In August 2013, we spent a week in Pattaya, Thailand, a small city about an hour and a half drive from Bangkok. August is the heat peak season of the year, and sometimes the monsoon is still raging, so we had decided to organize for ourselves a slow journey throughout the week, and adapt our touristic program according to the weather forecast (and high temperatures) when necessary. We would plan one or two main activities and/or visits per day, and take it slow the rest of the day, either by hanging around at our hotel pool or taking a nice walk in one or another disctrict of the downtown area, stopping by for coffee or for a local style snack from time to time.
When we travel for at least a week somewhere, we like to include in our travelling program a day tour in a chosen place. Either because transportation can be arranged more easily this way, or because the day tour offers the chance to go to several places on the same day without having to figure out by ourselves how to reach this remote area or how to find that hidden gem of a spot that everybody is talking about. We also like to spend a day or two out of town. This time we went to Bangkok in the middle of the week. where we also got the chance to visit dear friends of ours, ex-China-expats who returned home a few years ago as I did (or as I prefer saying, “as marriage made me”!!).
Here are the interesting activities we’ve enjoyed throughout the week in Pattaya (lots of pictures included, feel free to click to open), single day trip to Bangkok aside.
The Sanctuary of Truth
This Sanctuary is an all-wood temple located by the sea, on the upnorthest point of Pattaya city. Unlike other ancient temples in Thailand and more generally speaking in Asia, this temple is of contemporary construction, as the building began in 1981, and is planned to be completed by the year 2050. The Sanctuary of Truth is filled with hundreds of thousands hand-carved wooden sculptures inspired by the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. You will be amazed by this work of art that is 100% man-made. The sanctuary is 105 meters high and covers a surface of almost 3500 square meters. Sculptures and carvings are all over, there’s just not one square centimeter that is simply plain unworked wood! Local vendors offer elephant rides that go around the site; only do it if you’re sure you’ll have no time to go to the Elephant Village another day, because the ride might not be worth the cost on this specific touristic attraction (except if you’re such an elephant lover that you can’t wait to ride one).
Pattaya Floating Market
There’s no such fun in Thailand than to wander around the floating markets and go about discovering various local delicacies – and very weird and scary stuffs too! Although the famous one is in Bangkok, Pattaya’s Floating Market is emerging as the best floating market of the area, as it endeavored to keep a certain sense of tradition: little boats still go around the market’s river to sell their foods and souvenirs, unlike at other floating markets where vendors, although located on the river, all have stationery boats or even steady booth stands on (almost) solid ground (actually more like a pier). Rumor has it though, that the Pattaya’s market could soon follow the path of its neighboring cities’s market, using its river for touristic short boat tours only. My advice: go and visit it soon before the whole true spirit is gone!
While strolling about in the market on foot after we went for our tour on a moving small rowing boat, we began munching on all kinds of fruits and animals on stick. I had spicy crocodile skewers, grilled octopus, satay chicken skewers, grilled pineapple, and meatballs of unknown meat origin. We then attended the strangest singing show, run by 2 katoys (aka ladyboys) wearing glittering ball gowns and incredibly wide tiaras or crowns. We hopped on a cruising boat which cruised for a few minutes and suddenly took the direction of the road (!) and came out of water on wheels (no, I didn’t smoke or drink anything weird). We took a short ride around the market and went back on the river to get off of the boat. How weird was that. Our entrance tickets entitled us to experience the famous Asian fish spa too. You know, this kind of aquarium in which you plunge your feet into so that they are immediately being attacked by hungry tiny fishes that eat your feet dead skin. I’m very ticklish, so the experience was a lot of fun! On our way out of the market, we came across several shops where vendors were busy arranging new stalls full of mooncakes. At that time of the year, the whole continent was getting ready for the Mid-Autumn Festival, aka Moon Festival in China, during which families and friends offer to each other decorated boxes of mooncakes and eat these high calorie yet interesting and unusual in taste specialties. For all those good reasons, the Pattaya’s Floating Market is a Must-see!
The Underwater World
One of my new rules when preparing a trip? Always plan an indoor activity in case a rainy day tries to come and ruin my vacation. Pattaya being very outdoorsy, the task was challenging but we found the perfect mix between fun and… dry, except that it all occurred under water. Or almost!
The Pattaya Underwater World is a long tunnel in the dark. The whole tunnel IS the giant aquarium, lit in blue, in which fishes are swimming in a kind of ballet that goes on all day long. The place is really fun, as there are fishes and sharks and rays everywhere around and above the visitors who are fearlessly walking on a carpeted floor. Kids and adults are excited alike and everybody enjoys his time following fishes or trying to catch them on “film” with their camera.
