It’s fair to say the present day bar scene in Pattaya is an indirect spoil of war to which the city lent itself, I am of course referring to the Vietnam War. The war in Vietnam had been escalating slowly since the country was divided in to north and south after the French were defeated by the Vietnamese in 1955.
American troops were assisting the south in their effort to defeat the communist north from 1960 onward.
it was only after the communist north upped the ante and attacked U.S naval vessels in 1964 and 65 that the U.S took a more determined stance and began to mobilize vast numbers of troops to the battlefields of Vietnam.
Life in the sleepy fishing village of Pattaya.
In the sleepy little seaside village of Pattaya on Thailand’s north-eastern seaboard there was a small community of fishermen, farmers and traders. The population was just a few thousand people living in small Thai style dwellings situated inconspicuously in what is now central, North Pattaya and Naklua. A handful of guest houses, bars and shops lined the mainly unsurfaced single track roads, there wasn’t traffic, motorcycles, bicycles and even buffalo probably outnumbered motorcars.
Western influence had not yet arrived in Pattaya, western cigarettes, food and beer were a luxury, T.V’s were scarce, radios and gramophone players were still mainstream home entertainment. The water which lapped the golden palm tree lined beaches was still pristine and unsullied by the byproducts of mass tourism.
The beach of Pattaya Bay which is now home to the clamor of tightly arranged deck chairs would once have been graced by quaint little bamboo shacks serving rice whiskey and rum. The sea breeze and the sound of waves breaking gently on the shore could still be heard above the din of traffic.
Pattaya’s tourism industry at this time relied mainly on Thai visitors who had a second house in Pattaya, or they rented one of the few beach bungalows.
American Air-force bases in Thailand.
The American government negotiated a deal with Thailand which allowed them to build strategic air force and troop bases. These bases were situated strategically around Thailand, and one was to be U’Tapao Air-force Base at Sattahip, just 30 minutes drive from Pattaya. As the U.S bases became established so did the rise in numbers of army and air-force personnel. Entertainment in the form of bars were established within bases and surrounding towns.
American troops R & R in Pattaya.
Base personnel ventured to a beautiful seaside village called Pattaya for their entertainment, and they were soon followed by the masses of battle weary troops who were flown from Vietnam to Thailand for their R & R, (abbreviation of “rest and recuperation” or “rest and relaxation”), I believe an official R & R camp was built in Pattaya. For battle weary American troops looking to let their hair down after months fighting in the harsh conditions of Vietnam, Pattaya was going to be paradise.
Birth of the Pattaya Bar Scene.
The bamboo drinking shacks on Pattaya beach were soon filled with American soldiers, local houses became guest houses, and guest houses became bars come guest house. More guest houses and hotels were built to cater for the rising number of troops who frequented Pattaya during their R & R. Entertainment and hospitality, not fishing and farming, was quickly becoming the key source of income for Pattaya’s inhabitants.
Ladies of The Night.
It’s not correct to say that American troops are responsible for the upstart of prostitution in Pattaya. There were brothels in Pattaya before the influx of sex hungry troops, but houses later became brothels, bars became brothels, and guest houses became brothels.
Word soon spread to the farthest corners of Thailand that American troops were looking for a good time, they had big money, and they wanted to spend it on female companionship. Some came to work casually as freelancers, some worked in the ever more common massage parlors. The majority would come and work in bars where they could more easily engage their G.I customers.
Expansion of the Pattaya Bar Scene.
During the early years of the Vietnam War, despite catering to U.S service men Pattaya did not start to flourish until the late 70’s and early 80’s. Anecdotes of G.I’s recall that in the early 70’s there was still only a handful of hotels in Pattaya. The advent of affordable international tourism in the late 1970’s saw a steady climb in the number of visitors to Pattaya, mainly European and American visitors.
By this time Pattaya’s reputation as a destination for sex tourism had become popularized by American service men returning home and the few visitors who visited Pattaya during those early years of affordable international tourism.
During the 80’s and 90’s Pattaya grew on it’s reputation for sex tourism, resulting in more bars, and more girls to cater for the increasing number of sex tourists.
Pattaya evolution, or devolution !.
Pattaya has acquired a reputation for lewdness, you only have to observe the names of some bars to see evidence of this. The diversity of bars has also increased, there is still a large number of girlie bars, there are go-go bars, short time bars, gentleman clubs and theme pubs.
To one extreme is the increasing popular family friendly theme pubs, the other extreme offers men only clubs, all sorts of unique sexual services and increasingly lewd sex shows.
Present day Pattaya Bar Scene.
It’s diverse, it caters for the masses, there’s no denying Pattaya’s bar scene is what makes it appealing to the masses. Evolution has brought Pattaya a long way since those first G.I’s sought some female company during their R & R.
The bar and nightlife scene most like will never diminish or change, there is too much industry riding on the back of it. Yet it is responsible for the population boom which has tarnished what was once an idyllic sleepy fishing village with pristine beaches and crystal clear sea.