Jul 30 2015. view 714
Crossing Pattaya off the list!
As seen through the eyes of Sheshadri Kottearachchi; a Lankan wanderer in Bangkok.
A trip to Bangkok is synonymous with extravagant shopping excursions and the excitement of promising night-time adventures that has become an arguably stereotypical image of vacationing in Thailand. Bangkok is a tourist’s paradise with its ancient palaces, modern attractions, parks, beaches, museums and the alluring metropolitan atmosphere. While good deals are plentiful and the city lights are inviting, there is also a serene side to holidaying in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
For those of you who aren’t shopaholics or party-people and would prefer beaches over bargains and Bacardis, the quiet stretch of sandy shore known as Pattaya is a peaceful oasis in an otherwise busy city.
In the 1960’s, Pattaya was a secluded fishing village and over the years, the quiet coastal village has transformed into one of Thailand’s well-renowned beach resorts. Located 147km away from Bangkok, this vibrant town is nestled in Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast and is now famous for its nightlife that attracts visitors from all around the world. Although by night, Pattaya is an animated hub of partying, drinking and music, the town resembles a quiet, sleepy haven in the early hours of the morning. The bright neon lights are replaced with soothing sunlight and the techno music is drowned under the sounds of crashing waves and cool breezes.
It was on such a morning that my family and I ventured towards the bright sandy beaches of Pattaya. The quiet streets are less crowded in the early hours of the day and if you’re lucky, you will come across several food vendors, setting up carts of food and drink on the sidewalk. It is highly recommended that you try at least a satayed piece of chicken from a food cart or some fried pork. Despite it’s humble preparation and presentation, the fried food is delicious; strong spicy flavours mixed with juicy chunks of meat make for a fantastic snack at any time of day. Most shops and restaurants will be closed (before 9:00 am) save for a few which offer breakfast and as you walk towards the beach you will find restaurateurs waving at you from the doorstep, urging you to taste their freshly made breakfast porridge.
Pattaya Beach is 3km long and is bordered by Beach Road. While it is not as exotic as one might hope for it to be, the beach offers plenty of opportunity to relax or revel as one pleases. The relatively narrow strip of road is a central location and is easily accessible by most hotels. For the adventurous traveller, Pattaya offers many exciting beach activities including banana boat rides, jet-skiing, water-skiing, parasailing and windsurfing. You can also rent a tube to swim around with and the beach is always teeming with vendors selling frisbees, beach balls and other sports goods for cheap prices. (Bear in mind that the cheap cost is an indication of the quality of the merchandise and most plastic items won’t last for too long. However it is a small price to pay for a few hours of fun on the beach!)
Pattaya also caters to travelers who favour “inactivity.” Those who prefer to lie on the beach, enjoy a cold drink and read a book will be happily serviced by an army of hawkers who offer everything and anything. Starting from an in-house supply of cold drinks, seafood, ice cream, fruit, newspapers, plastic sunglasses and even lottery tickets, the tenacious street vendors will cater to your every whim. My family and I rented a few beach chairs and spent several happy hours enjoying the sun and sand. I would recommend that you spend at least two hours on the beach or else the rental prices are slightly excessive for a few minutes rest. It was a relaxed morning and despite the heat, I was happy to spend a few blissful hours resting my feet after several days of previously walking through the city.
As soon as we settled down, we were immediately approached by the vendors, eagerly asking us if we’d like some food or drink. It’s safe to say that we couldn’t deny the offer to enjoy freshly fried battered prawns; crisp, juicy and served on greasy Styrofoam plates with a sliver of lime. The vendor who served us also offered a range of fried calamari, saltwater fish and chicken; all reasonably priced and offered with the hearty recommendation to “eat with sauce, sauce good!” We were also pleasantly surprised by a quiet lady who offered to give us “pedicures” and proceeded to scrub, exfoliate and massage our feet while offering toothy grins all around. The next vendor to walk by presented us with a thick book of temporary flash tattoos which were simple but very impressively done without a stencil of any sort. Sipping on cold drinks we watched appreciatively as her skilled hands traced flowers and butterflies and birds on our skin. Between swimming in the sea and munching away on questionable amounts of fried food, we purchased sunglasses, necklaces and a whole host of other knickknacks which the vendors waved under our unsuspecting noses.
Other attractions in Pattaya include majestic temples, boxing tournaments, offbeat museums and quirky shopping centers; however the beach is a sunny, spacious venue to spend time with the family. There are plenty of coffee shops and bars open by noon for those looking for a spot of lunch or a quick caffeine fix. Opposite the beach is a sidewalk littered with makeshift tents inside which you will find tourist-y t-shirts and odd paraphernalia for sale, including a variety of lighters, pens, knives and key-chains. Be sure to taste some of the local fizzy pop if you’re feeling adventurous to try out a variety of odd flavours!
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet away from the glamour that the city has to offer, Pattaya’s beaches are a treat, especially before nightfall. It represents the quieter and calmer side of the otherwise bustling resort town.
Carry plenty of sunscreen, some towels, cold water and spare change for food. You’re sure to have a fantastic time.
By Eshani Seneviratne
Photograph credits - Ashanee Kottage