Pattaya is perfect for a truly action-packed and fun-filled weekend — and it’s just about two hours or so from Bangkok!
by Percy Roxas.
Been there. Done that. Most of us can easily say that when it comes to Pattaya, right? But if you haven’t been to the Eastern Seaboard resort city recently you might be surprised at how the former “Sleaze City” has transformed, and is still transforming, these days. This former American R&R camp town has transcended the stigma attached to it by even its most hardened critic. Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes. There’s still the seedy part of Pattaya. But, as some eight million annual visitors to the city now find out, that’s not what the city goes by today. There are tons and tons of new fun options, and not just for the men or the singles, but also for the growing number of female solo tourists not to mention families and business travelers (even a big Terminal 21 mall is in the blueprint, by the way). We made another trip to Pattaya recently to give you a heads up.
Probably the best time to be in Pattaya from Bangkok is right before dinnertime. If you were anything like us, you would immediately head to The Glass House (Tel. 038- 255922; www.glasshouse-pattaya.com), a restaurant in Jomtien that has cushions out on the beach facing the sunset to go with its namesake transparent glass-house interior. It’s hopelessly romantic, the seafood is fabulous, and it’s a great way to start off the weekend.
If you’d rather be in the city center, then go directly to The Mantra, maybe for a refreshing cocktail as you get ready for a proper dinner to beat in the city. With seven separate kitchens to deliver your choice of cuisine, this restaurant serves not your usual Pattaya dinner fare indeed. If you’re not ready for fine dining yet, you can just park your car and walk toward the neighboring Tavern by The Sea, which is more laid back and unstiff. Both are located near the Amari Pattaya Resort (Tel: 038 418 418, www.amari.com) on Beach Road. These are just two of the several fine restaurants on the main strip, and many new ones–both stand-alones and at hotels–have opened recently. If you have a favorite one already, then you probably know where to go. At the nearby Dusit Thani Pattaya (Tel: 038 425 611; www.dusit.com) are top-rate restaurants that are worth checking out too. We love their Chinese restaurant, The Peak.
Just a bit farther, in Naklua, is the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort (Tel: 038 301 234; www.centara.co.th), which also boasts a couple of restaurants for discerning diners. A venue hard to forget here is Flames, with its al fresco BBQ and views of the ocean. You can handle the grilling for an exciting experience, or you can let one of the chefs run the show.
Back on the beach road, in what is now considered heart of the city is the Hilton Pattaya (Tel. 038 253 000, www.hilton.com), which also boasts outstanding restaurants. But our favorite here is the rooftop bar, Horizon, which is simply fabulous. The 34th floor bar and restaurant has striking views of the entire bay, and is a good spot to rest up. A new rooftop sensation though is at Siam@Siam Design Hotel Pattaya (Tel: 038 930 600, www.siamatpattaya.com), where the younger visitors tend to congregate because of the hotel’s hipster, artsy energy.
Another rooftop venue worth recommending in Ruffino’s, at Centara Grand Pratamnak, nestled in what is often called Pattaya’s “Beverly Hills” area.
Of course, there’s a wide range of hotels for all kinds of tastes and budget: Royal Cliff Beach Resort, the Sheraton now rebranded as InterContinental Pattaya, Siam Bayview (Sukosol) at Bali Hai pier, and back to the Beach Road from the south: Pattaya Marriot, Hotel Barracuda Pattaya, Hard Rock Hotel, Holiday Inn Pattaya, just to name a few.
From the new Movenpick Siam Pattaya to the celebrity favorite Cape Dara, to Ravindra, and more. You will probably find one that suits your mood and circumstances at the moment. Of course if you’re on a shoestring budget, or just prefer to spend your money on something else, then there are many comfy places available too. Try the select service hotel OZO, the Nova hotels, or the several nameless, smaller hotels that charge something around THB 500 or so. The 5-star Movenpick Siam Hotel Pattaya, located at Na Jomtien Beach, is one of the biggest recent developments on the Eastern Seaboard with 262 rooms. It has direct beach access, luxurious facilities and offers a warm sampling of Swiss hospitality.
After dinner, you might as well explore the much-vaunted nightlife to see what has changed or not. A good place to start is the Walking Street, which is still home to bars, go-go places, and discos. You can shake a groove at Mixx (Tel. 038 252 790, www.mixx-discotheque.com/pattaya/), voted best disco in Pattaya for the last three years, with a wild R&B zone as well as a more chilled-out progressive zone to dance and relax in. Now if that’s “too Pattaya” for you, then fret not. You’ll find something else that is more your cup of tea, and we don’t just mean the cabarets, the spas and massage parlors, Nong Nooch Garden, or even the Sanctuary of Truth.
