Every once in a while I get undisturbed sleep. And last night was one of them. I woke up refreshed and ‘full of beans’. I was ready for a long walk along the beach after breakfast. The shower was a somewhat a dampener, for the flow was poor. I complained about it at the reception and the response was not at all appropriate. I felt all the more peeved because the hotel is pricey and they have quite a few properties in Pattaya. Perhaps they do not bank on repeat customers, is what I observed. There are so many Indians staying in the hotel that I started wondering if I was in Delhi. They were loud and boisterous, obviously out to have fun away from home, in every sense of the term. Most of them have come as part of groups, availing package tours. This morning when I reached the hotel restaurant I was asked to go to another building where breakfast had been arranged for Indians; poori chole, vada sambar, fried rice and fruits, besides fresh juice and fruits. The loud chatter and ‘we own the world’ attitude can be annoying at times, as it was at the buffet.
The hotel is situated on a road almost parallel to the beach. I did not know that because the reception did not have a tourist map I could use. They were most unhelpful when it came to tuk tuk charges. When I enquired how much it would cost to get to the beach, all he said was, “I don’t know”! Once that was said he quickly lost interest in the fact that I was in front of him seeking information; he got back to his computer and I was left standing there. Mercifully, he did tell me that I could get a tuk tuk outside the hotel.
In a short while I waived down a tuk tuk that had just two women passengers. I did not know where to get off for the beach. After a ten minute ride I asked the older of the two women where I should get down and what I should pay. She asked me to get down where she would and told me to pay 10 THB to the driver when I did. When I got down I realised that one could get to the beach from anywhere on that road – I could have done that from the hotel too instead of taking the tuk tuk ride. The receptionist should have told me this. The Sun was beating down remorselessly even before 10 am. Fortunately, I had taken a hat with me and that provided decent protection – shops in the city and stalls along the beach sell all types and sizes of hats.
The beach, by itself, is no great shakes; it is just a narrow stretch. But what is done there is amazing. The long beach is dotted with shamianas under which there are wooden easy chairs with a plastic table in front of them. Once you choose to occupy one of them it is taken for granted that you will avail services from that ‘group’, from food to drink to massage to water sport. It is efficiency personified in local entrepreneurship. All kinds of seafood and drinks are available and at reasonable rates. Westerners find the harsh sun ideal to tan themselves. I found some of them sprawled on the beach; many could be seen just sitting on the walkway adjacent to the beach sunning and sipping. The place is clean and every vendor makes it a point to keep it so. I walked all along the beach, and sometimes on the walkway, to observe the goings on. Sartorially, I was most ill-suited for the beach, without a doubt!
Parasailing is one of the prime sports from the beach. Many companies provide speed boats that take you some distance into the sea and launch you for a 10-15 minute experience. When you get back photographs of you doing the jump will be ready; express service. There were so many in the air I wondered how they did not knot themselves up. There are boat rides for the less adventurous, water scooters for others, swimming bays for kids and much more to keep one occupied for as long as one wishes to be at the beach. Along the beach there are many shops where bargains could be had and restaurants to suit every palate.
At one end of the Beach Road is the Walking Street, which is where one has to be to claim to have been in Pattaya. The street, so named because it is closed to vehicular traffic in the evenings, is a half km of fun and frolic with nightclubs, beer bars, restaurants and shopping stalls. I was there during noon when the places were readying themselves for business in the evening. Some of the restaurants on Walking Street have fantastic views of the bay and reportedly serve some of the finest seafood in the city – live specimens of what can be served are displayed in glass tanks. Almost at the end of the bay, on the side of a hill is written “Pattaya City”, from where one gets amazing views of the bay and the city’s skyline. The Bali Hai Pier was busy with tourists trying to get the best bargain for a trip to the Koh Larn Island. I stood transfixed by the work done by tractors and drivers of speedboats and water scooters to haul them on to the shore for parking.
It was so blisteringly hot by the time that I wanted to head back to the cooler environment of the room. Before taking a tuk tuk to the hotel I armed myself with a couple of bottles of Chang Beer and grilled chicken, bought off a street vendor. The chilled beer did not last long for the body sought express replacement of fluids lost during the morning forays.
Walking Street it was in the evening too to savour the atmosphere. I walked through a warehouse on the waterfront, which was also a fish landing centre with an old wooded jetty, and caught wonderful views of the sunset. The bay and the skyline looked different in the hues of a setting Sun. It was romantic, even to me. I sat there till it became dark and then walked down the street. Beer bars with loud music and enticing girls were in business at the time. I realised that the beach and the bay are within stone’s throw away from the hotel where I was staying – so much for getting to know the place. One of the streets leading to the bay is dotted with restaurants serving only Middle East food.
Wat Chaimongkol is just a short distance from the Nova Platinum Hotel. I heard loud chantings from the complex and saw bright lights there indicating that some interesting activity is afoot. It must have been some special occasion for there was a bustling market selling local wares and some amazing food. There were satays, skewered sausages, grilled meats and fish, special sweet meats, drinks of all conceivable fruits and fried delicacies such as beetles, water bugs, worms and grasshoppers. There were many activities for children too like a small ferris wheel, trampoline, shooting range, etc.
I headed to the Boat Bakery, where I had dinner last night, for another authentic Thai dish for dinner. It was seafood fried rice tonight. It did take a long time for the order to materialise, making me wonder if they were casting their nets for the catch. However, when the plateful of seafood fried rice was placed before me, I knew they weren’t. Unless the seafood was ‘dressed up’ as vegetables I could not get any evidence of it till I was almost halfway through the plate. Then surfaced a couple of emaciated shrimps that even had its shell slipping off because of mal nutrition! At the end were vestiges of what must have been a dwarf squid. Back in the room I made up for the disappointment with a bottle of beer and chicken sausages.