A common complaint voiced by tourists and ex-pats alike is that Pattaya is not “real Thailand”, that there is a lack of Thai tradition, custom and culture in Pattaya. Admittedly Pattaya is very westernized but I have to disagree with the claims that Thai customs and culture are not evident or in effect. Pattaya might not be what everybody perceives to be “real Thailand”, but whatever perception you have of “real Thailand” you will find more than a trace of it in Pattaya.
Visitors who wish to see traditional Thai customs and culture in Pattaya only need a little awareness of their surroundings to identify the subtle characteristics of Thai custom, culture, tradition and spirituality. If you peek behind Pattaya’s western front there is a rich tapestry of culture woven into the fabric, rooted in the foundations and coursing through the veins of the city.
Culture Tourism in Pattaya
Allow me to take you on a little culture tour and point out some little titbits of cultural significance around Pattaya.
Thai Spirit Houses
The most common and obvious symbol of Thai tradition, custom and spirituality in Pattaya are spirit houses. Most households, businesses and hotels have a spirit house on display. The erection of a spirit house bears witness to the Thais awe of, and respect for the spirits. Animism (spirit worship) is one of the most deep rooted influences of Thai culture and lifestyle.
Sacred Fig Trees
There are 2 prominent sacred fig trees in the Pattaya area, one on Soi Rompho in Jomtien, and one known simply as “the tree” in Naklua (see photo below). Learning a little about Thailand’s sacred fig trees will give you a valuable insight into Thailand’s cultural, spiritual and religious history. Some noteworthy points about the sacred fig trees: Buddha found enlightenment while sitting under a sacred fig tree, Thais believe spirits reside in the tree, broken Buddhist, Hindu and Royal artifacts are placed underneath them for safe-keeping. Spend a few minutes regarding these trees, especially the one in Jomtien you will witness the bizarre act of motorists beeping their horn to acknowledge and pay respect to the spirits as they approach the tree.
Temples and Buddhas
There are many Buddhist temples in and around Pattaya, all of which tourists can freely visit. Wat Yansangwararam (photo below), Buddha Hill (second photo below) and Buddha Mountain are among the most noteworthy.
Rise early in the morning and take to the streets of Pattaya with your camera and you will see a stark contrast to the bustling night time scenes. You will also witness the traditional act of giving alms to the monks, a scene you could witness anywhere in Thailand, yep, even in Pattaya
Thai tradition and culture is on display all around you, have you ever noticed a Thai give you the traditional Thai wai greeting, surely you noticed all the shoes on the doorsteps of houses and even some shops, you can’t have missed the lucky charms on counter tops, those swinging phallus’s are not there simply to shock you. What about the first time you noticed a little cart selling fried grasshoppers and beetles, was that a culture shock ?. These are all traditional Thai behavior traits, from Chiang Rai to Songkla, from Soi 6 to Pattaya Town Hall. It doesn’t matter where you are in Thailand the basic traditions and culture are the same, the very same as in Pattaya.
Cultural Pattaya Tourist Attractions
The Floating Market: like most tourist attractions in Pattaya it is a business venture, it is actually a bona fide trading market focused on the tourist industry. It also portrays lifestyle, architecture and tradition from every corner of Thailand.
Nong Nooch Gardens: besides the beautiful gardens they have a “Thai culture show” featuring traditional Thai dancing, re-enactments of historical battles fought with the elephant artillery, and displays of the traditional Thai martial art of Muay Thai.
The Sanctuary of Truth: a truly unique building, and a work still in progress, the Sanctuary of Truth (photo below) is devoted to Brahmanism and the creation of earth. Brahmanism (Hinduism) has historical and religious significance in Thailand as it was the most commonly practiced religion before Buddhism became popular, and it still plays a very large part in Thailand’s day to day culture. The Sanctuary of Truth was, and is still being built using traditional Thai carpentry methods.
Believe it or not, Lady-boys are a rather unique product of Thai culture, not because Thai culture somehow results in a high number of transgenders, but because it is so different from cultures in the western world. Thai culture accepts most people for who they are, therefore lady-boys are just being who they are, because they can, even in Pattaya.
Real Thailand at Work
You may think the staff at Pattaya’s numerous bars, restaurants, hotels and other tourist establishments are not real people doing real jobs, you want to see something more down to earth, right ?. I’m afraid you won’t see many paddy fields around Pattaya, but there’s more to Thailand than rice fields and temples. There’s a busy little fishing port at Bang Saray (photo below) where you can see the catch of the day coming in, and it’s brought in by real Thai fishing boats.
One of the best places to capture a few photos of authentic Thailand is actually on the beach, Krating Lai beach is probably one of the best, it’s quiet, laid back and often frequented by fishermen preparing their nets just like you see in the photo (below).
Find all the major tourist attractions in Pattaya by using the map below. Besides displaying Pattaya’s most popular tourist attractions there are many place-marks highlighting locations and landmarks worth taking a look at.
View Pattaya Tourist Attractions in a larger map