Pattaya lies on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand, existing for decades as a quiet fishing village until its beauty was discovered by American servicemen in the 1960s. Since then, the city has grown by leaps and bounds to include a thriving tourist industry, with a dining and nightlife scene that pulls out all the stops.
The local culture is rich and has deep roots, with Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist influences. It is also a modern, tolerant society where everyone is welcomed by legendary Thai hospitality.
You'll fall under the spell of the sheer beauty of the area, which you can experience at sunset along the beach every night, and in places like the lush Nong Nooch Garden. From the sparkling waters of the Gulf to the neon lights of the nightclub district, Pattaya is ready to show you the time of your life.
Along with simply soaking up the sun in one of the many lounge chairs, you can get in the water to jet ski, parasail, or windsurf. If you're interested in learning more about the seaside environment, the Underwater World aquarium is a wonderful place to explore, especially if you're traveling with children.
By the bright lights of Walking Street, closed to traffic in the evenings, you'll find go-go bars, clubs, and much more. The downtown area of Pattaya is full of nightclubs and bars, many of them open 'round the clock; there's no excuse for not spending at least one sleepless night dancing until dawn.
Pattaya is home to monuments like the graceful Sanctuary of Truth, constructed entirely of wood with no metal nails. Khao Phra Tamnak is a Buddhist site that houses a giant golden statue of the Buddha.
There are huge shopping malls, open air markets, sidewalk stalls, and a bazaar - in short, every opportunity to shop for whatever you crave, from budget-priced bargains to high-end goods. From the sprawling Royal Garden Plaza to the enchanting Pattaya Floating Market, consisting of boats on the water where you'll find bargains on clothes, jewelry, and handicrafts, there is something for everyone here.
When it comes to the dining scene, you'll find many Chinese and other Asian restaurants along with Middle Eastern, Indian, and of course Thai food of every kind. The influx of tourists has attracted international chefs, and many restaurants that cater to Western and European tastes.
With a tropical climate and temperatures that average around the high 80s and low 90s 12 months of the year, Pattaya is a year-round tourist destination. The rainiest months are between May and November, followed by a hot, dry period between December and February, when there is an uptick in tourist visits.
The nearest international airport to Pattaya is Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok, about 75 miles away. The Airport Pattaya Bus 389 offers air-conditioned bus service to downtown Pattaya for about ฿120. Bell Travel Service is another option to get from the airport to a downtown location, with the fare costing ฿269 per person.
The State Railway of Thailand operates daily train service (Eastern Line) between Hualamphong Station in Bangkok and Pattaya. The train is an inexpensive option and stops at the Pattaya Railway Station in the Bang Lamung District.
Pattaya lies about 62 miles southeast of Bangkok and connects through the Bangkok-Chonburi-Pattaya Motorway (Hwy 7) to Bangkok's Outer Ring Road. The Bang Na-Trat Highway (Hwy 34) connects Pattaya to Bang Na and Chonburi.
Pattaya's main bus terminal is located on Pattaya Nuea Road. Intercity bus service is available to many locations in the northeast part of the country.
At the lower end of the price scale, there are many modern apartment-style hotels at budget prices like the Sandalay Resort or Nova Gold Hotel. At the mid-level, you'll find properties like the Siam@Siam Design Hotel Pattaya, with its stunning vanishing pool. The ultramodern AVANI Pattaya Resort & Spa is a 5-star hotel with a full range of high-end amenities.
Ao Pattaya - this is the crescent-shaped bay that forms the heart of Pattaya's tourist appeal. Pattaya Beach runs more or less parallel to the center of the city, from Pattaya Nuea to Walking Street. Beach Road, at its heart, is lined with shops and restaurants.
Ko Samae San & Hat Nang Ram - these small islands are where you'll find the best snorkeling along with quieter beaches. The two islands lie about 22 miles roughly south of Pattaya, and are accessible via ferry and boat service from the mainland.
Pattaya Tai - this is the usual tourist hub, where Walking Street and other avenues are lined with bars and other entertainment. This is the place to be when you want to stay up all night.
There are three public bus routes that run through Pattaya, serving the main areas of Pattaya, Naklua, and Jomtien. The one-way fare is ฿20.
Taxi service is generally unmetered. Modern van and car service is generally provided by hotels. The most common form of public transportation is the privately run "songthaew", basically a modified pick up truck that has two levels in a shared-ride system. The cost is ฿10 for a basic ride. There are also many motorbike taxis, with a typical fare across town costing about ฿30-40.
Driving in Pattaya can be a frustrating adventure, with traffic jams common. Street parking is also minimal, so it is not advisable to drive in the city unless you are going to a shopping mall or other location where you know there will be parking. A compact rental starts at about ฿775, and companies include Pattaya Car 4 Rent and Pattaya Rent a Car.
CentralFestival Pattaya Beach shopping mall is the tallest building on the beachfront. Inside, you'll find over 300 retailers, including international brands, electronics outlets, and much more. Bargain hunters will enjoy the open air Thepprasit Market, where you can find clothing and other items, along with treats like noodle dishes to go.
Tops, Foodland, and Best are common supermarket chains in Pattaya. The Big C Supercenter in North Pattaya offers one-stop shopping for all sorts of foods, along with clothing and housewares. A quart of milk costs about ฿60, while a dozen eggs comes in at about ฿52.
Nang Nual is one of the most famous restaurants in Pattaya, with a huge menu of both Thai and Western favorites that emphasize seafood. You can choose your own fish in some cases, with main dishes starting at ฿180. The Sketch Book Art Cafe, set in the middle of lush gardens, is a quiet escape from the bustle of city streets, serving classic Thai dishes that start at ฿90. The Glass House occupies an all-white building right on the beach. The menu features classic Thai dishes along with pizza, steak, and other options, starting at ฿170.