I came to Pattaya because of the ocean. I saw pictures of what looked like paradise, and thought I could live a life of quiet contemplation.
Of course, anybody who has ever been here and taken one whiff of the beach knows how different reality is from the pictures. Pollution and rotting garbage not withstanding, it's still possible to find a clean and quiet spot on the beach, as long as you're willing to get off the beaten path. What is harder to avoid are some of the activities of the people in this area.
What offends me most about Pattaya is not the environmental pitfalls, but the endless and excessive display of an over-sexualized culture. It's filled to the brim with very old, rude and (mostly) white guys who line themselves up against the beach-front bars and cafes, waiting to pick up or be picked up.
The culture of prostitution is so prevalent, it makes it uncomfortable to just be a woman alone in a bar. I rarely ever go to Walking Street or Beach Road, but I still see the buying and selling of sex much more often than I'd like. While I'm a believer in the philosophy of "live and let live," I also would like my everyday life to not leave a bad taste in my mouth. So, I make every effort to live in and enjoy Pattaya without being a witness to the sex trade.
One of the ways I've been able to live here for months without getting sick of this culture is by making sure I stay off the beaten path as much as possible. Of course, the beaches along the center of town are the most popular, as that's where all the action is, but the north and south ends have even better beaches with less crowds.
While it is a fun experience for a tourist, I see absolutely no value in shopping or hanging out around Walking Street. The prices are inflated, the crowds are insufferable, and you'll walk away from the whole experience wondering why you put yourself through it.
Instead, I recommend the quieter sides of town, such as Jomtien. There are even some parts that have open beaches, without the umbrellas and chairs. Instead of paying 50 Baht for a chair and rubbing shoulders with other tourists, you can lay down a towel on the sand for free and spend hours with a good book, listening to the waves or watching the sunset. Most importantly, Koh Larn is only a short and very cheap ferry ride away.
It's also very important to remember that nightlife exists outside of Walking Street and central areas! You don't need to be in the center of town to enjoy a nice cocktail with friends (or alone). There are cafes and/or bars alongside most residential areas. There's a blues bar near Pratumnak that I frequent with friends. Not once have I seen a prostitute or go-go dancer. Just normal people, enjoying an evening out.
In the end, what I've found is that if you're willing to forgo much of the "bright lights" of the city, you can lead a fairly peaceful life near the beach. There's always the option to go completely wild, should you ever want a break from all the quietness. But living somewhere is very different from visiting, and I'm glad to finally have a routine which helps me live here in relative isolation from the debauchery of this town.
Want to read more of my stuff? Check out my personal blog site.