Pattaya City is a popular beachside destination only a couple of hours south of Bangkok on the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand. Traditionally known for its raucous nightlife centred around Walking Street, the city is a popular destination with locals, tourists and expats. Nowadays, Pattaya has a lot more to offer than a just a beach and nightlife, indeed, the city has grown and now has a vast array of restaurants with a lot of focus on international food, great shopping choices with its very own Terminal 21 and CentralWorld, and a plethora of family-friendly things to see and do. The beach has been recently revamped and is now very pleasant, although not quite as nice as places like Samui or Phuket, nevertheless, Pattaya has a lot to offer and is a great place to escape the chaos and traffic jams of Bangkok. Here are the five top things to do during your visit.
Visit Koh Larn
Koh Larn is a small, relatively undeveloped island about 7km from Pattaya in the Gulf of Thailand. With crystal clear waters, incredible, picture-perfect beaches and lush tropical jungle, it’s easy to see why the island is so popular with visitors to Pattaya. There are a few bars, restaurants, shops and accommodations on the island, with mostly Thai foods being served although there are also a couple of places serving pizzas and Japanese food. Koh Larn is very quaint, laid back and beautiful and a great place to spend a few days before heading back to Pattaya, it feels a million miles away from the congested and chaotic concrete jungle of Bangkok. However, the island is understandably extremely popular with tourists, especially during the weekend, so to try and avoid the stampede of thousands of visitors make sure you go during the week. Plus, make sure to be a responsible tourist by not dropping any litter or leaving anything behind.
Sanctuary of Truth
Arguably Pattaya’s most impressive attraction, The Sanctuary of Truth is a temple and museum constructed from wood and adorned with extremely intricate and impressive carvings. Constructed from 4 different hardwoods, the temple is not yet complete, and is expected to be finished around 2025 but is still open to visitors. It is a truly breathtaking place, with incredibly high-quality craftsmanship coupled with amazing views out over the Gulf of Thailand. The building itself combines elements of both Hinduism and Buddhism, and the extremely impressive, cathedral-like interior is made entirely out of wood. Being 105 metres tall, the building is one the most iconic and well-known landmarks in the city and should be at the top of everyone’s itinerary, you won’t get another chance to see anything like this anywhere else. In addition, they put on Thai dancing and sword fighting shows, and offer activities including ATV riding, elephant and horse riding, speed boat trips and horse-drawn carriage rides. Admission charges are 500 baht ($16.50) for adults and 250 baht ($8.25) for children but this includes a free English-speaking tour guide.
Terminal 21 Mall
A recent addition to Pattaya’s shopping scene is their very own Terminal 21 Mall, similar to the one found in Bangkok. Here you can easily spend an entire day browsing the vast number of brand name stores and eating and drinking in the high-quality restaurants and food court. The whole mall has an airport theme; each floor is themed on a particular destination such as London, Paris, Tokyo and San Francisco which brings a bit of novelty to the shopping experience. You won’t find any rock bottom prices here, but you will find excellent quality goods and fantastic restaurants which easily live up to western standards. The food court, in particular, offers a vast range of both Thai and international foods at very reasonable prices and is understandably extremely popular with the locals (always a sign of good food, especially in Thailand). All in all, it’s a great place to visit (especially if it’s raining) and is particularly good for clothes and make sure that you don’t miss the food court under any circumstances. The mall is easy to find, located on North Pattaya Road, a few minutes walk from the northern end of the beach.
Ramayana Water Park
Ramayana Water Park is about 15km south of Pattaya city, but is one of Asia’s biggest and most exciting water parks, not to be missed if you’re travelling with children. Arranged over a whopping 45 acres, the park boasts no less than 21 water slides, a 600m lazy river, a double wave pool, numerous speciality rides including one in which the rider is fired down a tube inside a capsule, and an integrated pool bar for the parents. The park also offers numerous other facilities, including a restaurant with a comprehensive menu of international and Thai foods, a dedicated children’s restaurant as well as several outlets offering speciality coffees, ice-cream, drinks and cocktails, plus the ubiquitous gift shop. You can even rent one of their 40 private cabanas and enjoy a Thai massage, spa services or just make use of their park-wide free Wi-Fi. A day pass costs 800 baht ($26.50) for adults and 700 baht ($23) for children.
Thepprasit Night Market
Thepprasit Night Market is, as you might expect, huge, with thousands of stalls selling all kinds of food, drinks, clothes, handicrafts and trinkets. However, this market is aimed at both locals and tourists so you don’t get the overly inflated prices found at some of the other markets, in fact, prices for most things here are very low indeed. Unlike many Thai markets, Thepprasit is notably clean, tidy and well-maintained but still gets busy, particularly on Saturday nights. One thing to be wary of, however, is that almost all of the brand-name goods will not be genuine but fakes (it should be obvious from the prices); if that is something that concerns you then you’d be better off shopping at CentralWorld or Terminal 21. It’s worth a trip to this market purely for the food alone, the food is all cooked fresh and is simply delicious, and outrageously good value, make sure to try their pad Thai and grilled pork (“moo ping”). The market itself is only a short drive from central Pattaya, or you can catch a songthaew, but beware that the market is only open Friday to Sunday from 5 pm onwards.