The coastal city of Pattaya packs a punch with a clutch of sights and sounds that merges culture, spirituality and more.
It is close to evening as I enter Pattaya and it is the endless sight of the pristine blue ocean that uplifts my sagging spirits courtesy of the travel to reach the city. Soon, I forget all the stress as the city has a vibe that is energetic and infectious and plunges headlong to explore its myriad sights and sounds.
I start my exploration at the city’s iconic landmark, The Sanctuary of Truth located in the North of the city. The stunning all teak structure is a whopping 105 meters tall and is filled with sculptures based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. The structure was commissioned by local business tycoon Lek Viriyaphant and construction has been ongoing since 1981. When I visited the place, I saw several people busy carving on the wood. In fact, it is mandatory to wear safety helmets when you visit the place as work is still in progress. The building itself is designed as a combination of the remnants of a temple and a castle and is a tribute to Heaven, Earth, Moon, Sun, Stars, Father and Mother. The entire space is covered with intricate wood carvings and is put together without any metal nails. The place is full of detailed carved Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and has four religious iconography wings – Thai, Khmer, Chinese and Indian. When you are here you can see Thai dance performances that happen twice in the gardens at 11.30am and 3.30pm. Guided tours happen in different languages every half hour as well.
While one may not associate art with Pattaya, you will be surprised that the city has a very interesting art culture that is impossible to miss. If you are into street art and graffiti, head to the lanes opposite the Pattaya beach where you can see street art by artists like Alex Face, Mue BON, Gong, A.m.p., Bonus, GohM and more. This was done as part of the Pattaya Arts Festival in 2017 when Pattaya City and Pattaya Cultural Council organized the first beach art festival in Thailand. Best explored in the morning when you can also take a walk on the beach this place is a riot of colour. I went here early in the morning and had the space to myself. Another well-known pit stop is the Art in Paradise that takes the traditional notions of art and turns it upside down. This is art with a twist and has a whole host of three-dimensional paintings that are interactive and funny. There are over 100 artworks across ten themed sections.
However, one place I suggest you do not miss is the Parody Art Museum that has a selection of art made by Thai, Korean and European artists with a parody twist. The expansive space covers 8300 square meters including an outside area that has restructured well known pieces of art that are guaranteed to make you smile. A souvenir shop sells a range of T-shirts, postcards and other memorabilia that makes for interesting gifts to take back home.
A show that you must not miss when in Pattaya is the KAAN show, an acrobatic, singing and dancing theatrical extravaganza that merges world-class technology with top notch performances to make this a contemporary theatre experience like no other. The 60-minute show is about a young boy Kaan who must find five pieces of a broken magical key and is based on classic Thai folktale literature. The live-action show comes with impressive acting, acrobatics, and 4D projection mapping to create a show that’s nothing short of spectacular.
Pattaya is also a great place for shoppers and has numerous options ranging from street wear to night markets to local handicrafts. The Pattaya Floating Market is an artificial reconstruction of the floating market of Bangkok and is located at Jomtien. This is the place to shop for souvenirs, clothing, handicraft, art and jewelry. Mike Shopping Mall in South Pattaya is a great place to shop for Knick knacks and being in an air-conditioned environment makes for a great place. While there are hordes of unbranded clothing, I suggest you look out for local handicrafts when you are here. The Thepprasit Road Night Market opens post 5:00 p.m. and has jewelry, mobile phone accessories, clothing, cosmetics and more. Locally made soaps that come in many variants, colors and shapes are some good buys from here.
Pattaya will not disappoint the foodie in you with a plethora of options. Do explore local Thai cuisine in the several restaurants that dot the streets here. If you are on the Pattaya Beach Road, you can check out the numerous restaurants on the opposite side that entice you with the fresh catch of the day and complimentary live music. Of course, with great offers on drinks, the view of the ocean is a big draw too. Some places that you must try include The Glass House Silver which is located on the beach and has some delectable Thai and continental fare. Also check out The Chocolate Factory which has views of the ocean that are simply magnificent. If you are here in the evening, you can witness a magical sunset from the restaurant as well as pick up lots of chocolate goodies that are all made in house. A meal at Amari Food Gallery restaurant is a great way to sample local Thai food, an absolute must in Pattaya. Pattaya is a potpourri of experiences and the beach destination is an absolute must visit on your next visit to Thailand.
Stay: This resort town is full of accommodation options and the recently renovated Amari Pattaya is a great choice courtesy its location that overlooks the ocean.
Reach: There are many direct flights to Bangkok from different countries and Pattaya is located at a 90-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Tips: Keep yourself hydrated as the coastal heat is intense. A hat and sunscreen can help too.