Nightlife in Pattaya
Pattaya is internationally known for its nightlife—you might want to think twice before heading into the insanity that's called Pattaya. Obviously famous as a sex tourist destination, you don't necessarily have to partake in order to experience Pattaya's nightlife. More and more visitors come over just to see what the fuss is about. There are ample opportunities to dance, drink, and observe humanity even if paid sex is not of interest. Steer clear of the staid hotel bars and head into the warrens of central Pattaya, where nightclubs, transvestite cabarets, coffee shops, karaoke bars, open-air bars and restaurants with live music and entertainment compete for attention. Most of these establishments are located along Pattaya Beach Road, Pattaya 2 Road, and in South Pattaya, which is also the city's major shopping area.
Beer and go-go bars
Pattaya is especially famous for its beer bars, staffed by "bar girls" who are "for hire" to the tourists and ex-pats who drink there. Popular beer bar pastimes include pool, connect-four and shut-the-box.
Open-air beer bars can be found all over Pattaya, with the biggest and best known concentrations being along and around Soi 7/Soi 8 and Walking Street, at numerous points on Second Road, Beach Road, Soi Buakhao, and in smaller numbers just about everywhere else, including along the southern end of Naklua Road. Although the staff of a typical beer bar will usually include many working girls, customers who have no wish to pay a "bar fine" and take a lady are welcomed and indeed make up the majority of the clientèle. Indoor beer bars can also be found all over Pattaya, the most notorious areas being Soi Yodsak (Soi 6) and parts of Soi Post Office (Soi 13/2). While some of these bars are much more "bar fine" oriented, in most cases customers who simply want to drink are welcome.
Go-go bars differ from beer bars as they have bikini-clad girls dancing around chrome poles on stages. The main concentrations are along Walking Street and Soi LK Metro (see below), with more dotted around the most popular beer bar areas. Sightseeing tourists are welcome in go-go bars, however, cameras are not. Signs prohibiting photography are widespread, and a minority of venues require patrons to deposit their cameras with security staff as they enter. This rule is enforced: if caught snapping shots, you'll be lucky if you're only thrown out and not beaten up.
The official closing time in "entertainment zones" is 01:00, although in practice usually somewhere between 01:00 and 03:00, depending on location—however, "closing" is defined as switching off the music and non-essential lighting, and numerous beer bars remain open 24 hours. Bars outside of these zones close around midnight. So, you're passing through Pattaya and you've set aside a few hours to check out the bar scene—but where to go? The most popular (and generally the most densely concentrated) beer bar and go-go bar locations (listed south to north) are:
- Walking Street. Should have been named "Walking, Shopping, Eating, Drinking, Dancing and Ogling Street" as there's plenty of almost everything here—including around 100 beer bars and at least 30 go-go bars, plus many more in the side-sois that lead east towards Pratamnak Road. Worth a look in the daytime, but best visited in the evening, and has loads of restaurants if you're bridging the gap between the two. Gets really packed in places when the nightclubs empty, so watch your pockets.
- Pattayaland. Soi Pattayaland 2 (Soi 13/4) features on many Pattaya postcards—when lit up at night, the go-go bar signs are a memorable and photogenic sight, although there are only eight go-go bars here (two of which feature guys, not girls), plus a half-dozen bars and the Penthouse Hotel. Worth a look in the evening (it's almost a ghost town the rest of the time), but get there before 01:00 as that's when the lights go out.
- Boyz Town (Soi Pattayaland 3, no direct access from Beach Rd, runs from the middle of Soi 13/4 to Second Rd). Features only male dancers and bars that cater for the gay crowd; Soi Pattayaland 1 (Soi 13/3) has even more all-male go-gos (eight), but does have a couple of girl-go-go bars as well. Pattayaland 1 is relatively dead in the daytime, but Pattayaland 3 has a handful of places to eat and drink that keep it ticking over in the afternoon. There is also a small lesbian scene in Pattaya, with local butch girls called "tom" girls and femme girls called "dee".
