Pollution, sex-tourism, and ladyboys. Unfortunately, these are all images that are commonly associated with Thailand, thanks to films such as The Hangover 2 and Bangkok Dangerous – films focusing on the more debaucherous aspects of the country. Hollywood cameramen pan along the polluted city streets and red light districts, and at the same time they neglect to show the beauty of the clear blue waters of the coast. Of course, just as everywhere else, there are small areas of the country that embody these stereotypes. However, it is totally unreasonable to confine an entire country to the stereotypes that arise from a minority of the population. The notorious beach town of Pattaya is one that does Thailand few favors in improving its reputation.
Located a mere hour and a half drive from the nation’s capital, Pattaya acts as a convenient weekend getaway spot for Bangkok residents. Serene beachfront resorts such as the Marriott and the Hard Rock Hotel are popular birthday spots for expatriate children, due to the enthusiastic staff at the Kid’s Clubs. This is also a valid excuse for parents to ditch their children with the recreation staff all day and take advantage of the tropical cocktails at the pool bar. Although many families choose Pattaya for a short holiday because of its accessibility, they tend not to venture past the safe walls of their hotel lobby, as they are aware of what lies beyond.
Pattaya is also home to international military relations between Thailand and the United States, as the Royal Thai Navy Airfield, U-Tapao is only a short drive from the town’s central business district. The American sailors who work at the airfield usually spend months confined to the small spaces of their ships, causing them to go dangerously wild and let loose once they are permitted a free weekend on land. The growing military presence creates an overflow of sailors who wander the narrow streets and beaches offering up their savings to the hungry pockets of bar-girls.
“Walking Street” is undoubtedly one of the most popular areas in Pattaya for both tourists and sailors. This street is essentially a strip of bars and clubs, predominantly run by women, intended to attract men and encourage them to spend money. It would be quite an unfortunate experience if a family of tourists were to accidentally stumble upon this part of town. Seductresses draped in crop tops and short shorts roam the bars on this street, and others like it. They bat their false lashes and purse their cherry stained lips in the hopes of finding a western husband who is able to provide them with a better life. Regrettably, the men who frequent these bars are blatantly unaware of the arrangement and quite often end up unintentionally fathering a child, their guilty conscience forcing them into marriage. This is one of the few scenarios that fuels the fire for negative Thai stereotypes.
When tourists choose to visit places like Pattaya without researching the nature of the town, they return to their respective countries with contagiously unfavorable opinions about Thailand. Despite being home to brilliant beaches and resorts, the area is overshadowed by the prominent sex culture. Vacationers depart Thailand with the lasting impression that the entire country is the same as the one place that they travelled to, wrongly convincing others that the main attraction is sex-tourism.