Pattaya is Sin City. It's one of Southeast Asia's largest tourist destinations, maybe the largest tourist place in the world region, topping even the places in Bali or Angkor Archaeological Park. Pattaya has a large sex-industy which coins it's image, what comes together with a lot of other vicefull behavior and an accordingly large criminality. But, it's not all that bad here.
What is now a place which inhabits estimated up to 500,000 people in total, if including the whole urbanized Chonburi area around coming up to 1,000,000 people, was in the 1960s merely a sleepy fishing hamlet. That changed with the establishment of a US Navy base in Sattahip and the US Airforce airport U-Tapao, both built as military infrastructure to support the planned American Vietnam War. Soon, the pristine beaches of Pattaya were used as a 'Rest and Recreation Area' (R&R) for the US military. Pattaya's importance grew while the war went on and even after, for many GI's remained here and others came back later, after being retired, to spend the rest of their lifes here. In 1978 Pattaya got the official status of a self-governed city, despite it is part of Chonburi Province.
An incredible boom started and both, the number of inhabitants and that of visitors rose every year. Many of the people living here are working migrants from Isan or other parts of Thailand, or partially from neighbouring Cambodia. Among the permanent residents are Westerners who's number must go into the ten thousands. There are even foreign-language papers regularly published in English, German and Russian.
Pattaya lies at the eastern shores of the Gulf of Thailand and stretches about 15km along the sea. A couple of islands are close to the place and under the city's administration.
The biggest road is Sukhumvit Highway, which connects Pattaya with Bangkok and leads further eastward via Chanthaburi and Trat to the Cambodian border at Hat Lek. U-Tapao Airport is now a civil airport for mostly domestic flights. Pattaya's three bus stations connect the place with Bangkok, Isan and north Thailand. On a direct bus line connecting Suvarnabhumi Airport / Bangkok (BKK) are running frequently buses to and fro. There is even a small railway station in Pattaya, which connects it with Bangkok, although there is only one train running per day.
Inside the city, Beach Road is a center for many pricy restaurants and hotels, running parallel to the beach. Second Road is a parallel road to Beach Road, a bit further apart from the coastline.
Pattaya's image is widely coined by it's sex-industries. In parts of the city, girl bars, gogo bars, massage parlours, hourly hotels and others dominate the scene. There is a large gay community in the place and, no doubt, for any perversion a niche. Criminality is an issue in Pattaya; most of it is petty crimes like pickpocketing and scams, but also big sharks operate here.
Apart from the notorious sex-tourism, a lot of 'normal' mass-tourism, including family-tourism, happens in Pattaya. Jomtien Beach and it's surrounding are a center for these kinds of tourism.
Pattaya is not cheap, at least not for Thailand's standards, and it attracts many visitors who have money to spend. A number of golf courses attract players, and 'Underwater World Pattaya' is a huge aquarium. A number of zoos and botanical gardens enrich the place. Many more attractions are here or planned for the future and target families as visitors.
The bulk of foreign tourists to Pattaya comes from Russia, although since the Western embargo on Russia and the weakening of the rubel prevents many Russians to visit Southeast Asia meanwhile. Chinese are also among the most who come here, followed by South Koreans and Indians. Britain, Germany and the USA are the homecountries of the most frequent to meet Westerners. More are comming from the Middle East and other countries, so that Pattaya has an international ambience.
Shopping opportunities are huge, and additionally to masses of small shops who offer a large variety of the most different stuff, a number of international restaurant and supermarket chains have opened branches here, like Tesco Lotus, Big C and many more. Also big cinemas are plenty in the city.