Until recently Bang Saray was a sleepy fishing village where the only activity was the coming and going of the small wooden fishing craft as they depart each day to make their catch.
Recently, due to the superb location it has been “slightly” developed by one or two high end villa projects. However, it still maintains its “olde worlde charm”. The gentle sloping beach and the calm turquoise waters are rarely busy and offer an excellent opportunity for relaxing and eating local barbecue and seafood dishes.
Bang Saray Temple (Wat)
Only a couple of hundred metres in from the beach road stands the impressive Bang Saray Temple (Wat) with its tall roofs and highly decorated spires. If you are an early riser it is possible to see the monks on their daily rounds, collecting food and performing ritual blessings to the people.
Bang Saray (sometimes spelled Sere) is a small but growing village built around its fishing pier and safe harbour. While naturally the main population is Thai the remainder is made up of mostly European nationalities including Norwegian, Dutch, British, Irish, French, Italian and some Australians. This is reflected by most nationalities occupying a bar or restaurant in the village.
All in all it is a very laid back community consisting of fishermen going out to sea in the late evening as the sun goes down, and expats lazing on the beach if not golfing or indulging in watersports can be seen breezing along on that long sought after motorbike going nowhere special. While daytime is quite hot if not shaded under the many palms, the sun goes down about 18.30hrs. The locals are extremely friendly and operate their food, fruit and fish stalls on the kerbside or local market area which is normally held in the Temple grounds.
There are two Temples (Wats) in the village and as all over Thailand Temples are constructed soley from local donations the splendour and size of the Bang Saray Temples display alot of wealth in this particular area. Bang Saray is only 10 kilometers from Sattahip which is the largest Naval base in Thailand. The Navy on a weekly basis send about 100 recruits to the Village to carry out cleaning projects in the area such as Klongs (waterways) and the local beaches.
Thus the entire beach areas are spotless and the food vendors seen daily on the beach follow the example set by the Navy. During my time here I have met the only two policemen assigned to the area. Their busiest time each year is when they go around to sell tickets for the local football club or scout hall.
Nearby lies Pattaya. It is situated 150km to the southeast of Bangkok, less than two hours by road, and stretches for some 15 km along the Eastern Seaboard. Thailand’s largest resort, it shares the coast with traditional fishing villages, other resorts such as Bang Saen and Rayong, new industrial centres, the towns of Chonburi and Sri Racha, and the port and naval base of Sattahip. Pattaya Beach is a palm-fringed, sandy bay with a view of coral islands on the horizon. Nearby are other cliffs and other bays, while inland, the region is rich in agricultural products including sugar cane, tapioca, rubber, and fruit trees.
Pattaya in the 1960s was just a little fishing village, until a few Bangkok residents began to take their weekends here and generated a modest local tourist industry. Even so, the only hotel of any size was the Nipa Lodge; other accommodation tended towards holiday bungalows and beach huts.
The Vietnam War saw the start of Pattaya’s international reputation, for the fledgling resort was used as an official R&R centre for the US forces.
They were flown into U-Tapao Airport which was built for American use at the time, and shops, services, bars and hotel accommodation grew to meet the demand.
Pattaya is now a city in its own right, with its own mayor and its own administration. This is not all due to tourism. The government development program for the Eastern Seaboard has transformed the region and this rapid industrial and commercial expansion has led to many expatriates coming to live in the area. There is a new deep- sea port at Laem Chabang, 20 km north of Pattaya with a vast industrial estate and another development zone at Map Ta Phut near Rayong to the south.
Pattaya City is well located to be a major business centre serving these two giant industrial communities. There are five international schools and four international hospitals in the area.
Fun for all
As a beach resort with city status, Pattaya has something for everyone. Whereas most other beach resorts rely simply on natural surroundings for their charm, Pattaya makes an all out attempt to provide the best of everything. There is just about everything you can think of for recreation, entertainment, sightseeing and fun. Pattaya can be whatever you want it to be.
Such is it variety that it is ideal for all kinds of visitors. While there is plenty to keep the children happily occupied, there is also everything for the sports enthusiastic, for couple of all ages seeking rest and relaxation and for those who are simply looking for warm sunshine.
