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Bad Girls Go to Pattaya

As the t-shirts proclaim: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Pattaya.” My old friend from England, Giles, who got me my first job in Thailand, and who had been living and working as a financial consultant in Bangkok for 5 years when I moved here, once described Pattaya as “Bangkok-by-the-sea.” To be more specific, it’s Bangkok-gone-bad-on-steroids-by-the-sea.

Pattaya attracts a lower class of person, both tourists and Thai tourist-service providers. A whole quarter of the town is a red light district and the girls working there seem to turn bad quickly and develop a sinister streak, partly as a reaction to the type of tourists they meet, but also through pressure from their already corrupted peers. Do bad girls go to Pattaya, or does Pattaya make girls go bad?

More farangs get swindled, robbed, cheated or even murdered in Pattaya than in any other city in Thailand. The police offer little protection, and are, in deed, often key players in the crimes. The word “mafia” is overused in Thailand, but in Pattaya there are several organised criminal elements, from the taxi mafia to the Russian connection, all doing their bit to leech the tourists that the city needs to survive.

So who are the tourists that keep Pattaya going? Well, many Bangkokians have condos there simply because of it’s proximity to the capital. The two-hour drive from Bangkok ensures that it is packed with fleeing urbanites every weekend and bank holiday. They certainly can’t come for the beaches, which, although they have been cleaned up in recent years, are still not in Thailand’s top twenty and serve merely as a place to eat seafood in deckchairs under parasols by day, and a place for katoeys to hassle farangs by night. Nevertheless, they are always crowded. Anyone who dares venture into the murky sea risks being mowed down by marauding jet skis or speedboats dragging inflatable banana boats behind. From my conversations with Thais who go to Pattaya, I have learnt that many don’t even make it as far as the beach. It seems that they spend most of their time inside their condos, sleeping, watching TV, and playing cards, only venturing outside to buy seafood. Personally, I find it strange that someone would go on vacation and then do exactly what they do at home, but each to their own I suppose.

However, Thais also avoid the beach for a practical reason. They stay in the shade from fear of getting a tan. Brown skin, so cool and exotic to many westerners, is looked upon as an ugly symptom of the peasantry by Thais. For this reason, Thai labourers, farmers and vendors will often be covered from head to toe with thick, long-sleeved shirts; corduroy trousers; and even balaclavas, despite the searing heat. What’s more, it explains why the same cosmetics company that manufactures artificial tanning creams in England also successfully markets whitening lotions in Thailand. What colour would you like to be today, madam?

Apart from Bangkokians, Pattaya also attracts droves of foreign male sex tourists of all ages. Although the vast majority are heterosexual, there are also large numbers of fat, old German and Scandinavian men who come to have sex with katoeys or young boys. While, apart from paedophiles, I have no interest in or sense of judgement on anyone’s choice of sexual partner, these sad individuals embody everything that is bad about Pattaya with their utter contempt for Thai culture and staunch resistance to assimilation. There are scores of bars selling German beer and restaurants serving bratwurst lest they start to lose their bellies or suffer a bout of culture.

I once received a most bizarre and hypocritical lecture from an Englishman in Pattaya about culture. It was a long weekend due to one of the Buddhist holidays, and Pim and I had decided at the last minute to take a break in Pattaya. On such holy days, all the bars are obliged to close and even the 7/11s can’t sell alcohol. However, one or two bars always pay off the right policeman to get around such inconveniences. Pim and I had been for an afternoon stroll, and as we arrived back at our hotel, I spotted a bar nearby that was open.  Pim headed back to the room to freshen up, but I popped into the bar for a couple of beers. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people in, but there was a small group of English people blatantly drinking at a table on the open terrace. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer. As I overheard the group talking, I got the impression that they were a family, and that one of them had lived here for a short time, whilst the rest had come on holiday to visit him. After a while, the one who seemed to be living here came to the bar to order some more beers.

“Oh, are you getting a round in?” I joked. He just scowled at me. I followed up my intended ice-breaker with a throwaway remark about how it was strange that the bars didn’t stay open in tourist resorts on public holidays and that people who aren’t Buddhists should be able to get a drink. That was enough to set him off.

“It’s about respect,” he snarled. Now, he had a point there and I would gladly have conceded as such if it hadn’t been for the five bottles of Heineken he had just bought, and which negated his attempt at righteousness.

“We’re not all just in Thailand on holiday, you know,” he continued, clearly assuming that I was. He went on, trying to impress me. “I’ve been living here for a year. I’m here for the culture.”

Hang on a minute. Culture? Pattaya? Am I missing something? His diatribe was clearly intended to put me in my place and set him on the moral high ground, but it was failing miserably on several counts. I was tempted to explain to him the absurdity of his comments, but decided to make my point more subtly. I turned to the barmaid and told her in Thai that this farang said he lived in Pattaya for the culture.

“Is he crazy?” she laughed. “Culture in Pattaya? There isn’t any.”
“I think he likes little boys,” I continued, “but he can’t have any while his family is here, so he’s in a bad mood.” She glanced at him briefly and laughed again.

The farang, who claimed to be here for the culture, obviously didn’t feel that learning the language should be part of his intellectual enlightenment. He returned sheepishly to his group unaware of what exactly the joke had been, although he clearly knew it was at the expense of his ignorance.

Paul Snowdon

Related article – Pattaya Part 2: Last Minute Resort

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Have your say...

Bangkok Blogger
28 Mar 2010, 06:27
Good old Pattaya! What do the Thais think of it? A necessary evil or just another beach town?
Richard Horvath
18 Feb 2011, 04:58
I've only been here since 1989 so I'm no expert, but to insult someone you are standing next and to lose their face just so can show everyone you speak Thai seems so very western. I think the woman laughed at your insults only because you were buying booze from her.I know you're better than that, so much for respect.
Naked Farang
20 Apr 2011, 08:05
But Richard, the purpose of my actions wasn't to "show everyone I speak Thai". It was to show the idiot on his high horse how hypocritical he was being. And as the vast majority of farangs here don't bother to learn Thai, I don't see how it was being "so very western".

On a connected point, while I am respectful of Thai culture and attempt to assimilate myself into it whenever possible, I don't always agree with it and am happy to retain my own cultural identity. I never set out to offend anyone - Thai or farang. But I am not averse to putting my foot in it from time to time.
22 Jan 2014, 07:28
although I agree with Richard's comment wouldn't that depend on how loudly a falang spoke Thai?

Besides, I think the point was missed about how Pattaya has nothing at all in common with Thai culture, it just happens to be in the same country. And I have lost count down the years how many ex-pats I have come across who choose not to learn or to endear themselves to Thailand. They are there because they were bewitched by the sex along with the English teachers, waiting for my inheritance to come through'ers, and falang kee nok..
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