I decided to leave Bangkok for a couple days and head down to one of the lively, coastal towns, called Pattaya. Pattaya is a city on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast known for its beaches and its nightlife. It's become a mecca for resort hotels, high-rise condos, shopping malls, street markets, bars and 24-hour clubs.
That's all I really knew... if that much, at all.
Pattaya was not exactly what I was thinking it would be, but, in my defence, I only really based my reason for visiting Pattaya off seeing photos of The Sanctuary of Truth. That was on my radar. I had read there was a red-light district... but I don't think I was fully prepared for exactly how much of that district engulfed the entire city.
I haven’t really made any friends since arriving.
In saying that, it's not really much of a sob story. I've only been here less than a week, and if you factor in jet lag, loud motels, heat stroke and sheer exhaustion, you can clearly see they all played a major role in my recluse. I was hardly in a social frame of mind.
I figured this would probably change in Pattaya, after all, I like bars and I'm always willing to sit down, with a glass of wine, & chit chat with whoever is willing.
Well… budding new friendships were not in the cards in Pattaya.
Don't get me wrong... there were single travellers. There were many single travellers. All over the place, actually.
Single travellers at my hotel.
Single travellers on the streets.
Single travellers at the bars.
Single travellers on the beach.
I sound like a Dr. Seuss poem... but seriously... there were loads of them.
BUT... they weren't exactly the single travellers I was particularly interested in meeting. AND... if I were to hazard a guess, I probably wasn't the single traveler they were looking to encounter either.
Everywhere I looked were single, elderly gentlemen.
It was borderline obscene how many older, single gentlemen were in Pattaya. In fact, so many of them were so similar in appearance that I kept thinking I saw the same man over and over again.
Many of them had mopeds and would go zooming by with a young girl wrapped around them.
It's almost as if they were finally living their rebellious, hot women & motorcycle dream.
"You don't stop riding when you get old; you get old when you stop riding."
Ride or die.
At first, yes, I was horrified.
It was unnerving.
How could this be happening in the world?
Then someone brought it to my attention... the sex trade?
Obviously I cannot be so ignorant as to not know the sex trade is alive and well in Southeast Asia?
My mind drifted back to Tanzania and the shocking amount of women that travel there to be with the Maasai beach boys. Yes, it's wrong to judge and it's wrong to be ageist... and I stood guilty of each charge. I guess one must make allowances for how others cope with loneliness.
It was also brought to my attention that many of these girls are looking for a comfortable, easy life for themselves and their families. Marrying an older guy can be a quick and easy boost up in the economic ladder. Pattaya has been dubbed as Thailand's "Sin City," and now has quite the reputation as a destination for sex tourism.
So yes, the sex industry is rampant here.
So as not to make me feel to far removed from reality, in the room directly beside me in my Pattaya hotel was a very loud, hacking man, He hacked the day and the night away.
In addition to this… he horked. It was putrid. I didn't think one, single, solitary person could hork up that much phlegm... but I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again. The walls were so thin that it was almost as if he could have been sitting right beside me.
My luck, eh. What are the odds?
Two hotels in a row. Two hackers. One horker.
Anyway... having landed myself in Thailand's sin city, I proceeded with my PG tour of the town.
I had met a couple guys at my hotel who were traveling around Thailand for a short time. They were funny, but quite obviously here for the nightlife, as opposed to the cultural awareness. When I mentioned I was planning on venturing up Khao Cheejan hill to see the Golden Buddha the following morning, they looked at me like I was berserk.
Who wanted to visit a notable monument when there were strip clubs and sex shows?
Ya… me. The cheese stands alone.
Pattaya seemed like the land of the bizarre, so I figured anything I wanted to do must be ok.
To be honest, I did venture into one seedy bar. It looked interesting enough and it was beside the ocean,… but it was odd. There was an enormous sign welcoming ‘singles ladies.’ After a quick scan of the room, I realized the cliental weren’t really my peeps… and I don’t think I was exactly their ideal customer. But I stayed. I sat at the bar and drank a big chocolate milkshake.
