26.07.2016

A SUMMER VACATION IN THE MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY: PATTAYA

A SUMMER VACATION IN THE MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY: PATTAYA, Neslihan Kanlıcaoğlu Demir | 26.07.2016

There was literally a riot at home before the semester break when I suggested this to my kids. And when I told them that a friend of theirs who is almost the same age would be coming as well, the riot practically doubled in scale! :)  They found it especially “cool” to be diving into the sea, oh sorry! the ocean, rather than going on a “winter/ski holiday” traditional for a semester break. :)

We planned this holiday as “moms and kids only”. Taking advantage of being a Turkish Airlines employee, I put the same offer to my mother, but she could not lean contemplate a 9-hour flight due to health problems. So my friend’s mom came on board instead and we immediately started organizing our “moms and kids only holiday”.

We decided to go to Pattaya, which is located 165 km southeast of the capital Bangkok, and one of the most important tourist cities in Thailand. The first step was to choose the hotel. I must admit to being lucky at this stage because we jumped at the hotel recommended by a friend who was traveling to Pattaya around the same date as us. After arranging an attractively-priced “Mini Family Suite” for each family with the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel, we waited for the big day to arrive.

As a result of our search on the Web, we learned that the distance between Bangkok Airport and Pattaya is almost 1.5 hours by car and the taxi fare is between 1500-1800 Bahts. We inquired whether there was a shuttle that would pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. In the end we accepted the hotel’s mini van offer, which was a little bit more expensive.

After a pleasant and comfortable journey, we landed at Bangkok Airport at 9.30 am. The moment the plane was connected to the boarding bridge, we were hit by the hot and humid air. :) It was a great welcome for us coming from the snowy air of Istanbul. The second thing we noticed particularly was the greeting we received from the Thai people who came across, bowing their heads and clasping their hands together in a prayer-like fashion. :) Feeling warm and welcome, we went through passport control to find the vehicle waiting for us at Exit 3. It was a mini van as promised – no surprises there! Having piled into the van, we set off for Pattaya. Just like the kids, and after such a long journey, we moms feel asleep in the van too.

When we arrived at the hotel, it was almost 12.30 pm already. After settling in to our rooms, we went downstairs to the pool as we’d promised the kids. While they were having fun in the water, we moms went over our holiday plans again and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.

There are two famous streets in Pattaya to visit: Walking Street and Beach Road. Walking Street is closed to traffic between 6.00 pm and 2.00 am. There are night clubs, all kinds of food, various restaurants, bars, cafés, and street vendors on both sides of this street. Beach Road has the longest beach in Pattaya, but I wouldn’t  recommend that you swim there as the sea is in fact a dirty brown color. Beach Road is more upmarket than Walking Street. There are restaurants with mass appeal, massage parlors, cafés, street vendors, and big shopping malls as well.

Based on our information gleaned in advance, we set off to Walking Street in the evening via taxi. The taxi fare between the hotel and Walking Street is fixed: 300 Bahts, which is about 25-30 TL. After a quick walk, dinner and souvenir shopping here, we went back to the hotel by taxi. We agreed with the taxi driver on 1800 Bahts to take us to the Elephant Village and Tiger Zoo the next morning.

After waking up early and having our breakfast, we set off in the waiting taxi. Pattaya Elephant Village, where we were to enjoy a ride on the elephants, was about 40 minutes away from our hotel. You’re asked what kind of a tour you want at the entrance. Suggestions include elephant rides, ATV tours, wing shooting, and swinging between the trees on ropes :) but we decided to stick with the 30-minute elephant ride. The cost is 600 Bahts (about 55-60 TL) per person. 

A maximum of 2 people can ride one elephant. Our elephant ride took us through jungle terrain, with the elephant keeper taking photos via mobile phone or camera while we fed the elephants with the bananas given to us in advance. Fantastic! :) With only a few hundred meters till you get back, the elephant keeper offers souvenirs for sale, which they claim to be made of ivory. Even though they aren’t too insistent, you do need to be firm and repeat your “no” if you don’t want to buy.

While you’re wandering round, the staff take photos of you. They then offer you the photos to buy, in different forms (clock, framed, etc.) and it’s up to you to buy or not. We bought the photo designed as a little clock (300 Bahts).

Just before we left the park, they showed us a huge snake and an enormous bird at the entrance. Even though we didn’t find the bird particularly attractive, we did like the snake. We understood, from their smattering of English, that we could hold the snake round our shoulders, so we did. It’s a cold creature, no doubt about it. :) To our surprise, we were expected to pay for this! They asked for money for holding the snake (150 Bahts), but we left without paying, saying that they didn’t tell us the cost beforehand.

We left the Village and set off for the Tiger Zoo. When we arrived at the park, the taxi driver insisted on going to buy the entrance tickets himself. The entrance fee for adults is normally 450 Bahts, and 200 Bahts for kids. However, he asked for 6,450 Bahts from us. At first we politely refused, saying “no, we can buy them ourselves”, but as he continued to insist (maybe he didn’t understand English or he thought he could deceive us) we opened the door, got out of the taxi and went ahead to the ticket office. He followed us and we showed him the price list for the tickets, but he didn’t appear to take any offence or show any shame on account of his offer.

