Bangkok is a busy, cosmopolitan, spiritual, hotpot of cultures, tourists, food stalls and shopping. It’s hot, dusty and polluted, but it also one of the most exciting and friendly capital cities you can visit.
Having backpacked my way around the country many moons ago, the city hasn’t changed, although there does seem to be a lot more malls and traffic!
Heading out of the city to Pattaya is a welcome break and you get to really appreciate the blazing hot sun. The closest beach resort to Bangkok is a beautiful place if you step outside the main drag. Late night bars, go-go girls, stage shows and muay thai boxing, are clustered around the buzzing, infamous ‘Walking Street’, which is where you will find raucous stag dos and scantily clad girls…
But during the day, it is just another street full of closed bar and club doors, and the usual souvenir stalls selling tat, which offer no hint of the debauchery that happens after dark. However when the sun goes down, it becomes a hedonist’s paradise- a conveyor belt of tourists, promo girls and street performers. Expect to see everything from the exotic to the mundane, as well as plenty of flesh!
During the daytime, the action takes place around the palm lined promenade, where jet skis and banana boats are two a penny on the city’s beach. Central Pattaya is somewhat shabby in its natural light, but comes to life when you have downed several two-for-one cocktails after dusk. The white sandy beach, however stretches for miles and is notorious for itsy bitsy bikinis, cramped loungers and laying close enough to your neighbour that you can share the same sun cream! You can’t walk 10 paces without a British bars or beach massage- but there is more to Thailand, I promise! And if you are searching for something more luxurious, head 50 kilometres north, and you enter a completely different cosmos!
Outside of central Pattaya, the roads get broader, hotels more swanky, the views less obstructed and the pools more incredible. I stayed at the newly built Renaissance Pattaya Hotel, which is a 30 minute drive from the main city, and is a whole world away. Ideally located in the Na Jomtien district, this is a slice of paradise away from the crowds, and offers private, tranquil slice of luxury. The hotel leads directly down to its own beach, which is romantic, or great for families. And at 90 minutes drive from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and 30 minutes from U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport, you will feel at home as soon as you check in.
Welcoming me like an old friend, the Renaissance Pattaya was the dream destination for a fly and flop break. With a luxurious spa, 24 hour room service, international round the clock dining, and handcrafted cocktails in the trendy R Bar, the vibe is laid back modern.
With many of the ground floor suites offering patios which provide direct access to a 56 metre pool, there is no excuse not to take a dip before breakfast, or swim across for a beverage to cool off mid afternoon. A further pool is for adults only, is closer to the beach, and both offers cabanas and day beds, for the perfect indulgence of all day tanning.
The lower pool has access to the Pebbles restaurant and Grill, which offers experimental Thai fusion food. Using the freshest local ingredients, and plenty of fish, the menu combines Asia with the west with a fragrant blend of spices. Each course on the tasting menu is a spectacle, and even if you weren’t one of those annoying foodie photographers before, the presentation here might tempt you!
Thankfully Thai food is pretty healthy, and the weather lends itself to an active vibe, so caught up in the heady holiday feeling I ventured to the local (10 minutes drive away) Cartoon Network Amazone Water Park. Yup, even at my age, I still have some adrenalin! Even though I didn’t try the g-force defeating Goop Loop, I did scream my head off on the Banana Spin ride was supposed to be much less intimidating (if being thrust into a giant plug hole tickles your fancy!) And gaining confidence, I attempted Jake’s Jump, the Intergalactic Racers, and the man-made Surfarena, where you can hone your boogie-boarding skills. But there are also plenty of gentle slides and riptide rapids to chillax in, and whatever your level of adventure, the rides are plentiful, and adult only groups do not look out of place….
If you need a break from throwing yourself in water to chill off, head to Pattaya floating market. A taxi ride from the hotel, it offers a totally different shopping experience. Not as tacky as the main tourist drag, the Four Regions Market takes place daily and represents the four regions of Thailand. With fruit stalls, souvenirs, everyday goods and art on show, there is alot to keep your attention, and the locals are happy to haggle.
After the souvenirs, there are some other sights that make amazing memories. A trip to the huge Golden Buddha in South Pattaya is a must. Go at sunset, and watch the sun go down on the pathway of dragons, and quietly reflect on the beauty of the city, whilst getting an enviable picture.
It is also worth exploring the local area, and dining out in the region’s beachfront eateries. It is always satisfying to eat where the locals eat, and two beachside restaurants which are within minutes of the hotel are each as individual and charismatic in their own way. Settle into the Glass House beach bar to watch the most amazing sunsets with sand between your toes. If you start the evening with cocktails, you are guaranteed for a long night! Also serving a tantalising selection of snacks, this has a laid back vibe without any pretensions.
For a slightly more formal occassion, and a true taste of traditional Thai food, the Rimpa Lapin is ideal. With two open air terraces, the buzzing restaurant is directly next door to the hotel, but booking is advisable. Thai food is best served as sharing plates, so bear this in mind! There are plenty of authentic Thai dishes and classic desserts to sample. Highlights include noodle soups, pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles), kanom jean (rice vermicelli) with different kinds of curries as well as my new favourite- ka nom krok (coconut pancake).
You can’t visit Thailand without having a massage, and thanks to the hotel’s local area guru (and on site Navigator), you can arrange a boat trip to a deserted island, with lunch, snorkelling and most decadently, a masseuse. If you have never had a massage on a yacht, this is possibly one of the most lavish things you will ever do.! It is also a pretty good place best to get a suntan.
Whatever floats your boat- diving, sun worshiping,shopping til you drop or partying all night, the Renaissance can oblige! And the restaurants, 24 hour bar and DJs (on weekends) mean you won’t have to leave the resort.
If you’re looking to totally relax, room service is available at the press of a button, but if you are tempted to head out for a fake football shirt or Prada sunglasses, you can just hop in a cab and be there and back within a couple of hours too. Paradise!
Renaissance Pattaya Hotel
Deluxe Room rate start from THB 4,200++
Deluxe Pool Access pricing at THB 5,700++
Pool Villa pricing at THB 14,200++
Beachfront Pool Villa THB 24,200++
Outlets: 609 Kitchen, Pebbles Bar and Grill, R Bar, The Deli
The Spa uses Ling Skincare: www.lingskincare.com/ling-chan
• Boat Trip: From 45,000 THB to charter the boat for a day
• Cartoon Network: www.cartoonnetworkamazone.com/ Adults 1,290 THB, Children 990 THB for a day pass
• Rimpa Lapin: www.rimpa-lapin.com/old_rimpha_backup/index.html
• Glass House: www.glasshouse-pattaya.com/
• Gatwick North No 1 Lounge (Includes waitress service, breakfast, lunch or dinner as well as fast WIFI, premium spirits, Champagne and hot drinks). .www.no1lounges.com/ £37.50 / £30
For more information and reservations, contact +66 38 259 099 or visit www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pyxbr-renaissance-pattaya-resort-and-spa