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Thailand - The Magic Kingdom


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Entertainment Thailand has something of a bad reputation in the West, being regarded by many as a place for S-tourism. Much of the bad press is unfair. While some of course is true, It is quite frankly, quite amazing how many Western journalists are hanging around Thailand's bars looking for dirt. And if they can't find any, they will invent it. Who will ever know the difference if he just makes up a story?

Much of the problem lies in Westerners not understanding the Thai mentality. Things that are often considered by some Westerners as dirty and disgusting, which should be hidden away in grimy backstreets are not thought by Thais to be worth the trouble of hiding. Prostitution is, believe it or not, illegal in Thailand. But then again, so is gambling, so is driving on the wrong side of the road, but who worries about it? When it comes to breaking the law in Thailand, its a bit like a Benny Hill or Monty Python sketch. Most of the time, its pretty funny. Prostitution and gambling are basically just misdemeanors.

Most of my three years in Thailand were spent in the Pattaya area, and I can tell you for sure that Pattaya is incredibly good fun. Pattaya is about two hours drive south of Bangkok, and it is huge. There are literally thousands of bars and restaurants, and the atmosphere is great. In the daytime its usually about 90f, and in the evening it drops to about 75f.

Typically, the Pattaya beer bars are out in the open air with tin or grass rooves held up by a few poles. Often they have singers, guitarists and stuff, and often they'll play Thai music and all the bar girls will start dancing that funny Thai style dance where they swirl their arms around. The atmosphere is absolutely terrific.

Believe it or not, Pattaya is a great holiday destination for couples and families. Despite the true nature of the open-air beer bars, couples, and families visit them and no one gives them a second glance. Its quite normal.

This isn't the case on the Strip, which is a long walking street in south Pattaya. It runs parallel to the beach, and is the oldest part of Pattaya. Its got lots of noise and neon and is pretty rough and sleazy. In fact, the further south you walk down the strip, the rougher it gets. Personally I'm not keen on that area of Pattaya, but it certainly has lots of atmosphere if that's what you're into.

As far as going into places with dark red curtains on the doors, generally speaking its pretty safe. There's generally no cover charge, and though the prices are higher, they're not extortionate. But you do need to be on your guard and don't get too drunk. Sometimes they'll spike your drink and you'll wake up later in a back street minus your wallet. Obviously, you have to be sensible.

Do remember that Thailand has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Fortunately, most violent crime takes place among the Thais themselves. In most bars in Pattaya you'll never see a Thai man, and any bar brawls will be Westeners against Westerners.

If you like big discos, a visit to Hollywood just off South Pattaya Road is a must. The Marina disco on the strip is a very popular venue too.

The beach at Pattaya is okay but the water is, unfortunately, polluted. In the next bay to Pattaya is Jomtien. It's a long thin town that necklaces around Jomtien Bay. The beach is good and the water is clean and safe. There are lots of high rise up-market hotels, but not really a lot of beer bars. Its generally a lot quieter than Pattaya but it is worth a visit.



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