables and not fight in trenches.
So is it worth visiting Pattaya right now?
Yes, if you like cheap prices for rooms and the pool to yourself.
No, if you don’t like attention from every lady in a bar and pestering for lady drinks.
Pattaya is different but same same. Not sure whether you like repeating your holiday experience exactly the same every trip but I’m getting bored. I’m quite happy to embrace a little change and if cheap Charlie can’t afford the airfare I’m also happy to get the best sun-lounger.
To sum up.
Bangkok has the best girls, GOAL!
Pattaya has the best beer prices across the board. SHOT!
Bangkok has the biggest crowds and best atmosphere at the moment. BACK OF THE NET!
Guys outnumbered by girls in Pattaya by some margin. EQUALISER!
So it’s a 2-2 draw. I’m looking forward to the rematch.
After match come down in a deserted Suvarmabhumi . Slow walk to the gate and where did my two weeks go? I squandered them on pointless bar crawls. Brilliant.