Pattaya Exotic Botanic Garden
Sometimes, smaller attractions or attractions in more remote areas are a good alternative to touristic places downtown, Even though we need to drive a bit outside of the city, it is less crowded and you can have more personal space on the sites. For that matter, I highly recommend a half day at the Pattaya Exotic Botanic Garden. It’s big, it’s green, it’s clean and tidy, it’s full of plant sculptures, and again you can even ride elephants if you want to. And unlike other places in Thailand, it’s kinda quiet and perfect to relax! For detailed infos, check out this post and enjoy more descriptive pictures!
The Elephant Village
Elephant ride, you said?! Here’s your chance to have a fun experience in an appropriate environment. Forget about the ride around a temple or in a garden. The Elephant Village is just minutes away from Pattaya city center, and pre-booked minibus are arranged to bring groups that can enjoy a fun time together riding elephants in the Thai jungle and rivers. Although the topic of using the elephants as objects for trade and business is sensitive, but the local care-takers of these wild animals took the time to explain to us how tourism money helps them to finance the elephants’s daily needs, food and health care, as nowadays elephants can’t live the wild life anymore because of the country’s modernization and its consequences on natural wildlife.
When we got to the village, we first fed bananas to the elephants. Then we got up a high ladder to reach out to the elephant’s back and began our ride. For an hour, we have “badaboomed” and “badabammed” from a hip to another, feeling like a Mowgli of modern times, and having fun like kids. After we got off the elephants, we went deeper into the jungle for a short trek on foot and reached a small farm of silk worms where we’ve been shown and taught about silk fabric creation from scratch. Next, we crossed a river and ended our day by going back to the initial village riding an ox cart! This was done over half a day. Although there is a full day offer as well, but I don’t think it’s worth spending more time than we did, our tour was perfectly timed and organized, and no additional activity was necessary.
A Day Tour in the Pattaya Bay
Going to Thailand and not going to the beach or on the seas is like for me going to the restaurant when Spring has sprung and not choose a Steak Tartare, my favorite Spring season meal when eating out, although I know I can and know I would enjoy it very much. I was born and raised in a coastal city, and being attracted by the sea is just natural to me. Being by the sea and not setting a foot in it would be a complete non-sense. However, Pattaya’s fame is not a all connected to the idea of nice beaches. If you’re looking for Paradise, go to Koh Samui or Koh Phi-Phi islands. Still, we booked a day tour to discover the Pattaya Bay by boat. The tour included a short fishing session, a lunch on a beach restaurant where local Chefs would cook our fishes along with their vegetables and thai rice, and an hour of snorkeling in an area where there was no interesting fish to watch (let’s be honest, the first part of the day was nice, but the last part was a massive failure). Anyway, we enjoyed the day because any experience is a good experience in the end.
Streets of Pattaya
There’s always so much to see and to look at in Asia! And Pattaya, Thailand, makes no exception. Whether it’s night time and neons light up the city, or it’s day time and all districts are in a turmoil, a tourist’s eyes always are attracted by something amazing or fun or weird or different or beautiful or surprising. Higgledy-piggledy, here are the all-you-can-see-in-Pattaya’s streets. Massage places everywhere. Hanging electric city cables and massive cables knots at every corner. Restaurants occupy 2/3 of the businesses. Construction sites are multiplying on a daily basis. Tuk-tuks remain the most convenient and cheapest way of going from A to B inside and outside of the city, and they’re working 24/7, just hop on while they drive by. Hookers also are working 24/7, and during day time they’re having coffees, sodas and cocktails in regular bars and coffee shops among each others, until a potential client shows up, plays around and hires them (girls, boys, and ladyboys). Street vendors ride their food cart and sell snacks and other unrelated items. Flip-flops are the norm for shoes. Party spirit is a must. Seafood must be experienced. Thai green curry is compulsory. Fried insects sold in bulk are just for memories and pictures. Click on any of the pictures for better viewing.
Pattaya Night Life
Last but not least, Pattaya’s Night Life is very much focused on sex tourism, one can’t deny it. Sexy shows are one of the main attractions, but there are as well dozens of other ways to have fun and enjoy your time when you go there, especially for a couple’s holiday. From great restaurant terraces to fun and noisy concert bars with cheap cocktails and drinking games, anyone can also have fun just walking down busy pedestrian streets or simply practicing people’s watch. There are street shows, music players, dancers, Turkish ice-cream makers and magicians, massage centers of course, a 4-D simulator in a movie theater, and all kinds of artists displaying their talents out on the streets. And those lights and music everywhere really gives Pattaya this special atmosphere of pure Thai fun!
Before you go, did you know my first cookbook got published? It’s called Cookbook #1: A French Girl’s Cooking Adventures in Her Kitchen, and it’s available online, you’re just a click away, RIGHT HERE!
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi, © 2015 All Rights Reserved.