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Friday, June 1, 2018

Adventure Cometh and Then Some, Beyond the Red Lights of Pattaya


Pattaya is one of those places that radiates an aura of mystique to travelers such as myself - who first learned about this resort city through tales of debauchery, mayhem and smut. It was - as suggested by my preconceived notion – as a place composed of organized chaos of neon lights, lavish adult clubs and endless cabaret shows that last through the morning.


Shit-pit of Asia”, “world’s largest red-light district”, and as brutally described in Alex Garland’s novel The Beach; “was a hell-hole”. If reputation could kill indeed, then Pattaya alone, can butcher an army of thousands. After a couple of trips to this place, I realized – just like Mr. Snow - I know nothing. There’s more to Pattaya than scuttlebutts and western sex tourists’ epic sagas of wickedness.

Past the Smokescreen

I looked at everyone inside our van filled with travel writers to try to unmask who among us would venture along the infamous strip of Pattaya’s red-light districts. “That’s what all travelers do here anyway” I told myself. This was during my first trip to Pattaya and we just came from Bangkok after covering a wholesome event graced by Thailand’s tourism poster boy; local actor Mario Maurer.

Enjoy wine tasting at the scenic Silverlake Vineyard
I ticked off the four ladies in our group and gave them a zero percent chance of desiring to experience the infamous side of Pattaya. As I was about to resign at the thought that I’ll end up as the only who’d do so, I heard our tour guide telling us about the next day’s itinerary; Floating Market, Frost Magical Ice of Siam, Cartoon Network Amazone, Siriporn Orchid Park, Art in Paradise, Mini Siam, Night Market Walking streets, Silverlake Vineyard a number of cultural shows and a list of other good natured and non-grimy activities.

How about some whiskey? inside the freezing Magical Ice of Siam
It dawned on me during the rest of my initial journey to Pattaya, that it is a place teeming with family-oriented attractions. Not one second that we caught a glimpse of the infamous red-light section of the city. Not that I mind, it’s just I finally learned that looking past the notorious mask of Pattaya, one could unearth many reasons to enjoy this place in a more wholesome manner.

No Van Damme, but surreal watching a Muay Thai match in person for the first time
To cap my first night in Pattaya, I joined my fellow travel writers in watching a popular Thailand sport and form of martial arts; Muay Thai, where the only red colors I saw was from the blood gushing from the nose of the beaten but courageous fighters.

Feast on local cuisine at the Pattaya Floating Market
Pattaya Redux – The Adventure Cometh

My second time to Pattaya gifted me with another set of experience far removed from the sleazy reputation it amassed through countless chronicles of sex tourist. Firstly, our group isn’t one and secondly, our trip sponsors; Air Asia Philippines, KK Day the leading travel experience e-commerce platform in Asia and Pattaya Sea Adventure wants us to experience the different side of Pattaya; its thriving adventure hub.

A Parasailing experience courtesy of Pattaya Sea Adventure / Booked via KKDay 
With leading Asian budget airline Air Asia now serving direct Manila to Bangkok flights, the location of Pattaya even becomes an appealing side trip from the capital city of Thailand. A mere two-hour drive brings travelers to this seaside town now undergoing a massive facelift from its old flesh-driven character to the now burgeoning adventure activities catering to the whole family.

What better way to start our first morning with a short trip to the bay side and view the countless numbers of parasailing chutes out in the skies over the gleaming waters of the of the Gulf of Thailand. Little did I expect, the people from Pattaya Sea Adventure arranged for us to try parasailing. I have tried tandem paragliding before in Cavite and at Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, but flying on a chute on my own and being towed by a motorboat, was a new experience for myself.

The motorboat tugging my chute and the skyline of Pattaya
We docked our speedboat on a wooden platform in the middle of the sea where we saw a queue of people advancing in a clockwork motion like cars in an automobile factory, having their parasailing gear strapped to their body and into the chutes itself. In a span of under a few minutes, I found myself lining up and getting ready to fly.

The laser carved image of Buddha at Kao Chi Chan Mountain
It happened so fast I only heard one of the crew signaled to me to “get ready!” and off I flew in the air. During my paragliding experience, my position was in a seated position so only my legs were left dangling in the air. This time though, my whole feet hanged in the air so it brought a different type of flying sensation.

I gathered my bearing just in time I saw the motorboat below tugging me, turn a corner and I fixed my sight at the countless circling boats below, the other parachutes flying in the air and the distant skyline of Pattaya.

Pattaya Sunset
The parasailing lasts for one circle lap around the platform where we launched at a duration of just under three minutes. Fortunately for myself, the crew on the platform failed to catch me on my first landing attempt, thus allowing me for another lap of flying in the air.

I finally landed back on the parasailing podium on my second attempt, giving me just enough time of around six minutes of winged time, to fully enjoy the parasailing experience.

Sea Walk

Our next activity reminded me of the Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr. film Men of Honor, about a team of 1950s master divers because of the underwater helmet used during that time almost resembled the ones we wore during our subsurface sea walk.

Popular actor and vlogger Chucky Dreyfuss during our Sea Walk
According to my fellow travel writer; Ferdz of En Route, the helmet weighs 35 kg. It felt heavy at first but when I went underwater, it felt lighter and I only encountered a sudden violent pressure in my ear. I managed to reach my one hand under the helmet and into my nose to depressurize and afterward, I felt alright throughout the whole thing which lasted under 20 minutes.

I always wondered about this kind of activity, especially after seeing photos of similar sea walks in Boracay, so I was glad to have finally experienced it.

Koh Larn Island

We spent the rest of the day chilling and doing other water activities such as snorkeling, jet-skiing and even riding a banana boat at Coral Island, or locally known as Koh Larn.

With fellow travel bloggers Ferdz Decena and Edgar Zeta Yap
Popular among tourists, Koh Larn attracts more than 3,000 people a day and this number balloon to 20,000 during peak season. When we came, the thick beach crowd were obvious, especially when viewed from the Buddha Mountain – where a large Golden Buddha statue is erected.

Some of us watched the popular Transvestite show in Pattaya. Their performances are being raved as a must-see / KKDay
After a sumptuous lunch, we headed to the lesser crowded Hardtien Beach – which is still part of the Coral Island. The snorkeling spot isn’t that impressive as what we have in Palawan and other parts of the Philippines. Traveler spoiled by the pristine beaches of our country, will find Coral Island as an average destination where you can just chill with your friends.

Beyond the Red Lights

I saw a glimpse of the infamous red light streets of Pattaya. And after experiencing the other facets of this city, I came to see it as just one fragment of a sum of many things, that should not hold you back from exploring this city so near to Bangkok.

The Wood-carved Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. Photo credit: KKDay
Running out of time I wasn’t able to visit the Sanctuary of Truth – a majestic work of architecture consisting of a gigantic temple built on hand-hewn wood carvings. I spent our last morning walking along the bay walk as I watched the people frolicking by the beach. I sat on the bench and bought myself an ice cold Chang beer. Thirsty from the long stroll, I took a hurried gulp and as I finished the bottle, I wondered about where mischief reigns in this city. 

Experiencing Pattaya on two different occasions, had me feeling its other vibes which were far removed from the image it has infamously – and undeservingly carried through the years. Beyond the red-lights, which in itself is a fascinating sub-culture already, Pattaya have other absorbing things to offer. 

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Pattaya is only two hours away from Bangkok. Air Asia Philippines now flies directly from Manila to Bangkok daily.



For Hassle-free travel bookings, let KKDay | Your Holiday Expert take care of your holiday needs. Check out their travel offerings at their official website.

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