Part 2 of 3 of Landing in Thailand. Read the Part 1, Getting Stamped about preparing for the journey from India.
There is one thing you should do when you travel to Pattaya (Thailand) if you are a hardcore vegetarian (who cannot bear the smell of meat and prefer separate utensils for food), don't travel to Pattaya. Although I do not know why vegetarians leave their own house if they have so much food problems, if you still do wish to travel to Pattaya this article gives few tips on how to survive.
I should tell you at times like these, the fact that you are an Indian acts like a thing of pride. Doesn't matter that the passport you had visa stamped few minutes ago was made by paying something extra to an agent or the fact that your driving license is responsible for the most corruption in your homeland, the fact that these documents are there in your pocket gives you a warm comforting feeling of your belonging.
Last time when I left I had stepped outside the Bangkok airport and taken the first breath in foreign land. The first breath was followed by a series of banging into a group of Indians running haywire searching for their booking agent. This gave a moment of confusion because at the airport, there were more Indians than I saw at the Mumbai airport last night. The moment of confusion passed when we realized that it was summer vacations and Thailand is the most preferred travelled destination for Indians.
Semi-asleep, we got into the taxi waiting for us at the airport to drive us to Pattaya. This was the second inter-city taxi ride in last twelve hours since we had travelled from Pune to Mumbai airport in another Taxi last night. As it happens in Taxi rides, the driver rudely woke us at the first stop between the cities. This is where it hit me, right in the face. As with the last night taxi ride I had consumed a load of vada Pav at the first stop. Looking at the shops at these stops and the ample lighting on those stop, I realized, I am no longer in India anymore. But as they say, you can leave the country but you are never far away from a Mc. Donalds. A gleaming Ronald McDonald (thats the joker outside Mc Donalds) was giving his creeping smile looking at me.
A few rounds of coffee later (and not from Mc. Donalds) we were back in the taxi on the way to our destination. After a very sleepy ride I reached my hotel near the beach in Pattaya. To my surprise, the hotel staff were more surprised on my arrival. Since the room was not ready, me and my wife decided to get breakfast from a nearby cafe. After a round of muffins another round of coffee and getting some sleep it was time to step out into Pattaya.
The most important aspect about Pattaya was that everything was near the beach. There are frequent Tuk Tuk that run on the beach road till the walking plaza and charge you only 20 Baht. It was nearing lunch time and all we could see and smell around was pork, we decided to raid the Burger King next to the hotel. One good thing for vegetarians, burger king has one and only one veg burger that can be consumed, I did not try that.
Walking on the beach road was pleasant. Those who are the adventures kind, other mode of transport include scooters for hire, there are two wheeler taxis that are reasonable option if you are travelling alone.
Evening was spent in the show of Alcazar, a magnificent ladyboys dance show with extravagant costume and loud sets. Alcazar was an eye opener as we had never seen any dance show as that. The dance show was amazing and magnificent and upto the mark. The ladyboys will put many a cabaret ladies to shame in their show.
By the time the show ended we were out on the streets of Pattaya. As the night falls this entire city comes to life. To our surprised there were many go-go bars lined up on the road. This was a surprise because when we set out to travel we were told (by google of course) that Thailand is a conservative place. Still those who are new to the term, gogo bar is a bar where girls are dancing (no strip tease, at least I didn't see any). What was more surprising was that these bars were open and easily accessible from the street.
The Thepprasit Night Market opens in the evening bringing the flea market and street food to a new level. For my stay in Pattaya we ate everyday only in this market (which was also because we understood what they sold for food). We had done enough research on the Thai food in Bangalore by visiting the local thai restaurants almost every weekend. So with the confidence of a school teacher teaching a wrong fact to the students, we ordered Pad Thai noodles in the market. To our surprise they were strangely different with some fish added to the veg noodles. The noodles were gulped with a fruit punch cocktail made by Mr. Cocktail, a street bar in Pattaya.
The tour operator, following the untold traditions of all tour operators of the world, came to rudely wake us up early in the morning for our tour to Coral Island and Noong Noch village.
The thing about meeting a veg couple in Pattaya is as dangerous as asking a address in the remotest lane in Karnataka, both are fruitless. As it happened, I never understood the concept of later and always feared the former. When I bumped into a couple, the lady was grumpily missing Indian food and the man was trying to nibble on the pork. This horror was added more as we were pushed into a Indian restaurant (which came as part of the package but never welcome, why will I eat Indian food outside India?)
After the food, we were taken to Noong Nooch village, a beautiful garden famous for its cultural and elephant show. Coming from a alleged 'garden' city in India, Noong Nooch village was a welcome change in what a garden should be. Having a perfect balance of trees, statues, ramp and animals this was a welcome garden that the ones we pretend to see. The open garden had elephant rides and among other things, a cultural show of Thailand.
The tour in the garden was ended by a cultural show of thailand held in a non-ac, cramped up theatre. It was a mere coincidence that at the entrance to the theatre were hand fans for sale. The cultural show was followed by a amazing elephant show. Noong Nooch Village is a complete value for money as the shows are amazing along with multiple photo ops. However, make sure that you go in early or will have to watch the show standing for forty five minutes.
The shows were spectacular, Thai's are very good in training animals. The stunts these animals were doing, would put many humans to shame. Carrying pleasant memories of the day, we went to sleep.
Day three started lazily with a breakfast buffet and a nice swim in our hotel swimming pool. In the afternoon, we set out looking for the thing humans have travelled for ages i.e., food. The old saying, in rome, do as the roman do. We followed along the beach route to look for local eateries (nothing branded but something local) and soon came across this small eatery that was serving authentic thai food.
After fumbling with the menu for some time, I asked the owner to surprise me and did he surprise me. The dish that was served was deliciously tasty as well as neatly presented in a coconut. Chicken in coconut gravy served inside the coconut. The staple food in Pattaya is rice and pork, which is bad news for those who feel nauseated with the smell of pork. Ensure that the meat you are eating is chicken (by smelling it).
Walkable distance from the Ripley's was the walking street. Although branded as a family friendly beach destination, Walking street in Pattaya was not really making a good effort branding it. At night the beach side area of Pattaya opens up as walking street with shops lined up on the pavement having food, handicrafts and... and a lot of bars offering different level of entertainments. It is difficult to picture Pattaya as a family destination looking at the offerings at the walking street. Still at the end of the walking street we had a tasty ice cream served by a turkish gentlemen with quick hands. The turkish ice cream show was a wow moment as he used quick hands to serve ice cream in the most amazing way ever. (Google Turkish Ice cream Show Thailand to see it)
Next on the agenda was the horrible wake up alarm by the taxi driver who would take us to Bangkok. A international city left unexplored and the journey continued. It was time to say good-bye to Pattaya and see the urban side of thailand.
Coming up next (Part 3 of 3) Meter down, Metro and Market, Landing in Thailand epic conclusion about the journey in Thailand.