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So, while I’m still catching up on my ridiculously delayed 2016 travel recaps, I just can’t wait to start sharing my big trip (thus far) of 2017. So I’ll be jumping back and forth a bit again between two timelines — this recent trip and the old ones I’m still catching up on. Apologies for any confusion, my friends. One of these days I promise to lock myself in a dark room and not travel again until I’ve published every past trip in my drafts folder, but that day is not today. 

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In all my time in Thailand, I was absolutely vehement there was one destination to which I would never go: Pattaya. I’m not normally one to write off a destination with a fake gagging gesture, but what can I say. The seedy, sex-tourism capital of Thailand just isn’t for me — and everyone I know who’s ended up there somehow has been horrified by their time there. Just Google “Pattaya is disgusting” to see what my fellow travelers have to say! (To clarify, it’s the tourists that make it so repulsive, not the residents.) I literally could not think of one, single, teeny tiny reason I had any interest in ever so much as passing through such a hell-hole.

Until I decided to attend Wonderfruit, a festival held in the countryside forty-five minutes outside the city.

Wonderfruit 2016 Review

Okay Wonderfruit, you got me — and more on that festival coming up soon. After weighing up dozens of plans for getting my crew all the way from Koh Tao to our camp site, we realized that it was going to be a heck of a journey, and we might need a night to chill before heading into party mode.

So after an overnight ferry to the mainland, a private shuttle to the airport, a cheap early morning flight to Bangkok, and finally being picked up by another private shuttle at the Bangkok airport, we were on our way down to Pattaya, DIY paper cup mimosas in hand! The nine of us who had traveled together from Koh Tao were joined by my frequent travel buddy and honorary Koh Tao Crew member Heather, who flew in from Bali to meet us.

(Technically we could have ferried from Koh Tao to Koh Samui early in the morning and caught the once-per-day Bangkok Airways direct flight from Koh Samui to Pattaya, but that particular flight was out of the price range of most of our crew.)

Wonderfruit 2016 Review

Wonderfruit 2016 Review

Our first stop was one that will ring of enormous excitement to expats on tiny thirteen square mile islands everywhere: a proper grocery store, in the form of Central Pattaya’s Tesco Lotus. We had a couple missions here: get groceries for the next twenty-four hours, buy whatever snacks we wanted for the festival, and stock up on booze.

The latter become a major issue when we were casually strolling the aisles and an employee came up and breathlessly alerted us that alcohol sales were halted at 2pm, which was in approximately seven minutes. (Technically, alcohol sales are banned in the after-school hours of 2-5pm throughout Thailand, though it’s not enforced in Koh Tao). CUE PANIC! You have never seen farang pushing shopping carts with such unbridled anxiety as we did until we were safely through the checkout six minutes and fifty-nine seconds later. Crisis averted.

Next stop, our villa for the night! One bonus of Pattaya’s popularity is the market is flooded with cheap villa rentals — we nabbed this four bedroom for a mere $139 per night. Well, that’s the price we paid after having the $50 cleaning fee refunded because, ya know, we arrived and the place wasn’t cleaned. Frankly, we didn’t mind the discount! For $13.90 each per night, I was more than happy to fluff a few pillows upon arrival. Want to score a similar deal? Get $40 off your first Airbnb booking by using my coupon!

Jomtien Airbnb Rental
Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Jomtien Airbnb Rental
Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Yeah, the villa was a bit tired and the downstairs hadn’t been cleaned when we arrived, but we were thrilled with it, considering our very low expectations. It was located on Jomtien Beach, just far enough south from the prostitution circus of downtown that we could pretend we were somewhere else entirely.

Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Jomtien Airbnb Rental

After an afternoon of unwinding from eighteen hours of travel, the boys cracked into cooking a feast for dinner while the girls wandered the hundred meters down to the beach for a sunset drink on the seawall.

This was far and away my favorite moment from our brief time in Pattaya — marveling at the sight of skyscrapers on the beach, watching the sky turn from brilliant shades of blue to pink, and gossiping and giggling with some of my favorite girls.

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

Back at the house, the boys had outdone themselves! I’ve mentioned before around here the irony that because expats on Koh Tao eat out so regularly (it can actually be cheaper than cooking at home!) and have relatively small living spaces, it’s actually the biggest treat of all to get to share a big home-cooked meal together.

While going out to a big dinner at a restaurant might be the highlight of a vacation back in our Western homes, the ability to make one for ourselves is something to celebrate here in our adopted one.

After dinner, we toasted to Janine’s birthday — the second in a row we’ve celebrated with a big group trip! — and turned in early to prepare for the big events ahead.

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya

The next morning, our crew of ten grew by two more, our friends Ryan and Bron, fresh off a flight from Australia! With several hours to kill between checking out of the villa and checking into the Wonderfruit campsite, I’d done some serious research into activities in the area that didn’t involve red-light districts — and to my surprise, we planned a really fun day.

Wonderfruit 2016 Festival Review

After nixing, much to my heartbreak, a day at the largest waterpark in Thailand, we settled on two much drier stops — first, a short stroll around Buddha Mountain, and second, a tour of Silverlake Vineyard.

While Buddha Mountain didn’t hold our attention much beyond a simple group photo-op, it was a very cool variation on the typical Southeast Asian Buddha statue and made for a quick and quirky stop. (Though not, admittedly, as quirky as the Upside Down House Pattaya, or the Pattaya Sheep Farm, where real sheap mingle with their statue counterparts, both of which we also passed en route.) Bonus, Buddha Mountain is free to enter!

