Pattaya is a city of 500,000 people in Thailand, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand is about 165 km southeast of Bangkok in the province of Chonburi. It is one of the biggest centres of tourism in Thailand, with some 1.5 million visitors each year, and growing fast!
Pattaya's main attraction is its beaches. Pattaya Beach is situated along the central city in close proximity to shopping, hotels and bars. The section of beach from Central Road (Pattaya Klang) south to the harbor is directly adjacent to the core of Pattaya's abundant nightlife spots. Therefore is much less family-oriented than North Pattaya, Naklua and Jomtien Beach.
Jomtien Beach is divided off from the main part of Pattaya by Buddha Hill, just south of the city. In contrast to Pattaya Beach, Jomtien is a popular spot for family vacationers and watersports enthusiasts. There is little in the way of shopping or beer bars on Jomtien, which is essentially a residential area with beach side hotels, bungalow complexes, condominiums and restaurants. A wide array of watersport activities can be found, including jet-skis, parasailing and scuba diving. Jomtien is also home to Pattaya Park, an entertainment complex with a waterpark, roller coaster, monorail and children's activities. The 56-story Pattaya Park tower is a Pattaya landmark and can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city.
Pattaya is world famous for its nightlife. Hundreds of bars, restaurants and clubs line the busy streets, and are bustling with activity 365 days a year. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) matches can be seen from many of the open-air beer bars along Beach Road and the highly popular Walking Street. Pattaya also has numerous exotic clubs such as go-go bars and cabaret shows to suit all tastes.
Originally, Pattaya was a small fishing village until the rich of Bangkok discovered it as a beach resort in the 1960s. Soon thereafter, American soldiers from the Utapao air force base in the Rayong province began to use the area for R&R. The city grew quickly, mostly due to go-go bars and other nightlife. When the Americans left after the end of the Vietnam war the city fell into crisis, but with the rise of mass tourism from Europe, the tourism business began to grow again.
In 2001, more than 24,000 hotel rooms were available in Pattaya. Despite its reputation as being a destination for sex tourism, Pattaya has seen a large increase in family tourism in recent years due to recent efforts to present a more family-friendly image. This now makes up a large part Pattaya's tourism industry.
Pattaya has become an especially popular vacation destination for families from Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Pattaya also has a very large international expatriate population due to the large numbers of westerners who frequent the city, including over 16,000 British expats permanently here. With a low cost of living as well as having significant western infrastructure, including ultra-modern hospitals, large shopping malls and giant supermarkets, Pattaya just about has everything!