- Soi L.K. Metro (Between Second Rd and Soi Buakhao). Connecting Soi Diana with Soi Buakhao, Soi L.K., as it is called (not to be confused with Soi Leng Kee) is for the largest part a pedestrianised street. Cars are parked willy nilly, but that actually serves as a traffic calming system so it is safe to walk down. There are lots of outdoor bars and cafes spilling out onto the street, giving it a "bit" of a European feel. The Metropole Hotel and the Areca Lodge are here.
- Soi 7 and Soi 8. There's always something going on here—in the evening and early hours, there are about 120 well-staffed beer bars to choose from, plus a handful of go-go bars; in the morning there are several places that serve breakfast; in the afternoon it's a popular place for those who like to get started early; and at Songkran (Thai New Year) it's unmitigated mayhem. There are several large hotels (light sleepers beware), and Soi 8 also has a few travel agencies, convenience stores, etc.
- Soi Yodsak (Soi 6). Imagine a kerb-crawlers paradise—and then pedestrianise it. Arguably Pattaya's most colourful street (as well as the most notorious one), Soi 6 has about 50 bars (mostly "short time" bars, with names such as "Butterfly", "Love Club", "Route 69" and "The Eager Beaver") which all get going at 13:00 and close pretty much on the dot at 01:00. It's not really a pedestrian-only street (but it is one-way), however walking — preferably in broad daylight — is undoubtedly the best and most popular way to experience it. Go in the middle of the afternoon and just wander from one end to the other (if coming from the south, walk from the Second Road end down to the Beach Road end if you want to get there and back by songthaew). It's much, much more "sex-tourist" than "tourism" oriented, but anyone is welcome everywhere provided they're buying a drink or three. The curiously named "Hi Boss! 2002 Pub" is where the ladyboys hang out, there's one go-go, "Mandarin" (dancing from 17:00-01:00), plus a couple of "pub" food possibilities; and neighbouring Soi 6/1 has a handful of "ordinary" outdoor beer bars.
- Second Road, Soi 2 & Soi 3 Junctions (On the W side of Second Rd opposite the Central Festival Centre). A collection of about 35 very popular beer bars, which start to fill up from about 16:00, and several of which remain open long after the lights go out around 01:00-02:00. "Atlantic Bar", at the far end of the five-bar strip to the south of Soi 2, always draws a substantial crowd. The only go-go ("Classroom 2", 19:30-02:00) is a lively one, and while there's not much in the way of food in amid the bars themselves, there are numerous eating options close nearby (including outlets for most of the major fast-food chains directly opposite on the other side of Second Road).
Same-same but different
The following go-go and beer bars are a little different from the usual:
- Beach Club (Towards the Walking St end of Soi 15). Not the only "table dance" format a-go-go in Pattaya, but it's probably the most popular. Patrons are seated around industrial-strength tables which have mirror tops, upward facing spotlights, and of course the obligatory chrome pole; the girls dance on each table in turn, wearing short skirts. If you can't guess the rest then you should probably steer well clear of any Pattaya establishment that mentions the words "table dancing" alongside its name. UPDATE: "dance tables" have been removed, this place now using a standard go-go dance floor in the centre of the room.
- Beach Inn Beer Garden (On Walking St opposite the FLB Bar). Can usually be found blindfolded. Head through to the back and out into the bars that target visitors from the Middle East, and feel the sound. Some of the speaker systems here are bigger than a budget hotel room, and it's not difficult to position yourself so that you're being deafened by three or four of them (each one playing something different) all at the same time.
- Carousel Beer Bar (In the centre of Soi Diamond directly off Walking St). 17:00-03:00. A pair of circular revolving outdoor bars. A couple of drinks here and the world really will start to revolve around you.
- Casino Club (At the Pratamnak Rd-end of Soi Diamond). 21:00-07:00. A go-go with a difference. Not only do the girls dance with their clothes on, but there are no chrome poles! Whatever will they think of next? Update: they also have several shows each night, with girls dancing topless. Despite the name, it's not a casino; maybe it's a disco-a-go-go? The atmosphere is lively, the music is house/techno, the dancing is energetic. It's apparently able to close later than most due to the non-conforming format).
