I blame the man on the plane for sending me to Pattaya.
He was certainly an interesting fellow, quite eccentric. A Singapore national living in Bangkok, by way of Taiwan and Australia, he signed divorce papers, packed up, and backpacked the US for an entire year, drifting wherever the wind and free rides took him.
To his credit, I don't actually believe he meant to be malicious. In fact, he probably would have done the average joe-backpacker a favor by suggesting Pattaya. Then again, maybe I should have been warned when his "Ride the skytrain to the last stop, and you'll find the best 100 baht buffet, and the only $100 baht/hr Thai Massage in the city" advice turned up void - which put me out an hour's time and about $20 baht on the above-ground subway and left me riding the bus on an empty stomach.
But maybe I just didn't look hard enough. And maybe when I said "I want out of Bangkok and would love to see the beach" he genuinely thought "Pattaya" to be the best and closest option. And maybe it was.
Yet, if you're a single white male traveling alone with absolutely zero interest in hiring a prostitute, Pattaya is about the worst choice on the planet for "Beach City Vacation." It's like saying, "I really want to see the rich culture of Amsterdam, and heard there are cheap rooms in the Red Light District... I'll stay there."
Live and learn, right?
In haste, I hopped on my bus leaving Bangkok for the beach city, and assumed I would find a currency exchange there. I began to panic and take note of all the 24 hr McDonald's along the way, as it quickly became 8pm before I arrived. But the open-aired taxi driver assured me I would be alright, and persuaded me to let him take me there. I'm proud to say I brought his price down from $150 baht (about $5 US) to $50 baht (about a buck fifty). It wasn't so much a negotiation as it was a "You've got to be kidding me" response to his first quote.
Along the way, the driver slowed to roll around a turn. At the corner, a group of girls in their late twenties let out a whoop from their beer-bar seats. Puzzled, I turned to my Middle Eastern cab mates, intending to ask if the ladies were acquaintances of theirs, but the two stared back at me with a look that told me this trip to Pattaya might be more than I bargained for.
After passing 3 or four, the taxi dropped me off in front of an illuminated teller window. Completing my transaction, I began to walk towards where I presumed there would be a hotel. A large, gaudy looking building with an illuminated sign that said "Inn" or "Lodge" or both, I really don't remember. I do remember a few bellhop looking young men and something of a well dressed host. I assumed this all added up to Hotel.
Approaching the entrance, backpack in tow, I began to form the sentence "Do you have any rooms?" directed at the host who appeared in charge of the front door. As the last few words were escaping my lips, the dual sliding glass doors hummed open, revealing a wide expanse of a lobby and glass window at the far end. Behind the Plexiglas perched a score of beautiful Thai women in pretty pink outfits.
My feet skidded to a stop, and a single eyebrow arched towards the ceiling.
The glorified Bellhop must have seen the expression on my face as I slowly backed away from the door and turned to leave. "No, sir, we no have, but down the road have Excellent Hotel." I blinked, and nodded in thanks.
Along the route to this excellent hotel, I passed another beer-bar. And another. And... wow, there's a lot of these here.
A Pattaya beer bar is a bare-bones, no walls, bar, stools, and a couple tables establishment. It's a bar that would like to pretend that it looks out across a flat sea, where the open atmosphere beckons in fresh, salty air, but it's actually two blocks and two hundred identical beer-bars away from that setting.
And at the corner table, closest to the entrance, sit a half dozen ladies pining for someone's attention. At every. single. bar. Unbeknown to me, I fit their M.O.
Excellent Hotel now in sight, I bee-lined for the real bellhops, who ushered me inside. (I would say something to the effect of "with eager women diving for my heels," but that would be superfluous.)
Even with the 50% discount they were offering, the hotel was more than I cared to spend, and more luxury than I required. I told the nice lady behind the counter that I would search around the city, and come back if nothing else fit my needs. She snickered.
Immediately upon stepping outside, backpack still in tow, it began to rain. It felt like a scene from a Jim Carey movie. Not the blockbusters, but one of the ones his fans try to sweep under the rug and pretend not to associate with him.
I sighed. Turning on my heel decisively, I set off in the general direction of "different hotel." Equally decisive, the rain poured down harder. After a quick weigh of options -- A. hunch-back panch-clad soggy street drifter; B. risking taxi scam in a hotel hunt; C. A night of undue luxury -- I decided to humble myself and return through the doors of the Excellent Hotel.
In an attempt to preserve my pride, or something, I paused before entering and looked at the bellhop:
"Is there wireless internet in the room?" I asked through inquisitive eyes.
"Sold, I'll take the room."
Once, I heard that travel writers are treated well in these types of establishments, so I tried to slyly drop that bit of (stretched) information at the desk. It did me no good. Instead, I believe the staff took pity on me - the soggy drifter who stumbled in like a wet dog. They likely made a joke or two at my expense in Thai, though the waitress from the bar was kind enough to walk over a cup of cold grape juice while I was signing paperwork. Yeah, grape juice.
After I finished there, I spun towards the elevator - my soaked sneakers squeaking on the expensive floor - and made my way up to the 6th floor shelter that would be my home for the 13 hours to follow.
After a shower, and a bit of lounging, I decided to set off into the city in search for an authentic Thai meal.
But what I found instead... well, that, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.