I’m happy to leave Pattaya, the civic equivalent of a frat house bachelor party. It earned its reputation as the sex capitol of the world, but I was more impressed by the devotion to beer. Acres, square miles are devoted to hundreds of open-air beer bars staffed by thousands of young and not so young women. Music blares the oldies, either canned hits from the 80s at the latest to fairly competent bands covering the Stones, Santana, and Deep Purple. The target market is not a mystery. If I come back in a decade, I expect to find a sprinkling of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
The Russians have arrived. Cyrillic script hovers above bars and restaurant ,and I hear Russian on the street more than English. Most are smokers but otherwise they fit in with the old crowd. Aussies, once dominant, seem to have moved to new pastures.
Pattaya is an unlovely city. The grand arc of beach, once backed by palms, is a forest of umbrellas during the day and by night a cordon of hookers impedes access. With the exception of a few hotels and malls, all appears worn and threadbare until night masks its decay. Walking Street, an avenue of go gos, is a freak show for the rubes.
It has its uses though. I rode in the back of a pickup outfitted with bench seating and a roof, one of hundreds circling the blocks besides the beach, with a Singapore resident. He was in town for work. “It’s paradise, don’t you think?” he asked. I agreed because it was what he needed to hear. Singapore bristles with rules and punishments, the price for a city that works. Decades of relentless niceness and paternal rule had taken its toll. He reveled in a little chaos by the sea. For those who love it, enjoy. I doubt I will ever return. There is too much beauty and too many surprises elsewhere in the Kingdom.