Pattaya and the P Word.
by Chelsea Carter
Thailand is known for many things; it’s the land of smiles, spicy food, beautiful beaches and even more beautiful women.
My fellow volunteer-runaway and I were desperate to see a beach. We’d been in Thailand for about a month at this point and had not seen a single beach, our tans were non-existent (a travesty for an Essex girl like me) and we were stressed out from our disastrous teaching experience. The nearest beach destination was Pattaya, just a short 4 hour drive in a mini bus from Bangkok. (Aside: We had quite a cute young driver that wore an ironic captain’s hat; quite different from the usual overweight, sweaty, grumpy bus drivers you find the world over.)
Approaching Pattaya, you could almost smell the Westernisation – huge billboards popped up, road signs were in English, advertisements were for Coca Cola and idyllic beach holidays – a huge difference to my suburban Thai life I’d been living in just hours ago. The biggest, most ridiculous and hilarious difference, however, were the truck loads of middle aged white men pulling in to Pattaya, the place was literally teeming with pale balding heads and beer bellies. For the first time in my adventure I felt like I didn’t belong.
We were dropped at the side of the road, a part of Pattaya I would never see again, this is custom in Southeast Asia for foreign travelers, you get off the bus when your told and that’s that. Lucky for us, we found a taxi easily enough across the road and were able to get to our hostel.
Tip: Always have a copy of your hostel’s telephone number and address with you. The amount of taxi drivers I’ve shouted at due to my own terrible planning is actually quite shameful. Sorry taxi drivers.
Still, our minds were set on beach, beach, beach! So even though we’d arrived when the sun was setting, we had to get to the nearest one just to see it. Our hostel was about a 20 minute walk away from the nearest one, and to get there meant walking past the millions of bars and the millions of girls standing outside, playing pool, waiting for a rich falang* to walk in. Although I doubt the sight of two white girls filled them with anticipation, for reasons I can’t explain I kept my head down, trying not to make eye contact, as if I knew my place. I was just here for the beach.
But the beach was filled with rubbish. Although warm, and pretty, it had so much junk on it that it just looked sad and old. Not quite the idyllic beach holiday as advertised on the billboards just a few miles outside of town. I spent most of that week on a sun lounger, depressed (or as depressed as you can be on a sun lounger). Pattaya had been ruined by tourism and the Western ambition to find something that doesn’t exist. Paradise.
*Falang: Thai word for foreigner, with connotations of being, stupid, gulliable, idiot.