I like to shake it up a bit sometimes.
The Golden Buddha was impressive. At the top of the hill, he sat cross legged, almost as if he were surveying the land. I covered up my tattoos, my knees and my bare arms, and then made the short climb up the golden stairway to pay my respects. People gathered round, praying, meditating and some, making small offerings.
There was a small craft market nearby and I somehow managed to break a bracelet with my thick wrist. It was horrifying, to say the least. The man was kind though and told me I could pick out another bracelet to buy. Now, with this knowledge that it would break so easily, I opted to make a quick escape without purchasing anything.
My tour of wreckage and ruin...
From there, I jumped on the bus and headed to my much anticipated, Sanctuary of Truth.
I have to say that the bus system here in Pattaya is brilliant. Best I've ever encountered.
The transportation trucks are called baht buses, or songthaews, and they are a popular and convenient way of getting around. You basically just jump in the back of this little pick up truck when they want a ride and when you’re finished, you ring a bell & jump out. They’re everywhere and heading in all directions. And each ride is only 10฿, so it's cheap, as well as super easy.
So... the Sanctuary of Truth.
This is a majestic wooden castle built beside the sea. It was erected by a gentleman named Mr. Lek Viriyaphan and was built to reflect the worldview of wisdom. It is the largest wood building in Thailand, built using the ancient Thai carpenter style. There are NO nails at all. Inside, each wooden statue and wooden carving tells the philosophy of life. its purpose is to use art and culture as: "A reflection of the Ancient Vision of Earth, Ancient Knowledge and Eastern Philosophy."
I was completely captivated by the attention to detail. One of the sites I was on described it as the most unusual and photogenic buildings in Thailand. That is a guarantee. There was nothing bland or hum-drum about this place.
Blown away... again.
But... always a but... As much as I was completely impressed by the Sanctuary of Truth, I found they had almost turned it into a bit of an amusement park. There was a mini zoo, horse riding & carriages, a massage parlour, a Himmapan forest, boat rides, a photo studio, a restaurant... AND… elephant walks.
Shit. So bad.
Their brochure read;
* Note: Elephants are legally owned animals. They are taken care of by a registered mahout and regularly supervised by veterinarians.
Truth: In order to make elephants compliant, they must fear humans. This is typically done in a process known as a “crush”. Young elephants are tied up and savagely beaten by groups of captors until their spirit is broken. Elephants have long memories and this barbaric abuse is usually sufficient to ensure they remain petrified of their captors for the rest of their lives.
Don't do it.
Don't support it.
I don't know if I would have paid the entry fee had I prior knowledge of this. My fault for not doing enough research.
My feet were atrocious. After a full day of exploring Pattaya, they were covered in calluses & cuts, blisters & bruises. I was absolutely desperate for a foot rub, but there is no way I could expect someone to rub these hideous hoofs.
I couldn’t fathom the sheer embarrassment of it.
Every time I tried to put on a bandaid or some mole skin, it would just slip off.
So... I jumped on the back of a motorcycle.
I said I wouldn't... but my feet were begging me.
I’d also gone the entire day without taking my pills, so my knee was beginning to cripple and crumble. The driver was so respectful, so kind and he was a really good driver. I even had a helmet, which gave me a more secure feeling.
I spent the remainder of my time wandering through street markets and meandering the coastal walk, stopping occasionally to look in a wee shop or take a break in a kittle cafe or bar,
I think I need to become a vegetarian. I’ve been thinking this for a long time, but haven’t had the courage to take the plunge yet. I don't like being witness to so much animal food waste. The amount of food I see on the streets, and obviously in the restaurants too, is much more than everyone could even imagine eating. You will never go hungry in Thailand.
It’s too much.
So ya, a big thumb-to-the-meh for Pattaya.
I was actually quite excited to get back to Bangkok.