Pattaya is Thailand's oldest international beach resort. It was "discovered" as it were, by American servicemen during the Vietnam war. The nearby U-Tapao air base was used by the US during the war, so Pattaya was a handy "R & R" location.
With such beginnings, its hardly surprising that Pattaya quickly gained an image as one of Thailand's seedier beach resorts. However, in recent years the local authorities have made considerable efforts to clean up Pattaya's image, even though that has generally meant adding more family-oriented attractions rather than just getting rid of the seedy bits.
Pattaya's location just two hours from Bangkok makes it a popular weekend destination for people wanting to escape the big city. This in turn guarantees that there is plenty of accommodation in just about every price category.
There aren't many sights in Pattaya. The main attraction is the beach, so don't expect to see much of the "real" Thailand here.
The main drawback to Pattaya for the independent traveller is getting there. Pattaya lies about 190 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Bangkok. Via the new motorway it's less than a two hour drive. Buses leave Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Skytrain Ekamai station) on a very frequent schedule. You can often get a car service through your hotel if travel by bus doesn't appeal.
Travelling to Pattaya from Bangkok by air is not recommended. The closest airport to Pattaya is the U-Tapao air force base, which also serves as a domestic airport. Its nearly an hour's drive from there to Pattaya. With the time consumed checking in before the flight and collecting your baggage at the end, it's really not recommended if you're already in Bangkok.
Pattaya has accommodations in just about every price category. However, only a few of the big international chains are here. Listed below are some suggestions for good hotels that can be booked from the web. South of Pattaya, Jomtien has fewer 'posh' options, but has a less sleazy atmosphere. At the far end of Jomtien is the area's main yacht marina.
Pattaya's main attraction is its long curving beach. At the north end, the Dusit Resort occupies a small promontory. Beyond the Dusit is a series of small bays, each with its own hotel. At the southern end, a hill rises and extends well into the sea. At the top of the hill is a temple with a large seated Buddha at the crown. There's a good view of all of Pattaya bay from the temple.
Beyond the hill, south of Pattaya, is Jomtien beach, another long stretch of sand. The beach is slightly deeper than Pattaya, and the section just south of the hill is very popular with Thais. There are many sections here where you can rent a beach chair and order food and drinks from staff serving that section. Numerous vendors also pass by offering fruit, ice cream and many other things, including massages.
There are several islands off the coast of Pattaya. One of the largest is called Koh Larn, or "Coral Island." The island is a popular destination for day trips, and even has some modests accommodations for overnight visitors.