Pattaya: The Changing Face of Sin City

Hilton Hotel Pattaya


There can be no doubt that Pattaya put the sin in sin city And like Las Vegas many a guy hopes what happens in Pattaya stays in Pattaya, but to quote Bob Dylan “the times they are a-changin”.

The lovers of Pattaya, as well as the detractors, will disagree with me intently but there is no doubt that Pattaya is changing into a true tourist destination.

5 years ago there were a multitude of beer bars and entertainment venues along Beach road and second road, while there are still quite a few, large swaths of that land have given way to new upscale shopping malls, eateries, hotels and condo’s. Even Hilton has planted a brand new upscale hotel on Beach road. Don’t get me wrong, Hilton is all about the money and where there is money to be had they will build, sin city or not. But still, the Hilton name adds a measure of legitimacy to the change.

The people pumping money into Pattaya know exactly what they are doing as well as who they are targeting and it isn’t the so called sex tourist. White guys on holiday are taking the back seat to those tourists spending the real money; Russians, Chinese, Koreans and to some extent Indians. And lets not forget domestic tourism with thousands of Thai’s heading to the seaside resort of Pattaya with their families and friends. They aren’t coming to see lesbian shows or make use of the soapies.

The average male holiday maker coming to Pattaya for a 2 week holiday isn’t putting anywhere near as much money into the economy as these other tourist groups are. While they might be taking a day trip or 2, eating out every day and staying in a hotel,  in most cases the vast majority of their money is going into the bars and into Girls purses. The city obviously gets their cut of the taxes for some of that money but not as much as they are getting from the rest of the tourism trade.

Every day you can see busloads of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian tourists being shuttled from their 4 star hotels to local attractions and shopping venues.Central festival is full Russian tourists making extravagant purchase and Mike’s Shopping Mall is doing a brisk business selling bulk to the same.

On any given night the throngs of people on Walking street are a melting pot of nationalities but the majority aren’t there to drink and ogle Thai girls in the GoGo bars, they are there to mingle and take pictures so they can show the folks back home the nightlife of Pattaya.

Of all the signs on Walking street these days, and the rest of Pattaya for that matter, more than a few are now written in Russian and Chinese as well as English. One can even see signs aimed at the Indian Tourists such as the sign in front of Tony’s Disco recently that read Indians Drink for free from 9-11 at Tony’s new Indian Disco.

Perhaps it comes down to the economics of it all. Many of the traditional tourist countries represented in Thailand have been hit hard economically and aren’t taking the trips like they used too. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has also aggressively targeted these emerging markets for new tourism while cutting back their advertising to the West.

Yes, if you are looking for the dark side you can easily find it in Pattaya and it will remain that way for some time but you may have to go a littler farther or look a little harder in the future. Will Walking Street disappear? Never, it’s a landmark that all tourists love but many other entertainment venues will move or close as the tourist dollars determine what the city needs to provide.

There are those that look down their nose at Pattaya and it’s inhabitants with a quick word to anyone that will listen about how it’s a dirty town filled with pedophiles, miscreants and criminals. But even they can’t negate the thousands of Thai’s that will make the 2 hour trip from Bangkok to Pattaya with their families for some weekend fun in the sun and relaxation.

The so called sex tourists might argue it from another standpoint letting you know that there are still plenty of girls and fun to be had at a good price and nothing will ever change that.

Both sides will tell you the influx of Russians is due to the Russian Mafia which is just ludicrous. I’ve witnessed hundreds of Russian families enjoying the beaches, malls and local restaurants in the past few months and Mafia they are not. They are tourists in the truest sense of the word and tourists that Thailand has targeted well.

It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you are on or even if you continue to bury your head in the sand, Pattaya is changing. And while it won’t happen over night it will surely happen. Will the sex trade disappear in Pattaya? No. Just like it hasn’t disappeared from any other city in the world. Will there still be problems with underage sex and pedophiles? Certainly, if the Catholic church can’t stop it what the makes you think Thailand can?Times Square was the epicenter of sex in New York City until they cleaned it up , but you can still get sex there.

The biggest challenge to a changing Pattaya is changing the perception that everyone has of the town.Pattaya evokes different images for each and every person familiar with it and as Pattaya changes those perceptions will have to change as well. Anyone who’s been around long enough will know that Bangkok enjoyed the same reputation back in the day and to some extent Bangkok, as well as  Thailand, still maintains a less than stellar reputation to the ill informed of the West. What will they say about Pattaya in 10 years?


More Great Thailand Tales:

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.