THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 2 – DRIVING THAILAND
Driving Thailand is the second Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now complete. But before I publish it as my second FREE e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book.
CENTRAL THAILAND (Part 2)
Pattaya located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand is 100 kilometres southeast of Bangkok in Chonburi province. Take Route 7 south and the freeway will take you there in approximately 90 minutes. The drive is easy and pleasant and you’ll be there before you know it.
Pattaya City is in the industrial Eastern Seaboard zone. The population was over 100,000 in 2007 so is no doubt a few more now. The centre of the Pattaya – Chonburi Metropolitan area, the conurbation in Chonburi Province, with a total population exceeding one million, Pattaya was a small fishing village until the 1960s. American servicemen operating out of Thailand bases during the Vietnam War began arriving in Pattaya for rest and relaxation. Pattaya has developed since then into a popular beach resort which now attracts over 4 million visitors a year. Fishermen’s huts along the beach were replaced by resort hotels and retail stores, including Asia’s largest beachfront shopping mall, the Central Festival Pattaya Beach Mall and Hilton hotel situated on Beach Rd in central Pattaya. Most of the officially registered Pattaya residents are of Thai-Chinese ancestry. Due to the tourist industry, many people from the Northeast (Isaan and the Korat Plateau) have come to work in Pattaya.
For some years Pattaya has secreted foreigners connected to organised crime in their home countries and many have been murdered in gang-related disputes. Some foreign tourists have been drugged and robbed by prostitutes in their hotel rooms and visitors may encounter petty crime, particularly in and around major tourist areas such as Jomtien and Pattaya Beaches and on the local buses. A Tourist Police division was established to help foreign tourists who are victims of crime. There has been an increase in accidents with tourists involved due to the large amount of drunken driving in the Pattaya area with the ease of renting motorcycles and scooters to get around.
Pattaya is on the East shore right opposite Hua Hin which sits on the West but they are like chalk and cheese. So vastly different in every way, they present two completely contrasting faces of a seaside town; one commercialised but charming the other over commercialised, garish, brash and definitely not charming. I have only visited Pattaya once, staying for two weeks at the Woodlands Hotel which was very pleasant indeed. I made a few sorties around Pattaya and discovered enough to make sure I remembered not to return. The solace of the Hotel was all I needed till I left for home, at that time, Lam Plai Mat, Isaan.
I believe Pattaya has changed somewhat since I was there in 2009 but its close proximity to Bangkok will, no doubt, always make it a draw card. Now, maybe for different reasons. There is apparently a changing customer profile, a world class shopping Mall and other newer higher end attractions that appeal to the more discerning visitor from East and West. But Thailand is notorious for neglecting to maintain its infrastructure which is critical if they are to make a success of the new developing City. I have heard some very pongy stories of sewers overflowing onto the streets during Monsoon due to overloading. I would not dream of entering the sea to wallow squalidly in Pattaya’s own effluent mixed with the outpouring from Bangkok and the mouth of the Chao Phraya river; an explosive cocktail of massively toxic proportions. To my horror some brave and hardy souls do! But, it seems, the old Pattaya is fast vaporising and with that I am pleased as the bad ass visitor is disappearing bit by glorious bit; the demographic is changing. Amazingly, the sex industry is slipping slowly into the recesses of what has been affectionately known for years as ‘Sin City’.
There are similarities between my feelings for Pattaya and Bangkok with one big exception; I have absolutely no desire to return to Pattaya.