Pattaya is a city in Thailand, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 165 km southeast of Bangkok in the province of Chon Buri. It is one of the largest centers of tourism in Thailand, with some 5 million visitors arriving in 2004. Tourists visit Pattaya for many reasons including luxury hotels, beautiful beaches, friendly people, excellent shopping, reasonable prices and a wide variety of nearby tourist attractions. Others come for the world renowned nightlife and prostitution.
The city had 101,378 registered inhabitants in 2007. This figure excludes the large number of Thais who work in Pattaya but remain registered in their hometowns, and many long-term expatriate visitors.
Pattaya's main attractions are its beaches. Pattaya Beach is situated along the central city in close proximity to shopping, hotels and bars. The over-abundance of jet-skis and speedboats has contributed to the pollution of the water along Pattaya Beach. The section of beach from Central Road (Pattaya Klang) south to the harbor is adjacent to the core of Pattaya's abundant nightlife area, hence it is less family-oriented than the North Pattaya, Na Klua and Jomtien beaches.
Most sections of the beach are covered by rented deckchairs run by local beverage vendors during daylight hours so finding an available spot of sand is rather difficult and also unadvisable due to the poor condition (dog faeces etc.) of the beach. Visitors are advised to avoid the beach after dark. Although the Beach Road itself is busy and brightly lit, some criminal elements find the unlit beach useful as a cover for their activities. The local police have started to target this area in various ongoing clampdowns.
Jomtien Beach is divided from the main part of Pattaya by Pratumnak Hill, just south of the city. In contrast to Pattaya Beach, Jomtien is a popular spot for family vacationers and watersports enthusiasts. Jomtien is essentially a residential area with beachside hotels, bungalow complexes, condominiums and restaurants. A wide array of watersport activities can be found, including jet-skis, para-sailing and scuba diving. Dongtan beach, in Jomtien, is known as the gay beach, and is busy every day of the year.
Jomtien's most visible landmark is the 56-story Pattaya Park tower, part of the Pattaya Park entertainment complex which also features a water park, roller coaster, monorail and children's activities. This may soon be overshadowed by the proposed 91-floor Ocean 1 ("O1") Tower construction of which is due to start "in late 2006", with completion scheduled for 2010. With an overall height of 367 meters, it would be the tallest building in Thailand and one of the tallest residential buildings in the world. The Jomtien district is already home to one of the largest resorts in Asia, the 4000+ room Ambassador City Jomtien.
Pattaya beer bars along the waterfrontPattaya is renowned for its night-life, which caters primarily to foreigners. While some of this is unrelated to prostitution, the central Pattaya Beach Area is known as a destination for sex tourism (alongside several districts in Bangkok and Phuket). While prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, it is widely tolerated.
The city has literally hundreds of beer bars, go go bars, and night-clubs/discotheques. Virtually all of these are venues for in some form. The nature of commercial sex varies widely; the standard system of "bar fines" is the most common, but there are many exceptions. Most notably, discos and nightclubs are venues for freelancers, while the bars on Soi 6 are essentially brothels. There are also several large massage parlors.
Since the "social order" crackdown of 2004, there are very few sex shows (such as the ping pong shows) although they can sometimes still be found. Depending on the enforcement climate, Go go dancers may be seen fully nude, topless or in bikinis on different days or weeks.
Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) matches aimed at the tourists can be seen at many of the open-air beer bar complexes.
Another important but understated aspect of Pattaya are the excellent foreign restaurants. Often run by expats, most offer excellent food at prices far below those found in Bangkok, Samui or Phuket. High quality German, British, American, Mexican and Indian food can easily be found.