When it comes to Thailand’s seaside resort destinations, Pattaya is one of the longest established and most enduring of them all. Situated on the Gulf of Thailand 150 km southeast of Bangkok, this once-sleepy-fishing-village cum booming-tourist mecca needs no introduction to holidaymakers the world over.
Pattaya’s international fame as a premier tourism city is well deserved and can be evidenced by the several million Thai and foreign visitors it welcomes annually. It is a year-round destination that caters to all manner of traveller from singles to couples to families to tour groups. This it does with a vast array of activities, attractions and cultural experiences that appeal to visitors of all ages.
With Pattaya’s knack for adding new activities and attractions, and reinventing or modernising existing ones, the destination is a fine example of the concept behind the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) latest communication concept of ‘Open to the New Shades’. The concept encourages tourists to explore the many different facets of Thailand; such as, gastronomic tourism, arts and crafts, culture and unique ways of life, by discovering new attractions for the first time and rediscovering existing attractions from a new perspective.
The annual calendar of events in Pattaya includes some of the kingdom’s most popular festivals and gatherings. Newer events include the Wonderfruit, a four-day celebration of art, music, food and sustainable living in December, and the Pattaya International Fireworks Festival in late November that lights up Pattaya Bay in a dazzling pyrotechnic spectacle. Enthusiastic crowds also gather each year for December’s MAYA Music Festival that combines Thai culture with Western dance music.
Offering a more cultural scene is the annual Pattaya Vegetarian Festival in October during which people abstain from consuming meat and a grand procession carrying statues of Chinese deities makes its way around town. Then there is April’s Wan Lai festival or traditional Thai New Year (Songkran) that is celebrated in Pattaya a week later than the rest of the country, but is just as packed full of merit-making activities, processions and water splashing fun!
For sports fans, the Pattaya Marathon held on city streets in July attracts hundreds of Thai and international runners while the Pattaya Trail Half Marathon in June sees participants navigate a more scenic route along forested hills. In February the world’s top women golfers gather in Pattaya for the high-profile Honda LPGA Thailand tournament.
As a seaside resort, Pattaya naturally offers the sun-sand-and-water lover a choice of beaches, yet beyond this there is also so very, very much more. The destination boasts a multitude of attractions that include the historical, the modern, the cultural and the entertainment-based.
Visitors can fill their sightseeing days taking in attractions like the Sanctuary of Truth (above gallery), a 105 m-tall castle built of fine wood in the style of the Rattanakosin Era; the Four Regions Floating Market(below gallery) with its 100 plus food stalls, eateries, souvenir shops and art galleries, and the new FROST Magical Ice of Siam where there are ice and snow themed zones to explore.
By night, a must-see is one of the city’s famous cabaret shows either Tiffany’s Cabaret Show or Alcazar Cabaret Show with their larger-than-life performers and fabulous stage sets. Also highly recommended is KAAN Show, a 90-minute extravaganza of Himmapan Forest and Thai literature characters, martial arts, dance performances and stunning special effects.
Venture beyond Pattaya into the surrounding countryside and one finds the choice of attractions equally impressive.
To mention just a few, Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden(above gallery) is renowned for its picturesque display gardens and cultural show; Mimosa Pattaya The City Of Love offers a colourful shopping and dining environment inspired by the architecture and romance of the town of Colmar in Northeastern France; Monsters World and Aquarium offers the chance to get up close and personal with various marine and land species; Cartoon Network Amazone is a fun-filled Cartoon Network-themed waterpark with 25 rides spread across 10 entertainment zones, and Upside Down Pattaya serves up a leaning castle, upside-down house, magic barrel, crazy bicycles, gyroscope and labyrinth maze that will have everyone’s senses going nuts.
Pattaya even boasts its own vineyard, one of a handful in Thailand which are helping the country earn a name for itself in winemaking. From its lakeside setting, Silverlake Vineyard produces a variety of red, white and rose wines.
For a glimpse into religion and its importance in Thai society, Khao Chi Chan (Buddha Mountain) features a giant 109 m-high image of Buddha carved into the cliff face, while Wat Yan Sang Wararam Woramahawihan is a temple known far and wide for its use of different architectural styles; such as, Lanna, Singaporean-Chinese and Thai-Chinese. Both sites honour the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Adding to Pattaya’s appeal is the fact that getting there has never been quicker or more convenient than it is today. Motorway links enable less than a two-hour drive time from Bangkok, while the U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport is served by direct flights from the Middle East, China, Macau and other points around Asia, as well as from key domestic points including Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai.