Can Asia's number one 'adult playground by the sea' really offer anything for the English language teacher?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Overweight westerners with their tiny pay-by-the-week-or-month Thai companions' is I believe the quotation.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
Pretty good, English is in demand here due to the tourist industry and abundance of expats. There are a lot of language schools in and around Pattaya such as Shane English, PLC and ABC school. There are also lots of government schools and private schools, some better than others. Theres also plenty of companies looking for ESL teachers if working with kids isn't your thing.
The best idea would be to come and check it out personally, visit schools, get a feel for them, their directors and their students.
Due to the influence of foreign expats, you'll likely find a large number of half Thai-farang students and students of other nationalities among your classes. A lot of schools also have bilingual English programs. However, salaries are not very high unless you are at an international school, certainly making it difficult to warrant the "Pattaya-lifestyle". Luckily there's also plenty of private students to be found if you're willing to put the work in.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Just an hour and a half by car, 2 hours on the bus or three and half hours on the very cheap train.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Lets be real. Pattaya is Disneyland for adults. Besides Bangkok and maybe Phuket, it has just about the best nightlife going.
The nightlife is crazy and very diverse. There are not just the stereotypical girly bars and go-gos (of which there are many) but a lot of nightclubs, British/Irish/Aussie pubs and just about everything in between.
Walking Street is the nightlife hub but there are different aspects of nightlife dotted all around town. Whether you're after some hole in the wall street beer with plastic chairs or a top end VIP experience, Pattaya nightlife really does have something for everyone but depending on how careful you are, its easy to fall into bad habits and you can kill off your teacher salary on a night out way too easily. Its a dog-eat-dog world in big bad Patts.
The same applies for food. You can find a large variety of foods due to the city's heavy reliance on tourism and expats. You can find great Mexican, Indian, English, Japanese, American, Italian, Middle Eastern, Russian and many other foods in town, however they are expensive and indulging in the temptation of Western foods can quickly eat away at a teacher's meagre salary. It can be hard to bring yourself to eat rice when you know there's a fantastic burger or pizza joint around the corner.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
This depends on what you are after and how close to the action you want to be. Thai style apartments in the 'darkside' can go for as low as 4k or 5k while luxury condos and villas by the beach can be astronomical. Like the nightlife, there's something for everyone
Shopping malls, department stores?
Pattaya is very good for shopping with numerous malls and a lot of international chain brands.
It's great for finding western products that can't be found in many other places in Thailand. Just to name a couple, the malls include Central Festival, Mike shopping mall and Harbor Mall. There are also plenty of markets including the night bazaar and my favourite one, the Thepprasit weekend market.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Excellent as you would expect with so many international tourists and long-term residents around.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
You certainly won't get stared at. There is a year round influx of tourists and many expats in Pattaya. However, this comes with it's own problems. You won't be stared at but you will be routinely harassed by people trying to sell you anything from dodgy watches and sunglasses to promoting their ping-pong show which is arguably worse than just being stared at.
Pattaya is full of touts and scammers and they immediately assume any farang is a dumb, rich tourist. You practically can't walk anywhere in town without being hassled by touts, prostitutes and taxi drivers. While they don't mean any harm, it can get annoying when you're just trying to walk from A to B or mind your own business and you constantly have to worry if you're being ripped off.
Unlike other parts of Thailand, the police generally know English and will routinely target farangs on motorbikes and fine them for no good reason while ignoring the family of 4 helmetless locals, their shopping and pet dog on the bike next to you.
Locals in Pattaya are nowhere near as friendly and welcoming as Thai people in other parts of the country. Expats are automatically assumed to be tourists or whoremongers and I had more negative incidents happen to me here than anywhere else in Thailand.
A good beating (or worse) is quite possible, especially considering the amount of expat "suicide" stories from Pattaya. Luckily however, for the most part it is safe, just don't do anything stupid, don't rent a jet-ski, take photographs of a motorbike you rent before you ride it, keep an eye on your bar tab (sometimes they'll try adding extras to your bill without you noticing) and if you sense someone is scamming you, politely say no and walk away or contact the tourist police on Walking Street. Use common sense basically. I still feel personally far safer in Pattaya than in most Western countries.
Patrick says - I have visited Pattaya a dozen times and have not really found the sales people, touts, or taxi drivers to be that bothersome. Maybe i just look penniless so they don't bother me. Maybe it is a matter of tolerance and perception.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
I get around by car. it has air-con and tinted windows, keeping me safe from the chaos outside.
Taxis, moto-taxis and songthaews are everywhere but make sure you choose a reputable one and agree on a price before you get in. If they are obviously trying to rip you off, just don't get in and politely walk away.
A note to farangs using motorcycles, always make sure to wear a helmet and keep a diligent watch for police. They regularly target farangs. Being in a car with tinted windows, I can luckily avoid most of this.
Main advantages of living there?
Availability of just about any type of food. great shopping and always something to do. Legendary nightlife and of course the "naughty nightlife" if you're into that. Sometimes, with all the excitement that Thailand is, expats just long for those creature comforts.
Easy trips to islands and Pattaya is only about 90 minutes away from Bangkok making it easy to escape to the big mango for a weekend (or travel abroad through the airports).
Pattaya is on the beach so doesn't get quite as hot as other parts of Thailand. Also it is one of the driest regions of the country and doesn't get nearly as much rain as other coastal regions further south
J says - Pattaya is just about my favourite place in Thailand. It is literally the Las Vegas of Asia. It is so comfortable and generally such an easy place to live due to the vast availability of creature comforts and the cosmopolitan, international vibe of the place but far more chilled out, cheaper, smaller and less suffocating than big bad Bangkok. Unlike Bangkok, its easy to navigate and no matter where you are in Patts, you're never far from the sea or some greenery.