However, we stayed cool and went in and bought our tickets. As the brochure said that shows were held at scheduled times, we went straight to the venue where the elephant show was performed. After the elephant show, we walked to the place where the tiger cubs are bottle fed, which we found particularly appealing. In exchange for 200 Bahts (15-20 TL), you sit on a bench, they put a towel on you so that the tiger’s nails won’t scratch you, and you feed a little tiger with a baby bottle for about a minute. Our kiddies enjoyed this part so much that they wanted to take the little tiger home. :))

Of course it wasn’t easy for the kids to leave the little tiger, but we convinced them to come and watch the alligator show.  This  ended to great applause by us, the children, and the rest of the audience.

Our next stop was the Bengal tiger show. We really enjoyed this too, and afterwards we went for a walk to explore the rest of the park. As we were not in a hurry to make the show time, my friend’s mom enjoyed a “fish massage” for her feet while we took the kids to the alligator area and fed them chicken tied on bamboo sticks.

After spending about 3.5 - 4 hours in the park, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest and made our way to the exit, wondering if the taxi driver would still be there as we’d refused to let him get the tickets for us. As we hadn’t paid the day’s fare in advance, we could relax, but there was always an element of doubt. :) Luckily the taxi driver met us at the gate. We went back to the hotel and had a well-deserved cup of tea on our peaceful balcony after wandering around in temperatures of 35°C all day!

In the evening, we called for a taxi again and this time we set off for Beach Road. The taxi fare to go to Beach Road was 400 Bahts (about 35-40 TL). We chose the Hooters European-style eaterie (I guess it’s of American origin) and had dinner watching people try their luck on the mechanical rodeo. At the insistence of the kids, we had coffee at Starbucks after dinner and then took a taxi back to the hotel.

We allocated one day of our holiday for the Coral Island. We’d done our research and found out that the island is reached by ferry carrying 20-50 people, which leaves from the center (Beach Road) and returns to the same place. We got up and had breakfast early and asked the hotel staff to order a taxi for us. Then we learned that our hotel had speed boats for 6 people, which was absolutely perfect for us. We were delighted to be the only people on the boat, and the captain was to moor at the island and bring us back to the hotel whenever we were ready. A sort of VIP tour :) and a wonderful, luxurious feeling. We jumped at that offer of course and, even better, the difference in price between the ferry and the speedboat was only 1000 Bahts (95-100 TL). The idea of setting off directly from the hotel and coming back whenever we wanted was a fabulous bonus.

We walked to the hotel beach feeling excited, and our speed boat was there waiting for us. :) It was a boat for 6 people, just perfect for us.

We set off at a fast pace and arrived at Coral Island with its white sand and sparkling sea after about 25 minutes. We were delighted to learn from the captain that we had the island to ourselves for an hour before the first ferry arrived. The part of the Coral Island where we landed is said to be the largest beach there (Tawaen Beach). This place is so unspoilt… there are simple sun beds and parasols which you can hire for a small amount of money, around 100 Bahts, and there are several restaurants and cafés around selling seafood. For those who like water sports, you could parasail, banana boat or jet ski. However, we preferred to just lie in the sun and enjoy our holiday. :)

When we reluctantly decided it was time to go back to the hotel, we boarded our VIP boat once more :) and returned, relaxed and well rested. The shore that had been quiet when we set off early in the morning was now full of local people selling souvenirs and fruits, and offering to weave our hair and give massages. We just bought some fruit and went back to our hotel.

In the evening, we went to the Beach Road again by taxi and made the kids’ day by taking them to a shopping center. In the shopping mall called the Royal Garden Plaza, there are lots of places to see including “Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum”, the “Scream in the Dark Museum” (a bit scary), “Ripley’s Haunted Museum”, and “Louis Tussauds Museum”. When the kids had had lots of time enjoying themselves, we bought some souvenirs and returned to the hotel.

So we had less to carry, we sent the fruit that we bought via the taxi that took us to the Beach Road. When we entered our room, we put the bags down on the floor. I was just about to take my friend’s bag and give it to her when a little animal (I couldn’t see what it was) around 10 cm tall came out from under the bag and ran towards the base of the TV unit. And as I had suddenly become very flushed, my friend asked me what was going on. Trying not to alert the kids, I explained to her that there was a small animal in the room, but the kids heard it too. Telling them that it was only tiny, we proceeded to call room service. Fortunately, two staff came to the room, caught what turned out to be a lizard (although it was indeed 10 cm tall :)) and left. So we had a comfortable night’s sleep. :)

We spent our last day in Pattaya lying on the sun beds by the pool, completely relaxed and in no rush whatsoever! In the evening, we went down to the town center, had dinner and enjoyed the foot massage we’d wanted so much all the time we’d stayed in Pattaya. The massage is something that cannot be described, but only experienced. It’s possible to find such massage parlors almost anywhere in Pattaya. The prices are fixed: a foot massage costs 200 Bahts (15-20 TL) everywhere you go. The massage takes about an hour, and ends with a back and head massage for the last 10 minutes.

The next day we woke up early prepared to leave Pattaya, called a taxi and set off for Bangkok Airport. The trip takes 1 hour and 20 minutes and costs 1700 Bahts (160-170 TL). Once seated on the plane, the kids gave in to their tiredness and fell fast asleep while we, the adults, talked of the things we were “so glad to have done” and went back home with wonderful memories of a truly fabulous holiday. :)

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