For starters, I would strongly recommend that you DO NOT go to Pattaya, unless you enjoy a constant and psychotic party atmosphere. Pattaya is a COMPLETE red light district city overflowing with prostitutes, lady boys and vendors who are not very concerned about long-term customer service. The focus in Pattaya is on QUICK MONEY and SEX. If you are interested in spending money and having casual sex, then perhaps Pattaya is the perfect playground for you. However, if you are seeking a more relaxing and refreshing environment, you will not likely be very happy with staying there.
I knew that prostitution existed in Pattaya. However, I did not know to what extent. I imagined that the red light districts were hidden like in most cities. However, as soon as we stepped off the plane, I could feel the sexual energy in the air. The ENTIRE CITY was soaking with sin. Men stared at us with hungry eyes and we saw countless older men with their younger thai female companions. This environment was extremely different coming from conservative Korea, where men barely make eye contact with women.
When we arrived in Bangkok, we stayed in the Nana District in a cheap hotel, which had rats outside and bugs inside. We quickly left the filthy city the next morning and used a bossy taxi driver who forced us to pay 1,000 Baht to Pattaya. We asked him to take us to the bus terminal, but he refused and drove us all the way to Pattaya instead.
We were very impressed with our hotel once we arrived in Pattaya. The Rome Hotel was new and the staff members were amazing and extremely helpful. While walking on the beach though, we passed by groves of prostitutes lined up and ready to serve their clients. We were unable to use our VISA card in many places that only accepted cash, we were very disappointed with one of our meals and our trip was dampened by many of the rude attitudes of the locals. We didn’t completely feel like we were on “vacation” in Pattaya, but we made the most out of our stay there.
We were able to escape to Koh Lan island for one day, which was better than Pattaya Beach. However, there were still mangy dogs and trash littered the sand. The island is very small and was not the pristine place that I imagined. Once again, the locals were not completely pleasant and seemed to be annoyed by our presence instead of welcoming. We simply paid 300 baht to take a ferry there and back. There are many fun tours and packages in Pattaya. However, we opted to simply enjoy the beach and the pool during our stay.
The nightlife in Pattaya is perfect for those who are seeking an overwhelmingly seedy experience. Walking street is filled with clubs, bars and adult entertainment spots. However, for a more rejuvenating and peaceful vacation experience, I would highly recommend that you go to Phuket and skip Pattaya all together.
Phuket boasts a much more relaxing and luxurious vacation experience. There are tons of gorgeous beaches and nearby islands to explore. The best beach that I visited in Phuket among Patong, Karon and Kata – was Kata Beach. The sand is soft and silky and the water is clear and clean in Kata. The waves are great for surfing there as well and there is a nice little town village-type atmosphere. Karon was also a nice beach with beautiful sidewalk streets – perfect for running or walking. The shoreline is very long and wide, and this beach is also very clean and not too crowded. The worst beach is Patong. Patong has a great shopping mall area near the beach. However, the beach itself is dirty (muddy looking) and overcrowded. Therefore, if you are deciding on the best area to book your hotel, I would strongly suggest that you stay near Kata Beach or Karon Beach.
For the really incredible beaches, you can plan to stay at one of the island resorts at Phi Phi Island (http://www.ppisland.com/index.php) or Racha Yai (Raya) Island (www.banraya.com). Or, you can simply stay in Karon or Kaya and take a boat tour to the islands. The islands are about an hour away from the mainland – by a 20 minute shuttle bus and 40 minute speed boat ride. (Maybe one hour and thirty minutes at the most – depending on where you deport). Please note that the prices listed on the website are in Baht.
I would highly recommend booking group tours in Phuket. There are several to chose from and a million companies that offer great packages. You can chose a boat tour to the nearby islands, a safari tour, an elephant/tiger tour, a temple tour, a ziplining tour, a cave tour and many others. (You can also book these kinds of tours in Pattaya – if you decide to go there.) I checked a few different vendors and simply chose the sales rep who spoke English well and was the most helpful. You should not spend over 1,500 Bhat for an island boat tour in Phuket. The packages I booked were between 800 and 1,200 Baht in Patong. You can also ask for a discount, if you book more than one day tour with the same company. I enjoyed a few beach tours and a temple tour during my stay.
Driving a scooterhere is extremely cheap – but extremely dangerous. I rented one for a day (for just 350 baht) in Phuket and feared for my life while driving. The roads are extremely congested and there are very few traffic signals. The other drivers on the road are very aggressive and will speed around you if needed. You must wear a helmet at all times, and I have heard that the police sometimes ticket foreign drivers just to make money.
CALL YOUR BANK!!!!Call your bank before leaving the country and let them know when you will be in Thailand and for how long. Thailand has a very high rate of bank and credit card fraud. Most banks will not allow purchases from Thailand to go through and will flag your account or lock your card if they notice purchases from Thailand. I had to call my bank to unlock my card just to book my flight to Thailand. Anytime you travel overseas, you should let your bank know when you are leaving and when you will return so that they are aware of your travel plans.
Be Aware!!Be aware of the rules, regulations, customs and expectations in any country you decide to visit. Being aware of the culture will help you enjoy your time there more and allow you to be more understanding. I have read many articles about people getting into fights with Thai locals. Be aware of your surroundings and do what is necessary to remain safe. Travel in groups and do not instigate or provoke a fight with any of the locals. The police will likely arrest you and will very likely not be on “your side”. You are not as legally protected in other countries as a foreigner. Therefore, you should be as respectful to others as possible at all times – even if they are being disrespectful towards you. Many people have been drugged, robbed and beaten in Pattaya. You must be especially careful in areas where foreigners are abused, routinely taken advantage of and exploited.
On a lighter note, you must get a Thai Massage while in Thailand and you must have a Mango Shake made from fresh mangos. OMG!!! Both are divine. It’s extremely HOT in Thailand, so make sure you wear lots of sunscreen and light clothing. You will likely be very sweaty while there. I would recommend a 5 – 7 day trip to enjoy Thailand to the fullest. Make sure you ride the Tuk Tuks while you are there — they are extremely inexpensive and will get you safely from point A to point B. Everything is very affordable there, so you can experience a lot for a very reasonable price. ;) ;) ;)