Lidya Belete

How to survive in Pattaya if you're not a sex tourist (or if you're a woman)

You can escape the unsavoury aspects if you truly want to



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.


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Comments

Lidiya,

Where on earth did you get the idea that Pattaya has beautiful beaches or was “quiet”? Its been pretty much the opposite of “quiet” or peaceful for at least 40 years and I don’t think it has ever been known for its beaches. Its known mostly for its “nightlife” and prostitution. And of course due to its proximity to Bangkok it’s also a good place to get away from the big city for a weekend.

In any case, if you wanted beautiful beaches and serenity you should have gone to Phuket or Koh Samui. Of course if you are still in Pattaya you might want to check out Koh Samet which is only about an hours drive south and a very short ferry ride from there. There are also several small Islands right off the coast of Pattaya (such as they are) and the smallest one is usually deserted.

Anyway, I did not like Pattaya at all the first time I went there myself – mostly because I was so anxious to get to Phuket - but the place grew on me over the years and I now don’t think its that bad a place at all. Of course I don’t mind the crowds like you do and I certainly don’t get disturbed or put off simply by being in the presence of bargirls or their patrons.

By the way, there are a lot of normal nice Thai girls who live in Pattaya and some of them will sometimes go out to the big nightclubs on walking street with their friends and they dont seem to mind the fact that 90 percent of the other girls at the club are freelance prostitutes. So if it doesn’t bother these Thai girls you shouldn’t let it bother you either? Of course if you are an overly religious type, and not a live and let live kind of person as I am, then I guess I could see how you might find it disturbing.

Anyway best of luck with everything.

By Ken, California (10th July 2016)

Just stumbled on this article and loved it. Will take your advise and stick with the quieter beaches.
It's funny how most of the white guys mouthing off here about being stereotyped are the same ones who label black women they see in Thailand as prostitutes and black men as drug dealers. It sucks when the tables turn hu? :)

By Hanna, Paris (25th March 2016)

Funny, most of the single women in Thailand are sex tourist, either after a little brown boy, a brown girl, or some free tourist fun. They master the whole "what happens in Thailand"... Add the booze and drugs and single women in Thailand put the dirty old men to shame.

By Katie Lang, Surin (12th February 2015)

The old rude white guys have certainly commented a lot! The reactions have been crazily over the top. The obnoxious over-the-hill white pervs clearly don't like being called out.

Take it with a grain of salt and keep blogging, Lidya. Don't let the obnoxious behavior get you down. Free speech!

By urbanman, near an aircon (12th February 2015)

Another painful moan about Thailand and it's tourists through the moral lens of a 20 something liberal arts graduate from a Western country who just arrived here. But this article is unique in that the writer manages to take on a victim complex along the way. The writer has a long journey ahead of her.

By brad, Bangkok (11th February 2015)

Lidiya: If you're not 'race-baiting', then that sentence absolutely needs to be removed from this article. Why else write something like 'very old, rude and (mostly) white guys'? What purpose does it serve in this article other to inflame and annoy? Why is this a 'necessary descriptor'?

What if I rewrote your little paragraph? Please, do tell me how this new one is at all different from yours:

"What offends me most about Chicago is not the terrible weather, but the endless and excessive display of a violent and crime-ridden culture. It's filled to the brim with young, jobless black guys who stand out on the street corners waiting to sell crack, or start a fight with another gang."

And now yours:

"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."

And now your statement in response to the other commenters who have pointed out the ridiculousness of your article:

"I don't believe that clarifying the race of a large group of people engaging in the same activity is, as you say, 'race-baiting.' If it was black or Asian or Arab or Hispanic, etc men lining themselves up, I would make sure to clarify that."

Why? Why clarify? What purpose does it serve? If it's OK to, as you so neatly put it, to 'clarify the race of a large group of people engaging in the same activity,' then it absolutely gives you license to stereotype any group of people! It would be like saying, "Oh, you're Asian, so you must be good at math, right? I heard that Asians are all good at math." Or, how about this: "Oh, you're a white, single guy over 40 living alone in Thailand. Dude, you must be here to pick up prostitutes! Why else come, right?"

Please, please delete that paragraph. You didn't 'mean to offend,' but you absolutely have, as so many of the commenters have pointed out. If you have any professionalism, get rid of it.

By Grant, China (7th February 2015)

" it makes it uncomfortable to just be a woman alone in a bar"
Trust me, no one would confuse you with a working girl or try to "pick you up". Plenty of non-pros in the bars and clubs. You are just feeling unappreciated and ignored so I will cut you some slack. And yes, most of us are in Pattaya for a reason; it aint the beach and culture. Lol

By ChangNaam, United States (22nd January 2015)

Ah, controversial contributors... they are website gold, so please don't stop posting your thoughts.

Moving on...

