Pattaya is a city that is infamous for its past. From around 1960 on it was some kind of sex and amusement park for American soldiers who could at that place forget that they had to kill people in Vietnam and that they had a wife and kids back at home. The city boomed, brothels and bars lined up at the waterfront, and poor girls from the south moved to the Thai hotbed of vice in the hope of making some easy money.
I knew all that before I came to Pattaya. Yet what I did not know was that contrary to rumors spread by the tourism industry Pattaya had not changed in the almost 40 years since the end of the Vietnam war and the withdrawal of US troops from their Thai base. I had read that Pattaya had changed and was more and more becoming a seaside resort and entertainment park for the whole family. I could have known better. But I did not. And so, 18 hours after my arrival in the city of horror, I would be sitting in a taxi to get out of there as fast as possible.
But let me tell this story from the beginning. To my own apology I want to state here that it was not my idea to go to Pattaya. The city was on our way from Koh Chang to Bangkok, the weather forecast promised sunshine for days to come and S. was looking forward to some action – jet-skiing, parasailing and the like. Things that we both had always to do but which are too expensive outside of Southeast Asia. We knew that we had to count on a high red light quota but we thought that this would not disturb us if we just enjoyed our time at the beach with a fresh coconut each.
Pattaya is like St. Pauli, only that the prostitutes were born as males
We arrived in Pattaya in the afternoon so we had enough time to have a look around the city before deciding what to do there the next day. At first sight, it did not look any different than any other Southeast Asian city. It was hot and stuffy. A bad-tempered Russian was sitting on a leather couch in the lobby of our hotel and eating a noodle soup. A lit cigarette lay in the ashtray next to him, and above him, a fan was humming silently. Dimitri, the owner of our hotel grumpily eyed us. Then he called for another guy who led us to our hotel room. Let us call him Ivan. Ivan was tall, with dark hair and a big nose – he could have been a Thai or a Russian. He eyed us as well. We had taken down his offer to rent the remote control for the air-condition at the rate of ten dollars per night. We wanted to save some money. But we had not made friends with that.
At last, Ivan and Dimitri agreed to show us the way to the beach on a city map. They asked us about our plans and when we said we just wanted to have a look around, they looked at each other and said nothing. The only other tourists we met on our way were speaking Russian. Beer-bellied men, already half drunk, and petite blondes next to them, heavily painted. Next to them kids on whose clothes the names of luxury brands were flaunting in capital letters.
Some mid aged western looking men showing off their naked beer-bellies were strolling on the esplanade – seemingly in the tradition of American GIs on the lookout for easy Thai women. More of them then grains of sand at the beach. Only on a second and third look it became obvious that a great part of them only pretended to be female. Next to them girls – and probably boys as well – hardly 15 years old, wearing high heels and short skirts. That was, I supposed, what the infamous Herbertstraße in Hamburg’s red light district St. Pauli must look like. With the small difference that in Pattaya, the prostitutes were born as males.
We did not exactly feel like hanging out on the beach. There was not much of a beach anyway as deck chairs and umbrellas were standing so close that one could hardly see the sea. A bad smell was hovering in the air, dirt and garbage were littering the beach. There were prostitutes everywhere. We sat down on a wall overlooking a part of the beach to eat the Thai kebab we had bought on our way. When I had half finished mine, a man positioned himself next to the wall beneath me and urinated on the sand. I threw my kebab onto the rubbish pile on the beach. It was 4 p.m. I bought a beer from a woman on the esplanade and drowned it at once. I felt a bit better after that. We went to a bar to decide on what to do next.
One thing was for sure: The earlier we left Pattaya, the better
The only reason for us to stay until the next day was that we had already paid for two nights in our hotel room in advance and we were pretty sure that Ivan and Dimitri would not be the ones to argue with about cancellation policies. Plus our room did not make a bad appearance. It was alright even with just a fan running. Back at the place we asked Ivan to arrange us a taxi for the next morning. We would have to pay 40 Dollars to get to Bangkok that way. The bus would have cost us a fraction of that but we did not care. We did not care that our taxi driver would not be an actual taxi driver but some relative of Ivan. We wanted to get away as soon and as fast as possible.
Later that evening we heard Ivan knocking on the door of a room across the floor and saying something. I had already seen him doing that on a different floor just after we had arrived in the hotel. Only, I did not have any second thoughts about his behavior then. I was about to get into bed when I heard the knocking once more, and Ivan’s voice, louder this time. Shortly after that, two women’s voices were audible, giggling and saying goodbye to whoever was or had been in the room with them. Instead of curling into my blanket, I got my own sleeping bag from my backpack. It was 11:06 p.m. when I last checked the time on my iphone. In less than nine hours, I would be sitting in the back of a car driving me out of this city eventually.