After dark options include open-air bars, nightclubs, cabaret shows and discos. The nightlife centre is South Pattaya, popularly known as “The Strip”. but if this is a trifle brash and noisy for some tastes, there are alternative quieter spots for evening fun in a more relaxed style. Shopping too, can be an evening attraction. Most establishments close late and the dedicated bargain hunter can find all of Thailand’s best buys – silk, gems and jewellery, tailor made clothing, handicrafts and more.
Pattaya is increasingly popular venue for international conventions, conferences and seminars. Several of the larger hotels are fully equipped to host meetings or receptions for a thousand of more people, and even smaller properties off a range of well appointed function rooms.
Complementing the luxury of sheer space is a comprehensive selection of state-of-art equipment for audio-visual presentations and other conference related activities.
Pattaya boasts an incredible choice of accommodation to suit every pocket. Facilities range from luxury hotels with private beaches to bay-side hotels and bungalows and inland economy class hotels and guest houses.
The easiest and most popular way to reach Pattaya is by bus. From the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, there are departures every 30 minutes by air conditioned bus from 5 am until 10 pm. The one-way fare is Bt 100. From the Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit II) there are departures again every 30 minutes from 5 am to 7 pm with a one way fare of Bt 105.
Few visitors to Pattaya are aware that the city does have a railway station. It is north of Sukhumvit Rd close to Siam Country Club. One train a day leaves Bangkok’s Hualamphong station at 7 am and takes up to five hours to reach Pattaya stopping at many stations along the way. U-Tapao, which is located near Sattahip, has very few scheduled flights. Most visitors travelling this way are on chartered flights. Alternatively for those who prefer to arrive with more comfort and style, Taxies and limos are available direct from the Bangkok airport 24 hours a day.
For getting around the main bay area, the minibuses and baht buses charge a flat fare of Bt 10. The run to Naklua is also Bt 10 and to Jomtien Bt 30. Drivers usually ask for Bt 40 to travel up the hill to Royal Cliff Beach Resort. Motorcycle hire will cost you between Bt 150 and Bt 700 a day, depending on size. Be very confident of your ability to handle the bigger bikes, including your skill in taking swift evasive action. Wear a crash helmet.
A jeep from a beachside vendor is about Bt 1000 a day. Check that you have enough gasoline in the tank to get yourself to the nearest filling station and satisfy yourself that the brakes are sharp. You will not be asked to show your driving license, but most of these beachside hire places will ask that you deposit your passport with them. Ask where they are going to keep it because it may simply be placed in the attendants pocket or houlder bag and travel around with him.
Bicycles can be hired from beachside vendors at Bt 100 a day or Bt 20 an hour. If you prefer to drive reputable vehicles with full insurance cover, and it is strongly advised, Pattaya has a choice of car rental companies. Two leading names are Budget Car and Truck Rental at Thip Plaza and Avis which is located at the Dusit Resort in North Pattaya. In addition to international standards of service, these companies will also offer you special deals, tour ideas, maps and other attractions to make your stay easier. If you prefer not to self drive you can hire cars with drivers to drive you to the destination of your choice for an agreed upon price.
Pattaya has three seasons. November to February, when it’s hot; March to May, when it’s hot and humid and June to October, when it’s hot and wet.
Dress as lightly as possible. Because of the heat and humidity, man-made fibres are not recommended. Pack some cool cottons, and if you find that you are changing your clothes at an alarming rate you will be able to buy locally made clothing very cheaply.
Shorts and sandals are the usual daytime wear. In hotels and more upmarket restaurants, wear smart casual. If visiting a temple the usual dress rules apply; gentlemen, no shorts please, and long sleeves are preferred; ladies, no shorts, short skirts, or halter-tops.
Post and Telecommunications
The Post Office and international telephone office are together in South Pattaya on Soi 15, known to all as Soi Post Office. There are several private run long-distance phone centres, most notably along Beach Road. These will be slightly more expensive than the government service.
As in Bangkok, the number of internet cafes seems to increase every week. Most will post their rates in the window, and as competition is intense the prices are invariably low.
