Friday, May 9, 2008

Pattaya Travel Guide – Top 10 Recommendations

With its large expatriate community and diverse attractions, Pattaya has gained a reputation as one of Thailand's leading international communities. Its other reputation as Bangkok's playground and the capital of the sex industry, it attracts a very specific sort of tourist. No matter what your reasons for visiting, you'll find an exhausting list of attractions, theme parks and entertainment to keep you busy while you're here. In Pattaya gay travellers are also welcome and made to feel comfortable. Thailand is very tolerant of gay activities, Pattaya is no exception.

Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm

The Million Years Stone Park and Crocodile Farm is a great place to take in some of the indigenous plant and animal life of Thailand. More than 1,000 crocodiles are kept and bred on the grounds and there are some elephants and rare albino bears. Elephant shows are held every day, as is the crocodile roundup. The grounds also have some beautiful landscaping, most outstanding of which is the bonsai garden. The park can be reached via a 15-minute drive from Pattaya city centre.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not

This one-of-a-kind museum is located on the third floor of the Royal Garden Plaza building in Pattaya. The facility contains over 300 unusual exhibits exploring the whole gamut of weird and unexplained phenomena. Some of the more popular attractions include the Infinity Maze, an immersive, walk-through sound and light show that tests the limits of perception; and the Haunted Adventure, a resurrection of an old real-life mystery set at the Grimsby and Streaper Casket Company and brought to life with live actors, special effects and animatronics. Despite its emphasis on the odd, Ripley's is Pattaya's most outstanding museum and a definite must-see.

Sriracha Tiger Zoo

North of the city of Pattaya, the Sriracha Tiger Zoo can be found off Route 3241 via a 30-minute drive from the city centre. The subjects of this facility can be found in a variety of circumstances including in their natural surroundings as well as more interactive settings. Visitors will have the opportunity to bottle-feed young cubs as well as have their picture taken with them. The zoo is home to several other species including crocodiles, elephants and scorpions. Some of the more outlandish shows include elephants playing basketball and a woman wrestling a crocodile.

Mini Siam

One of Pattaya's most well-known sites for tourists is Mini Siam, a 1:25 scale replication of some of Thailand's most popular sites from across the country. There are 80 buildings in the park representing periods throughout Thailand's history. Don Muang Airport is on-site, as is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok and the Temple of Phimai in Nakorn Ratchisima. The best time to visit is after dark, when the exhibits are illuminated and take on a new life.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden

Anyone who wishes to visit the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden can catch a shuttle bus that departs from in front of the Nipa Lodge Hotel in downtown Pattaya. This park covers more than 600 acres and hosts a broad spectrum of exhibits dedicated to Thai culture and history. The grounds include a cactus garden, an orchid nursery and a lake with canoes that can be hired. The arts and culture centre hosts daily exhibitions of Thai dance, Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and elephant shows. There's also a zoo on-site and accommodation for overnight stays.

Wat Yansangwararam

Pattaya is not as well known for its temples and ancient architecture as Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Even so, the Yansangwararam is a temple worth checking out while in the area. It's located a few miles south of Pattaya and was built in 1988 to commemorate the 42nd year of King Bhumibol's reign. On-site is a lake with Chinese pavilions and a building that houses several art exhibits and antiques of Chinese origin. The temple itself sits at the apex of a flight of 299 stairs hemmed in by snakes.

Pattaya Elephant Village

Visitors who want to get an up close look at the iconic Thai elephant can do so at the Pattaya Elephant Village. These animals have served the country in a variety of roles over the centuries, spanning war times and more recently, teak harvesting. The elephants in the village are protected and perform daily educational and entertaining feats showcasing their forestry and football skills. Visitors can also ride the elephants into the forest and listen to English language explanations of this beast's history in Thailand.

Pattaya Beach

While it may be saturated with visitors and a little polluted, Pattaya's beachfront property continues to be its greatest draw. Visitors come to enjoy the beach in any number of ways, whether it's a walk on the tree-lined promenade; a relaxed seafood dish eaten on an outdoor veranda or simply a laid-back afternoon spent on a deckchair. Charter boats head out to some of the nearby islands where further exploration and snorkelling is available. There's not too much actual swimming in the water, though it's bustling with jet-skis, banana boats and motor boats.

Amusement parks

The constant flux of tourists through Pattaya has given way to a variety of amusement parks. Pattaya Water Park is a huge facility with water slides, Jacuzzis, whirlpools and a children's wading pool. Staggering towers at the Pattaya Park Resort and Amusement Park are capped by revolving restaurants with impressive views of the city and sea. The Funny Land Amusement Park has all sorts of carnival and theme-park style rides including a roller coaster and a pendulum Viking ship. Asia's largest aquarium is also located in Pattaya—Underwater World, with an impressive walking tunnel allowing visitors to walk in among the aquatic life.

Nightlife and gay activities

Anyone visiting Pattaya will at some point be confronted with the city's notoriety as a part of the sex industry. While it's true that sex tourism is in full force in the go-go bars along Walking street, it's easy to find more family-oriented locations across town where you can get a bite to eat or relax in the evening. There are a couple of Irish pubs, an English pub and a blues bar where tourists can enjoy a relaxed evening without the risqué atmosphere. On the whole, the nightlife in Pattaya spans all interests and there's something for everyone to enjoy. Pattaya is also a popular gay destination. Gay Pattaya is centred on Boyztown and is very welcoming. Gay travellers feel very comfortable in Pattaya and have plenty of options for fun.

Author: Andy Burrows

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