Availability of just about any type of food. great shopping and there's always something to do. Legendary nightlife with something for just about every night owl and of course the "naughty nightlife" if you're into that kind of thing. It goes without saying that Pattaya is truly single man's paradise.
Sometimes, with all the excitement that Thailand is, expats just long for those creature comforts like a decent burger and some good English conversation beyond "how are you, where you come from?".
There's also a unique, laid back, non-judgmental vibe in Pattaya. Locals and expats alike very much hold the mindset of "live and let live". Walk the streets hand in hand with a Thai girl of any age out in the more traditional provinces and get ready for stares and judgement from everyone aimed towards both of you. In Pattaya, you could pretty much walk hand in hand with a 7 foot tall, transgender, green alien with 18 breasts and nobody will bat an eyelid. It's so refreshing to be in a place without such cultural stigmas, especially after living in other, more conservative parts of Asia.
It's also fantastic for travel opportunities. There are so many touristy things to do in or around town that its hard to get bored at any time. Crazy waterparks, weird museums or random cultural sites or just exploring one of the ubiquitous malls or temples.
Leaving town, there are easy trips to nearby islands with great beaches (Koh Larn, Koh Samet etc) and great coastal areas in and around Chonburi and further east in neighbouring Rayong province around Ban Chang and Laem Mae Phim, an hour away by road where you could find yourself being the only person on the beach.
Pattaya is only about 90 minutes drive away from Bangkok on one of the ever-present buses, minivans or taxis making it super easy to escape to the big mango whether you want a weekend in the city, you need to take care of that ever dreaded visa bureaucracy at the embassy/ministry of foreign affairs or you just fancy travelling elsewhere through the airports (Suvanabhumi Airport is just an hour by road from Patts).
Geographically, Pattaya is on the coast with sea-breezes moderating the weather so it doesn't get quite as hot and humid as other parts of Thailand. Also it is one of the driest coastal regions of the country and doesn't get nearly as much rain or flooding as other seaside regions further south or east. Chanthaburi, Trat, Phuket and Koh Samui all get far more rain than Patts so the weather is almost always good for those sun-seeking expats!
And what are the downsides?
Scammers, touts and prostitutes harassing you everywhere you go. You always have to be alert and it's difficult to trust anyone. Due to the high number of farangs, it's also harder to make friends here and many of the farangs in Pattaya are the type of people you wouldn't want to befriend anyway. Like a big city, it can be easy to feel lonely here where locals aren't as welcoming and other Westerners are less likely to chat to you than more provincial parts of Thailand.
Alcoholics, druggies, scammers, creeps, sexpats, manic depressants, criminals, Thai bashers, biker gang types, Russian mafia types, general losers and all types of shady characters have moved from across the world to find their own little bit of hedonistic paradise here. It's hard filtering the good expats from the bad.
I recommend finding a school with a few Western teachers who you get a good vibe around before you commit to any long term contract. Pattaya is very much a ruthless, dog-eat-dog city and if you run into any trouble, good luck to you.
It can also very very expensive to live here depending on your lifestyle and how responsible you can be. One of the worst things here is all the temptations readily available, every day of the week that you have to limit yourself from as a teacher on a generally modest salary.
Be it alcohol, gambling, girls, partying, Western food or tourist activities, if you have an addictive personality, it's maybe best you avoid Pattaya.
It can be hard bringing yourself to eat rice and chicken again when you know there's a fantastic burger joint or pizza place just down the street and it's also tough resisting to urge to get drunk and pick up the first bar girl you can find on any given lonely Tuesday night.
Be careful out there!
Any local attractions?
Nong Nuch gardens, Mini Siam, The sanctuary of truth (expensive). There is a great Chinese temple and buddha image carved into a mountain close to Pattaya. There's lots of generally tacky tourist places, water parks and the like. It is also easy to get out of the city and explore other areas or go to an island.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
Pattaya is one the most farang-dense parts of Thailand. Basically every third person you see is likely to be a farang. Therefore you'll have no problem finding other expats.
However, being Pattaya, many of the farangs are the type you wouldn't normally want to associate with and you should observe more caution than in other Thai cities.
These include the old and miserable types, the shady types, alcoholics, Thai-bashers, ex-convicts, druggies, creeps, sexpats, mafia types, biker gang types, thugs, wannabe tough guys, real tough guys, the desperate, the despondent, the bitter and many, many general losers.
Since Thailand started cracking down on visa requirements, there are fewer weirdos lurking in Pattaya's schools but there are many lurking in the streets and sois.
The best place to meet like-minded farangs is your colleagues in school so make sure you get a school with a decent amount of foreign teachers and try to get a vibe for them. My rule when in Pattaya was only befriend people I would consider befriending if I was in my own country.
Beer buddies from around the world will be in their dozens but it is much harder to make good, trustworthy friends here than in other parts of Thailand so having a couple of like-minded people to talk to and go for a beer with can change everything.
The best thing is as it's a large and cosmopolitan Thai city, you'll meet all kinds of interesting characters in Pattaya and everyone will have a story. Pattaya is many things but boring it isn't.
Pattaya is definitely not for everyone. There is a certain paucity of morals about the place that will only appeal to a certain class of jaded thrill seeker. Much like Vegemite, fish sauce or Brexit, you'll either love it or hate it.
It is, in its very essence, the stale, rank smell of the morning after. It is youth and age entwining together and supping from the same cold pot. It is the deep chill of regret and the flushed heat of need. It is the mist-wracked border-land between the night-fumbled dreams of stilted adolescence and the crass cash-fueled opportunities of middle age.
It is the very place that Peter Pan went to die.