Pattaya’s ability to offer a host of international sports and leisure activities, combined with all the conveniences of a modern and cosmopolitan city is attracting investors sold on the destination’s tropical lifestyle. Pattaya has emerged as Thailand’s top beach resort and is climbing in status due to its range of high-end lifestyle options, modern infrastructure and ideal location, just 90 minutes from Bangkok’s new international airport.
Central Pattaya dominates Pattaya Bay, a four kilometre crescent of sandy shoreline backed by a cosmopolitan strip of luxury resorts and condominiums, gourmet eateries, shopping malls and energetic nightlife.
The six kilometre stretch of Jomtien Beach unwinds just south, and offers a quieter, less-congested atmosphere. To the north, the more intimate beaches at Wong Amart and Naklua present the air of small towns.
Much of Pattaya’s allure as a lifestyle destination is the choice of leisure activities, which can be enjoyed throughout most of the year. Though temperatures rise between March and May and daily showers occur in August and September, most months bring mild weather.
Thermometers tend to hover under 30 degrees C, ideal for land and water-based pursuits. Leading the list is golf. More than 20 world-class courses are less than 75 minutes from Central Pattaya. Green fees average a reasonable THB 2,500 for 18 holes at courses designed by legends: Laem Chabang by Jack Nicklaus, Great Lakes by Nick Faldo and Gary Player’s Sriracha, home of the inaugural Asian PGA tournament.
For visitors who enjoy competing, the Pattaya Golf Society organises tournaments throughout the year. Morning joggers find diverse terrain from steep asphalt climbs to flat stretches of sand along the beach, and they can test their endurance in the annual Pattaya International Marathon with a field of more than 9,000 runners taking part in the event.
The islands and coral reefs around Pattaya continue to draw divers with a selection of PADI-certified dive shops heading to dozens of different sites. Anglers can enjoy deep sea, freshwater and spear fishing, with charter services sailing off on big game excursions led by multi-lingual guides and staff. Pattaya has become a water sport magnet, and recently hosted the Kona Windsurfing World Championship and Raceboard World Championship.
Auto racing has added more flair on a street circuit just north of Pattaya with the inaugural Bangsaen Thailand Speed Festival.
Pattaya is a rising star in the international yachting and sailing scene. The Top of the Gulf Regatta attracted more than 500 sailors and some 250 vessels. The regatta was headquartered at Jomtien’s Ocean Marina Yacht Club, one of Asia’s top marinas. It includes a condominium complex, hotel and yacht club, and is capable of handling 500 yachts in the water and 200 in dry dock.
Increased demand recently prompted Ocean Marina to expand and onshore slips for 200 more yachts will come online. Further plans will also see the construction of the 32-storey San Mario Condominium with a 51-room hotel. This type of luxury accommodation development characterises the more upmarket trend in Pattaya, where new hotel projects will result in a 50% increase in five-star room inventory over the next two to three years.
The last quarter of the year welcomed the opening of Amari’s Orchid Resort & Tower in North Pattaya, while Centara, Hilton, Mövenpick, InterContinental and Le Méridien all plan to open upscale hotels and resorts. Alongside Pattaya’s five-star accommodations are a number of restaurants presenting an endless choice of fine dining experiences: Royal Thai cuisine served in traditional settings, a selection of fresh seafood dishes at al fresco eateries and French gourmet meals that can go on for hours.
Of particular note is the chic and stylish Mantra Restaurant and Bar next to the Amari hotel, offering Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. Pattaya has also become known for its wine selection with the Royal Cliff Beach Resort’s cellar winning the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence on several occasions. Visitors will find a range of services that put Pattaya on par with any worldclass resort destination.
Bangkok Pattaya Hospital provides health care that meets international standards at a fraction of western costs, and several clinics offer excellent dental and eye care. Those seeking wellness therapies can pamper themselves in five-star spas at finer hotels. Modern malls, superstores and supermarkets thrive in Pattaya, making it simple to purchase products similar to those used back home.
Longstay visitors over 50 years of age qualify for retirement visas, and a list of reputable law firms can facilitate the immigration process. Those considering long-term stays should also consider the visa options under the Thai Elite Card programme. Making a longer stay in Pattaya even more pleasant are the diverse expatriate communities and special interest organisations that regularly meet.
A sampling includes the Pattaya Expat Club, Pattaya International Ladies Club, Pattaya Sports Club, the Rotary Club of Pattaya and the UK Club of Pattaya. Located a 45-minute drive from Pattaya is also U-Tapao International Airport, which allows convenient direct access to Koh Samui and Phuket on Bangkok Airways. It is also served by high-season charters from destinations such as Russia, Finland and South Korea. Pattaya has earned the title of the Asian Riviera, while still growing as an international leisure destination. It stands apart from others with its modern lifestyle and activities, tropical climate, accessible location and expanding facilities.