Health and Safety
Never drink tap water, and don’t even gargle with it. Always use bottled water, which is readily available and inexpensive, particularly if you choose a local brand. The sun is strong, even during the rainy season and when there is cloud cover, so use a good sunscreen and limit your exposure time. Malaria is no threat, but mosquito bites can be a major irritant. Seafood is mostly caught locally and is of high quality, but given the spicy ingredients to almost any meal, the occasional upset stomach is a possibility.
The most likely way of slowing down your vacation is by having an accident, so watch your step when crossing the road, even (or especially) at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Medicines for minor ailments are readily available at the many drug stores in the city, and high standard of medical treatment for more serious problems can be expected from most of the clinics and hospitals. General practitioners, dentists, opticians and pharmacies are readily available.
Each of the private hospitals has its own ambulance service and 24-hour emergency facilities. Most medical specialties are represented: neurology, orthopedics, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, urology, dentistry.
Cardiac patients will usually be referred to Bangkok. Note that an ambulance is not routinely called in the event of an automobile accident, and if you require assistance from the government service a Thai speaking person should dial 191 in Pattaya or 193 on the highway to arrange an ambulance service.
For information and advice, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Central Office: Region 3 (Pattaya) is open seven days a week throughout the year, including public and national holidays, from 8:30am until 4:30pm. Tel (038) 428 750 or 429 113.
Residents and Lifestyles
Pattaya has many expatriate residents, and is essentially an international tourist resort and expanding city, so the Thai population is itself very internationalised. Most notices are in English as well as Thai, and you will find plenty of signboards in German and even Russian. Most vendors are used to non-Thao speakers and are ready with at least a smattering of English or German, vigorous miming, a smile, and an ever-ready calculator.
Few of the Thai residents can claim to be natives of the locality. Even so, they haven’t abandoned their traditional culture, and beneath the glossy city veneer you will still find evidence of underlying ethnic beliefs and customs.
Pattaya is one of the oldest diving centres in this part of Asia. It has a year-round diving season with good visibility, the waters have a mean temperature of 28 degrees C, and there is a rich variety of marine life and coral. There are also two wrecks which experienced divers can explore: The Bremen, a 300-foot boat, lies upright in 24 meters of water off the Thai navy town of Sattahip, while the freighter Hardeep rests in 30 meters of water in a channel between two islands off Samae San, not far from Sattahip.
Pattaya offers a wide choice of well-stocked and safe PADI and NAUI operators, with competitive prices and deals. Most of them have offices along the waterfront. Costs average at about 1,500 baht per day, including transportation, food and equipment. Visitors can windsurf, water ski, sea walk, swim, sunbath, snorkel, sail, or take trips to offshore coral islands. They can rent water scooters to explore Pattaya Bay, and motorcycles and jeeps to explore neighbouring beaches such as the increasingly popular Hat Chom Thian just south of Pattaya. Tennis enthusiasts can enjoy themselves at the courts of leading hotels. Further entertainment includes bowling alleys, snooker halls, shooting galleries and archery.
Attractions outside Pattaya City
Pattaya Elephant Village is on the road to Siam Country Club Golf Course. The elephants displaying their forestry skills, perform cute tricks, and even play football. sDaily showtime is 14:30pm. Panarak Park is on the road to Siam Country Club Golf Course, and has a tropical garden setting. The park is equipped with fishing gear and a well-sticked lake. There is also bungalow accommodation, restaurants, jogging and cycling paths, boating and water-cycling.
Bira International Circuit located at KM14 on Route 36 to Rayong, offers international motor and motorcycle racing. The 2.4 kilometre is ideal for formula 3 races. If you want to experience speed, the circuit is open everyday. Hat Chom Thian, located 2 kilometres from South Pattaya, is good for swimming. The beach has become popular for water sports and activities because it has a long straight coastline and there are less boats anchored in the area. Pattaya Park is between South Pattaya and Hat Chom Thian, and is a water amusement park with water slides, whirlpools and a large pool for children. Open from 9:00 – 18:00 hrs. Nong Nooch Village is about 15 km from South Pattaya, and is a Thai village style recreation park.