Bangkok is the starting place for many trips, and there are just as many travel agencies throughout the city that want to help you. If you’d rather have the security of knowing how you’ll get there and where you’ll stay, try a package deal. If you want to save money, book your own tickets straight through train or bus depots and find cheap accommodations upon arrival.
Pattaya – This beach town on the Gulf of Thailand was popular with soldiers on R&R during Vietnam and continues to be a main spot for the sex trade. Numerous ads on tuk-tuks and in brochures advertise the ability to get “men, women, anything you want.” The beaches on the southern islands are far nicer, but if you want to get away from Bangkok, it makes for a good weekend trip. Transportation by bus takes about 3-4 hours. Beachgoers can lie on the sand or try activities such as raft rides and parasailing. I tried the latter, which was a thrill! However, because Pattaya is a tourist trap, everything there is more expensive than in other spots in Thailand.
On our trip to Pattaya, we actually stayed in Hat Jomtien, 6 km south. We spent one night in J&B Guesthouse (off Jomtien Beach Road) and paid 350 baht for a cramped fan-cooled room. The next morning we walked further down Soi 5, off Jomtien Beach Road, and found Simple Simon, a cute storefront restaurant that serves a large menu of European food (think steak and kidney pie and English breakfast) and has rooms available to rent upstairs. The rates are great, especially for Hat Jomtien/Pattaya. A spacious room with private bath, double bed, cable TV, safe, breakfast table and small balcony was 400 baht with A/C.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT – www.tourismthailand.org) is able to offer resources, but it DOES NOT book trips. Any agency that claims to be the TAT to sell you a trip is lying. Although they may get you where you want to go, you’ll probably spend more money than you should. Tuk-tuk drivers get commissions from these agencies as well, so they might be eager to take you there. We ended up at Suphanaphumi Travel Co. Ltd. on the advice of a tuk-tuk driver, who claimed it was the TAT office. I only mention this particular agency because my friends and I did buy a package through them and wound up spending $100 U.S. more than we should have for subpar accommodations.