When friends visiting Thailand ask what I think about Pattaya, I often describe it as both heaven and hell. Pattaya, a city 60 miles southeast of Bangkok, is unlike anything I’ve seen in the world and it excels in highlighting the best of both humanistic and hedonistic endeavors.
Chocked full of malls, resorts and golf courses, modern-day tourists could spend their days relaxing and being pampered in true Thai style. Think fantastic Thai food and Lady Boy Shows followed by world-class Thai massages and drinks at Jomtien Beach and you get an idea of Pattaya days. Of course, in Pattaya, nights rule and the city’s famous “Walking Street” is its mascot.
Walking Street, Pattaya’s entertainment district, is essentially the first block past the gates of hell. Think Mardi Gras or Freak Nik being hosted in Hunts Point, NY in the 1990’s and you have a pretty close idea as to what Walking Street looks like nightly. From Strippers, Ping Pong Shows, and Donkey Shows to a smorgasbord of massage and spa services, anything goes and where you draw the line is likely where your morality leaves you.
Massage and spa services along Walking Street are plentiful, but understand that these are no regular massages. You’ll typically find places offering “body-to-body”, “intimate massages”, or a “Soapy massage” and all of these businesses are essentially brothels. Sex tourism is the major draw for many tourists to the area and according to Travel Wire Asia, “Despite prostitution being illegal in Thailand, Pattaya has a reported 27,000 prostitutes – that’s roughly one for every five people living in the city.” That’s a lot of sex, so understand what you’re walking into.
In most of the massage parlors, you’ll find “fishbowls.” A fishbowl is a glass enclosure with women sitting behind it and they typically have a number on them so you can choose which fish you’d like to service you. Again, Pattaya is not for the faint at heart and if indulging in hedonistic behavior is on your bucket list, then you’ve found the location to do it.
Now that you’ve gotten an education on Pattaya’s hedonism, what about its humanism? Four words…The Sanctuary of truth.
The Sanctuary of Truth is an enormous, all wood, temple undertaken by an eccentric billionaire, Mr. Lek Viriyaphand. Mr. Viriyaphand began building the sanctuary to depict the four major philosophical, religious and artistic influences seen in Thailand: Hindu, Khmer, Chinese, and Thai. He wanted to show how these religions could live in harmony together and how religions, in general, are all similar in their humanism.
Located approximately 20 minutes outside of Pattaya on the beachfront of Ratchavete Cape, the building is hand carved entirely out of wood and Thai craftsmen and artisans have been working on it for the last 25+ years; it is expected to be completed in another 25 years. I’ve visited the Sanctuary twice and frankly, I’d travel to Thailand specifically just to visit it a third time and see the progress. It is awe-inspiring in all of its detail and the activity and events surrounding the temple have only gotten better over the years.
From ATV rentals, elephant rides (no judgment), boat rides and Thai cultural shows, you and everyone in your family can be entertained for an entire day. However, the sheer size of the sanctuary and the way in which harmony amongst all of the different religions is portrayed will sincerely leave you without words – this humanism at its finest.
So whether you’re getting your soapy on or gaining spiritual insight at the Sanctuary of Truth, I promise you that your time in Pattaya will definitely be something you’ll talk about (or never tell anyone ever) for the rest of your life. Enjoy.