- Peppermint Palace (On Walking St, underneath Marine Disco). Probably the largest go-go in Pattaya. Several stages with young women in various different states of attire. Always full of energy, and always packed (you may be turned away if it's full). Good value drinks-wise.
- Siren Bar Complex (Beach Rd, on the sea side, just before the Walking St entrance archway). 16:00-03:00. A crush of about 25 open-air beer bars surrounding a boxing ring (exhibition matches at various intervals between 22:00-01:00) The boxers will canvas the punters for tips after each "fight". Get there early in the evening and it looks like there must be a prize on offer for whoever is able to squeeze the greatest number of bar girls into the smallest beer bar.
- Tim Bar Beer (On Second Rd, opposite Soi 12). An otherwise relatively run-of-the-mill go-go that plays nothing but DVDs, with a very strong bias towards live performances of rock 'n roll classics. Requests welcome. If in doubt, ask for Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light. Stage and screen come to life at 18:00 and keep going until at least 02:00 (closing hours not so strictly enforced here as it's not among a bunch of other bars), but get there early as it's a popular place and their army of dancers thins out with prodigious speed.
Bars and pubs
There are many roadside bars dotted around Pattaya. Live music (especially popular rock oldies) can be heard at several open-air venues along Walking Street, and at various bars elsewhere.
- Blues Factory, Soi Lucky Star (Just off Walking Street). Features the Lam Morrison Band.
- Horizon (Hilton Hotel) (Hilton Hotel at Central Festival, Beach Rd, Soi 9). 34th floor rooftop bar. Very high-end, for taking someone special. Great views, particularly at sunset and after dark. Happy hour, 2 for 1 drinks, 17:00 to 19:00, perfect timing for sunset viewing.
- Lovely Corner Bar (Corner of Beach Rd and Soi 7). 08:00-open as long as there are customers. Clean, airy, well-run beer bar in a great location to view the passing scene before plunging into Soi 7. Very accommodating and gracious, relaxed (not pushy) bar girls. Best feature is strong, free Wi-Fi. Beer 60 baht.
Pattaya has two types of nightclubs—those that are on or near Walking Street, and those that are further away. Those on Walking Street are more popular with Westerners accompanied by bar girls, and with bar girls looking for customers.
- Club Insomnia (Walking St). House music, cheap drinks, late license, European DJ's.
- Lima Lima. This club is known for bringing the world's top 10 DJs to Pattaya and also for its live R 'n B band. The place to go from 22:00 to 00:30 thanks to the Happy Hour. All drinks as cheap as 39 baht between 8pm and 10pm. Free.
- Lucifer. Popular with young Thai people, although this is not a typical Thai discothèque. Only R 'n B, sometimes with special guest DJs. A good place to go at about 02:00-03:00. Extremely crowded after midnight. Free entry, expensive drinks.
- Marine Disco (Walking St). Large dance floor and plays house music (it's the house music counterpart of Lucifer). Free entry, but drinks are expensive.Free.
- Marine 2 (Just off Walking St). The same music as Marine Disco. This was the place to go before Insomnia opened.
- MIXX (At the end of Walking St). R 'n B and house rooms (two rooms in one disco). Drinks are expensive.
- Tony's Entertainment Complex (Walking St). Has an attractive and stylish interior, great live music and service. Free entry, but incredibly expensive drinks - and a 5,000 baht fine if you're caught bringing your own in!
- Tony 2. Not as well known as Tony's Entertainment Complex, but also very pricey.
The ones further away from Walking Street are generally more typical Thai nightclubs: no special area for dancing, but lots of shows and great atmosphere. Admission is usually around 300 baht and includes one free drink.
- Chivas Palace (Formerly Palladium) (Second Rd)).
- Hollywood Disco (North Pattaya).
- Star Dice Entertainment (Naklua Rd). Not Star Dice Beach on Beach Rd. One of the few discos in Pattaya that doesn't dual-price foreigners.
- Xzyte Entertainment (Third Rd).
There is also one club which is not the first type, nor the second type:
- The Beach Club. Open air venue, it hosts afternoon parties with the best view of sunsets in town each Friday and each second Saturday - grand fiestas, each of them has a different theme: Brazilian, disco, house, etc.