Monday, December 08, 2008

SE Asia Day 11-12: Pattaya, Thailand

This leg of the trip was probably the most ill-planned.  I wanted to stay at the beach for a few days before heading back to the US, but I wasn’t prepared to deal with ferry schedules to get to one of the islands off the coast, or the time to get down the the peninsula.  So, I chose to stay in Pattaya.
I have some mixed feelings about Pattaya.  The main demographic of the place seems to be middle-aged retired bachelors seeking or already with a Thai lover half their age.  In fact, everywhere I turned I saw ads for “western apartments” in new condominiums targeted toward retired westerners.
Pattaya has all the drawbacks that come with a tourist town and few of the benefits that come with being in a foreign country.  Things were cheaper than they would be in the states, or even much of Asia, but prices are inflated compared to the rest of Thailand. 
Over the past several years I have become accustomed to the cadence and grammar of the broken English found in different languages.  What hurt my ears though were the old men speaking broken English to their Thai lovers.
While speaking in broken English may have been necessary for effective communication, from an outsider’s perspective it just sounded condescending.  This is an approximate monologue I heard from a 60-something North American guy talking to his Thai honey on the phone:
“Hi honey.  You home?  I no home.  I at internet cafe.  I go dentist.  Bad tooth.  He pull tomorrow.  You me dinner 6?  Okay.  Bye.”
I heard the same many times over the course of the couple days I was there.
The seedy side of Pattaya isn’t hidden in some back alleys, it is in your face all over the place.  To keep from getting in trouble, I hung out at the beach one day and then the movies at night.
One day when it was raining, I spent the day at the Ripley’s Believe it or not (tourist trap I know).  Then at night, I went to the movies, had some dinner, and vegged in the room.  I was pretty fine with that.  The purpose of the couple days was to decompress before two long days of travel (first to Korea and then to the US).
I didn’t find any cool spots or restaurants.  Most of the places were western or muddled western-Thai fusion food.  There were several buffets that catered mostly to western tourists.  The beach wasn’t that great either.  It was a very narrow strip of sand and the waves were about two inches high.  Of all the places I visited, Pattaya would probably be the one place that I could say that I don’t really need to visit again.  It was far from awful, but also very far from enticing me to return.

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