If you’re thinking about visiting Thailand and are wondering which areas to explore, you may want to check out the city of Pattaya. I recently visited Thailand for the first time and had a great experience in Pattaya, which happens to be one of the country’s most controversial cities. Having a reputation for being the sex capital, the city is flooded with go-go clubs, bars and massage parlors. But, if you look a little further, you will find that there is so much more to this multicultural and vibrant city.
Over the last few years the Pattaya tourism industry has expanded rapidly. There are plenty of expats living in the city and many wealthy businessmen have developed attractions that appeal to holiday makers, which is why Pattaya has become an enjoyable place to visit for a few days.
Here are my top 5 recommendations when visiting Pattaya.
1. Explore the Pattaya floating market
The Pattaya floating market is the biggest of its kind in all of Thailand. It’s also known as the “Four Regions Floating Market” because the market is split up into the four main regions of Thailand: the north, southeast, south and central. Each section of the market represents and sells items that are from that part of the country. The whole floating market experience was even better than I had anticipated. The food, souvenir shops, wooden-styled Thai buildings, canals and art pieces for sale — all made for a beautiful experience.
In fact, the floating market was my favorite experience during our stay in Pattaya. Covering an area of 100,000 sqm, we spent a good few hours here. The best part was enjoying a drink at the cute little “food court” that is situated somewhere in the middle of the water. Surrounded by floating vendors, you can order all sorts of food and drinks here. Tables are set up on the wooden platform for visitors to sit and enjoy themselves. We felt as though we were in a different world here.
2. Experience the night walking street
Believe it or not, the Pattaya walking street is the biggest and busiest party hotspot in all of Thailand. The word on the street is that it’s even bigger and better than Bangkok. The street is 500 meters long and as the name suggests no cars are allowed after 6PM. Scattered with bars, nightclubs, go-go bars, restaurants and beer bars, you can expect a rather late night if you plan on spending some time here. In fact, things only really start happening here after the sun goes down.
During the day the road is pretty much deserted but as night falls you can expect loud music, neon lights and big crowds. It was actually quite an eye-opening experience. Be prepared to be shown some rather disturbing images (advertisements) to try and get you into a go-go bar, but once you get over the initial shock it’s actually a really cool experience. We ended up enjoying a few drinks and a meal at one of the bars that had a live band playing. We also watched an amateur boxing match at one of the side bars which was also pretty cool. The walking street is one of those things that you at least have to try once.
3. Wine tasting at Silverlake vineyard
When you think of Thailand, vineyards, wine and wine tasting are probably some of the last things that come to mind. In fact, many people don’t even know that Thailand has its own vineyards and wine selection. While it doesn’t come close to competing with the Cape Town wine route or Napa Valley, Silverlake Vineyard is a breath of fresh air and a great place to spend a few hours.
Situated in the countryside southeast of Pattaya, Silverlake Vineyard is a great place to escape from the city for a little while. You can snap some great photos here, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can take a vineyard tour. There are two tour packages available. The first one includes a tour of the vineyards with a few photo stops along the way and the final stop is at the grape juice bottling plant where you will receive a free bottle of grape juice to try. The second package is exactly the same, but a winery tour and wine tasting experience will be added. We really enjoyed ourselves here and would highly recommend a visit if you’re in Pattaya.
4. Visit Wat Phra Khao Yai
Also known as Big Buddha Hill, Wat Phra Khao Yai is the biggest Buddha in the region and one of the top tourist attractions in Pattaya. You will climb up a few stairs to reach the main Buddha temple and, once at the top, there are at least eight other smaller statues. The staircase leading up to the top is rather striking with golden dragons running along the entire handrails on either side.
There’s also a great view of Pattaya City and Jomtien Beach from the top. So remember to take your camera with you because there are some great photos to be captured. If you get here early in the morning, it’s less crowded than later in the day, so it’s better for photo and video opportunities.
5. Visit Mini Siam
Mini Siam is a miniature park attraction in Pattaya. Featuring miniature scale versions of some of the worlds and Thailand’s most famous buildings and monuments, you can wander endlessly around these beautifully laid out gardens. Having first opened its doors back in 1986, Mini Siam has been a popular tourist attraction for many years.
All the statues have been crafted at a scale of 1:25 and the park has been broken down into two sections: mini Siam and mini Europe. There are more than 100 famous landmarks of the world on display here. It’s a really cool experience and makes for a great day out, especially if you have already seen some of these displays in real life. The colosseum, Eiffel tower and Tower Bridge were some of my favorites, all of which I have seen the real version.
While Pattaya is no tropical paradise, it certainly has a lot to offer tourists who are looking to add a little culture to their trip. There’s still a lot of Thailand that I would love to experience, but if given the opportunity I would certainly visit Pattaya again.