I hope you move away from Pattaya and work in somewhere more typical of Thai people and Thai culture before you head home. Otherwise, you will be taking with you (and sharing with others) a misleading view of this country.

That is not to say that other parts of Thailand are better or worse or that the things that happen in Pattaya don't happen elsewhere. But the fact is that Pattaya as a whole, as far as foreign tourists are concerned, is NOT representative of almost all Thai people. nor is it how they would like to be perceived.

I've studied your blog and managed to gauge something of your personality through that. First - congratulations of setting foot outside America! (Mexico doesn't count!) Most Americans never have the courage, imagination or financial freedom to just bugger off to Asia. I would imagine that the amount of black American women traipsing around the world alone is exceptionally small.

However, you haven't made the best use of your time. You've traveled a few well worn paths that most tourists go down and kidded yourself that you've found a culture there. You haven't... not yet.

So, from your experience in Thailand so far, you haven't been able to let Thailand wash over you and change your world view. It's evident in your writing. You are at home with other expats in a sterile expat Jazz bar in a tourist resort. Why not go to Cancun for that? It's a damn site cheaper.

You are resentful and unforgiving of the way other foreigners spend their pensions and time. It doesn't matter why you are, the fact is that you are. Worse still, you are resentful of the way women choose to earn a living. Again, the reasons aren't important - that fact remains that you would rather they were all back home working on farms and looking at expensive phones in glossy magazines.

It may interest you to learn that Thai girls don't go to Pattaya to become bar girls. They were already prostitutes in their home towns who simply want to make better money.

You should one day work up the courage to buy one of them a drink and engage with them. They have fascinating stories.

If it is your plan to remain in Thailand for any length of time then leave Pattaya and find out about the country where you are living. You'll come through that experience a much better, more patient and more tolerant person.

Good luck, and please keep writing here - I love the feed back comments!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (20th January 2015)

Pattaya is Pattaya, that said, cities of any size in LOS have their prostitutes and drug suppliers. Short of locating to the sticks, these elements are around and visible. Generally easy to avoid in my experience - as Lidya has done you figure out where to go and not to go. Most expats avoid the touristy areas if only because who wants to talk to a non-stop stream of tourists?

A reality for a lot of the girls, is they can do what they do, or earn much much less being maids or similar.

As others have opined, if you are particularly offended by magnitude of it all in Pattaya, work toward a relo.

By UrbanMan, Near an aircon (19th January 2015)

You absolutely are shepherding some racial biases, my dear. Just because your 'observations' are exactly that, you feel that it's ok to besmirch (mostly) white guys. If you were saying the same about some other ethnicity, it would be a whole different ballgame. But (mostly) white's are fair game in your hypocritical book. Sounds like you had a chip on your shoulder towards your perceived (mostly) white oppressors long before you arrived in this country. I feel sorry for any (mostly) white folks that get the wrong end of your (mostly) ignorant stereotyping. Racism is a river with many tributaries, some white and some not. Stop letting it draw water from yours.

By Fred, Korat (19th January 2015)

I wonder if there's a place on earth that polarizes opinions quite like Pattaya? Even before I got to the comments section Lidiya, I just knew that you were going to take a bit of stick. Hell hath no fury like a Pattaya lover scorned.

Personally, I think Pattaya is a toilet and agree with Mark that you could have found far better places if just being near the ocean was your main objective. It's not like Pattaya has a plethora of teaching opportunities either.

But I've got nothing against those folks who like the place if that's what floats your damaged jetski.

By Brian, Brighton (19th January 2015)

Your article is full of stereotypes and lacks any in depth knowledge of Thailand. I've been living here over ten years now. I'm am happily married and I have a five year old son. Pattaya is not just about the sex industry. You live there so you should realize that. I often go on holidays there with my family and we don't see the seedier side of things because we avoid the couple of streets where it is prevalent. It's common sense really. There are so many attractions there for families. The beach, theme parks, zoos etc.. Many Thai families go to Pattaya all the time and never even refer to the sex industry. Your article was extremely negative and it is quite apparent that you are jealous of other people having a good time. Whenever I see an older western gentleman and his younger Thai friend I completely ignore them. It's not my business and doesn't bother me in the least. I have also seen older Western women with younger Thai men too! You shouldn't allow your own inhibitions and prejudices influence your writing. Enjoy the rest of your holiday here but please don't return home and tell everyone that Thailand and,indeed Pattaya, is full of prostitutes. It's actually a much more conservative country than most Western ones...

By Jim, Bangkok (19th January 2015)

How do you know for sure that the women in that blues bar you frequent aren't prostitutes? Not all of them are that obvious, so I understand, and there are other women (and men), students especially, who use prostitution as a casual way to get extra money (again, so I understand). Maybe some of your students, depending on their age range.

