It had been two years since I’d last journeyed to Thailand’s wild child resort Pattaya and I’d heard the girl had changed. Pattaya still sits seductively on the Gulf of Thailand’s east coast with her micro skirt billowing in the sea breeze exposing strong, deep-tanned thighs and cheap market underwear, but I’d read she now wore a conical paddy hat, and beneath it was a strong smell of vodka. Pattaya’s new friends were Chinese and Russian, and if that were true, the girl would have changed too much for me.
Pattaya has changed, but hardly in leaps and bounds. There are more Chinese tour groups about, but their collective curiosity isn’t going to kill Pattaya’s nightlife cat. There’s plenty of Russian signs here and there, saying this and God knows what, but the only bears they’re hunting are petite cuddly ones in the Go Go and beer bars. Pattaya’s changing face may have slanted eyes and a ruddy vodka nose, but her mouth still pouts and spouts ‘hello sexy man’, in rudimentary English.
The biggest change is on Soi Buakhao, for years a place to escape from Pattaya’s seedier side, but now its long winding road has more Go Go bars, massage parlours and girly bars than most hotels have chopsticks.
Soi Buakhao is a far cry from how it was ten years ago and those not in the know about the ‘New Buakhao’ might start planning their escape before they’ve finished their first drink and their eggs are still white and yellow – if Moses had got to the top of Soi Buakhao the Ten Commandments would’ve been penned on a sandy-coloured thong with a few of its ethics missing.
In many ways Pattaya hasn’t changed. You can still buy a beer and kebab for 100 baht (US$3.3), and get your head down in a decent room for 15 dollars a night. The beaches are still second-rate and you get sand kicked in your face by the scores of beach pedlars selling everything you don’t want, and will never need….. and Pattaya’s bar girls are still sponsored in the main by clapped-out 1970’s shoes stood at ATM’s and foreign exchange windows.
Pattaya is Thailand’s sin city and a place where both cute Isaan ass and five o’clock shadows carry handbags. It’s a resort where your bar and restaurant bills come in a bin, and the kind of town that would make the most innocent of sweet country mama’s admit that sex sells and syphilis is easier to say sober.
The girl has changed, not too much, but it’s going to be a long time before Pattaya lowers her honey-high hem and gets taken to the opera.
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