Loads to do await you in Pattaya especially in the adrenalin rush department. If you are into golf, then choose from over 20 world-class golf courses in and around the Pattaya area for a game or two. Places like Siam Country Club (Tel. 038 909 700, www.siamcountryclub.com) offer some of the best golfing facilities in the kingdom. The Old Course here is Thailand’s first privately owned golf club and the home of the LPGA in Thailand for the past eight years.
For some visitors, the new reason to visit Pattaya these days is to play polo. The Thai Polo and Equestrian Club (Tel. 081 835 2419, www.thai-polo-club.com) is the largest polo and equestrian facility in Asia and every weekend, it gets busy. The club is set on 250 hectares, with three international size polo fields, two practice fields, stabling for 250 horses, as well as a polo coaching and training school.
It must be mentioned that from the Thai Polo Club, it’s just a short jaunt up to Silverlake Vineyard (Tel. 02 261 6565, www.silverlakevineyard.com), a beautifully cultivated vineyard that boasts the latest winemaking and juicing technology from Italy. It’s a great spot to relax in. The site is also home to the “Silverlake Music Festival,” which takes place annually, not to mention other smaller jazz concerts and programs with international artists.
Yachting is one of the more high-heeled pleasures that have long been available to tourists in Pattaya but it was only the last few years that the sport really made a buzz, in a manner of speaking. Credit goes to places such as Royal Varuna and the Ocean Marina Yacht Club in Jomtien, which incidentally is hosting the “Top of the Gulf Regatta” at the end of this month. This regatta has grown to become the largest by boat number, according to its organizers, and this year’s event expects to welcome more than 500 sailors and more than 250 crafts to the waters of the Gulf. Ocean Marina Yacht Club (Tel. 038 237 311, www.oceanmarinayachtclub.com) boasts a boutique hotel with a nautical touch, set out on a beautiful marina, and with full facilities for a luxury holiday, is another great place to be if you’re into yachting. Royal Varuna Yacht Club is more a club than anything but adjacent to it is one of Pattaya’s newest luxury boutique hotels, The Monttra Pattaya.
Teeing off or yachting not your forte plus you have your family with you? Worry not. Head over to the Splashdown Water Park (Tel. 092 234 9679, www.splashdownwaterparkpattaya.com), which has the tallest inflatable waterslide in the world, along with climbing walls, zorbs, water balls, and even a kids’ zone so the whole family can play.
Waterparks are the new rage in Thailand, and Pattaya is seeing a boom, with places like the Cartoon Network Amazone (Address: 888 Moo 8, NaJomtien, Sattahip), the world’s first such themed waterpark now open. Set amid 14 acres of lush coastal plains with ocean views and incredible evening sunsets, the waterpark is located in the burgeoning resort hotspot of Bang Saray.
Then there is the Ramayana Water Park, located at the Silverlake area, and offers three different dedicated kid’s zones, cabanas for rent, restaurants and special events on a central stage as well as a unique slide, which can not be found in other waterparks around the world.
More to see and do
Maybe you prefer to do something else while the family is enjoying the water parks? Head over to the Bira Circuit (Tel. 085 110 1000, www.bira.co), a full-service racetrack that features an FIA certified tracks, as well as an off-road test track and a full-service karting track, for more adrenalin-flowing.
In nearby Bang Lamung, there is the Underwater World Pattaya (Bang Lamung District, Chonburi), which showcases the rich variety of marine life found around the region. It complements the many other educational and recreational activities available at this beautiful seaside resort.
You might even escape to Koh Larn (www.kohlarn.com), which is just a short boat ride away. The island has amazingly turquoise water and nice beaches, the biggest ones of which offer jet skiing and parasailing to satisfy the adventure junkie. Then back in the mainland right in time for lunch, head over to Per Bacco (Tel. 038 422 221), one of Pattaya’s best Italian restaurants according to many local foodies. The menu and wine list are extensive, there is wood-fired oven pizza, the pasta is freshly made, and there is imported Italian coffee to finish up with.
Or go to Rimpa Lapin (Tel. 038 235515, www.rimpa-lapin.com), situated on a cliff with spectacular circular views of the Eastern Seaboard. And before you head home to Bangkok, drop by one more place before heading home: Hopf Brew House (Tel. 038 710 650), one of our long-time favorites. It’s a large family friendly place with a live house band playing popular tunes.
After this, you can have plenty of time to reflect on what it means to be a real weekend warrior. You might even want to have another Pattaya vacation soon – and a longer one too! — with additional info by Dave Stamboulis