You also didn't mention the obvious, namely that prostitution is everywhere in Thailand, and is mostly bought (probably 95%+) by Thai men. This indicates to me that either you are so naive to be unaware of it, or you have an agenda against a certain demographic that you don't like, for whatever reason. Thailand had prostitution long before whitey came along.

BTW, I am not a sexpat, nor have ever been or have any desire to visit Pattaya/Nana Plaza/Soi Cowboy etc. I don't judge those who do, though.

By Joe, bkk (19th January 2015)

If you really came to Pattaya because of the ocean, then I suspect that your research was flawed. There are NO nice beach fronts in Pattaya, north, south or in-between. It's a filthy, smelly dump of a city. The idea of working or living within 50 miles of that place would drive me bonkers... so I don't!

I suspect that many people reading your rather negative essay will find it odd that you find the world's most famous brothel offensive... but choose to live and work there anyway! Especially as there are a million places in Asia where you could be happier working, that might suit your easily offended sensibilities. Some of these places also have oceans nearby!

You say that it's an uncomfortable place for a girl alone in a bar, yet there are about 10,000 girls who would disagree with you. You say that Pattaya is bearable only by avoiding it and what it's most famous for... so why are you there?

As for the gripe about paying 50 baht for a chair to sit on... well, judging by this and previous contributions, I don't think that you'll be in Thailand for very long.

Thai people are open minded, accepting and very patient. You could learn something from them. I hope you do before you return home.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (19th January 2015)

I myself will be traveling to Thailand to teach. I really appreciate your post. As for the comments above ....They are one of the three things internet bullies, men who actually travel to Thailand for the stereotypical thing (sex), or Most likely culturally Encapsulated to understand your point of view. So don't waste your time explaining yourself. I appreciate your post and I'm sure many others do as well.

By Aubrey, Florida (18th January 2015)

"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."
This is a direct quote from you and it clearly insinuates that you think they are not normal people, intentionally or not. As for the last part of my comment, it was a little thing called a joke, lighten up. :-)

By John Wilson, Bangkok (18th January 2015)

John, I had made the decision to no longer respond to comments as it's pointless to engage keyboard warriors, but I should clarify - my criticism is not of the prostitutes or go go dancers, but of their patrons. After all, the people selling wouldn't be in business if it weren't for the eager buyers. I'm not under the illusion that unregulated prostitution and the culture of this city is without its victims. You yourself, in your criticism of me, have touched upon an important point; we don't know what situations are putting these perfectly normal people into this line of work. As for whether or not I'm fit to teach in Thailand, that suggests this whole country is one big prostitution ring and anybody who believes that to be wrong should stay out. Talk about "narrow minded," I'd say that's about as narrow as it gets.

By Lidiya, Pattaya (18th January 2015)

You don't classify prostitutes and go-go dancers as normal people? That's pretty narrow minded of you. You don't know these girls' (and sometimes boys') situation. Maybe you would be better suited to teaching somewhere else, The Middle East perhaps.

By John WIlson, Bangkok (18th January 2015)

Dave - It's a different scene for sure, and not one I'd like to be a part of, but I like my little corner of Pattaya. I'd just like to make it a little more friendly for others who might be like me. Thanks for reading and for your feedback :)

By Lidiya , Pattaya (18th January 2015)

It sounds to me like you might be feeling a little left out of the scene in Pattata. Yes, it is a place where guys can enjoy themselves - and why not? However, if and I don't wish to sound hard here, pardon the pun :-) there are other places to relocate to in Thailand if it's a bit too full on in Pattaya. Still thank you for a worthwhile post.

By dave, London (17th January 2015)

I don't beleive that clarifying the race of a large group of people engaging in the same activity is, as you say, "race-baiting." If it was black or Asian or Arab or Hispanic, etc men lining themselves up, I would make sure to clarify that. Furthermore, I am not white. I live in the land of "white is right," and have experienced an intense level of racial prejudice at the hands of expats who are, ironically, living here among non-whites. I observe people, and I do my best to describe what I see. In this case, I beleive it is a necessary descriptor to include. As for my prejudice, I'll ask you not to make assumptions about my character based on your perceptions.

By Lidiya, Pattaya (17th January 2015)

I'm not white, and I live in the land of "white is right." My interactions with people who live here has made me hyper-aware of racial differences, and I can only speak from my perspective. What you might see as prejudice or race-baiting, is me describing what I see around me. Furthermore, I make sure to highlight the races because I find the level of prejudice I encounter at the hands of expats on a daily basis extremely difficult to understand. Seeing as how they're here living among different races and skin colors. Ultimately, I'm not "baiting" anything. It's only bait if you choose to latch on.

By Lidiya, Pattaya (17th January 2015)

Why are you race baiting all the time? Putting (mostly) in front of white doesnt hide your predjudice.

By Non-lefty, Bangkok (17th January 2015)

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