Buddha Mountain Pattaya

Next up, the real star of the show — Silverlake Vineyard. As many of you know, I’m on a mission to visit every winery in Thailand, and so visiting this one was a major motivation for tacking on extra time in Pattaya pre-Wonderfruit.

So you can imagine my annoyance when we arrived to a notice that the winery was currently closed. Great. Well, we were there anyway, so with no option to take the full winery, vineyard and tasting tour (for 250B) we settled on taking the vineyard and grape juice tour (for 100B), and buying a couple of bottles of wine to try with lunch.

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — the “vineyard tour” was a bit of a joke. I’d gleaned from the research I’d done that this was going to be miles away from the stunning and sophisticated vineyards we’d visited in Khao Yai and in Hua Hin. But this was even more of a bizarre celebration of kitsch than I’d expected, with about half a dozen wordless stops at strange photo-props followed by a quick glance at some grapes before being dumped at a grape juice processing plant.

Thankfully, I had a group who made the absolute best of it, and we had so much fun you wouldn’t believe we hadn’t cracked into the wine yet.

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Jomtien Airbnb Rental
Jomtien Airbnb Rental

Can you even imagine a better crew to tour a fake winery with?

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

At least, I must admit, the grape juice was delicious. We peeked into the temporarily-closed winery building next door, and the tasting room did look quite nice.

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

After the tour, we had a lazy lunch at the winery’s onsite restaurant, where we ordered a carafe each of the shiraz, rosé, and sauvignon blanc to do our own DIY tasting. The restaurant was a good call — the wine was nice, the food and service were good, and the prices were reasonable.

It really was a shame that the winery building wasn’t open — I think it would have balanced out the silliness of the “vineyard tour” with some explanation of what were a couple decent wines. But, such is life. And there wasn’t much time to mull it over — we were en route to Wonderfruit!

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Will I be rushing back to Pattaya? No. (Though the checklist-lover inside of me is tormented that I didn’t technically visit the Silverlake Winery. Curses!)

But we really did make the most of our twenty-four hours there. Between quirky quintessentially Thai attractions, quality time with my favorite crew, and a bargain of a villa to rest our heads in at night, it was the best trip to Pattaya a girl not interested in go go boots could ask for.

Silverlake Vineyard Pattaya

Stay tuned for my next dispatch from Wonderfuit!

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Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya
Twenty Four Hours in Pattaya
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25 Comments...
  • Ijana Loss
    May 10 2017

    Nice job figuring out how to make the most of a place you didn’t care to visit! I usually find that even if I have zero desire to visit a place, or possibly have already discovered it’s really not my type of place, it’s still always possible to find a few things worth doing there. Can’t wait to hear about Wonderfruit! Never heard of it before so will be interested to see what it’s all about xD

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Agreed! It’s hard to find a destination with NOTHING that interests me! There’s always something!

  • This sounds like a great time (and I’m happy no hookers), but I’m sure part of that was your super fun crew. Can’t wait for the Wonderfruit post so I can be sad and salty at my school for not letting me go! I have my school schedule now till August 2018, so I’m gonna get a head start on next year!!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..JET Programme: Don’t Panic About Your Placement

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Ha! I am already planning my next Thailand festival adventure… waiting for the dates to be released but look up Mystic Valley in the meantime!

  • Henry
    May 10 2017

    Looks like an amazing time, and it’s really nice to see something written about Pattaya that doesn’t talk about the more seedy aspects of it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Indeed, happy to show there’s another side to things if you know where to look 🙂

  • Sandy
    May 10 2017

    Looking at that last picture of the Silverlake buildings I never would have guessed it was taken in Thailand. It could easily be California with those Spanish tiles and the yellows and browns.

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      That’s how the wineries in Khao Yai feel too — a bizarre monument to all things European! There are even some castles scattered about!

  • Marni
    May 10 2017

    Sometimes I find when you go in with low expectations, you can really allow yourself to make the most of a destination. It’s too bad about the winery tour, but on the plus side, if you ever find yourself back there, you know where to go!
    Marni recently posted..2017: What’s Next

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      You always find a way to look on the bright side 🙂 I love it!

  • When I studied abroad in Thailand I made it to Pattaya a total of two times — one for a field trip to a lady boy show and the other was just as a jumping off point for nearby Koh Sak. Both times I was left feeling pretty ‘meh’ about it.

    I’m glad you were able to make such a fun trip out of it. I can’t wait to hear about wonderfruit! Will you be back there in 2017?
    Leah | Nomad’er the Distance recently posted..Lost in the Land of Smiles — Motorbiking in Krabi

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Yes, I’m excited to share! I would totally go back however there are so many other festivals in Thailand that I also want to check out, I might have to prioritize those first 🙂

  • Cate
    May 10 2017

    Ive heard that Pattaya is notorious for sex trafficking and prostitution- glad you only went there as a stopover! It would be interesting to hear your take on how Thailand is seen as the world # 1 sex trafficking capital, as an expat. Looks like a great beginning to a lovely trip with a crew!
    Cate recently posted..A Love Letter to the Sea

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Honestly, we are SO removed from the entire sex tourism scene over in Koh Tao. It’s primarily a backpacker destination (and becoming a family one, for adventurous fams!) so we just don’t get the sex tourists at all. And depending on where you go in Bangkok you can avoid it more or less completely as well. So, I feel lucky… it upsets me to see and I make it so I don’t have to very often.

  • Aaron
    May 12 2017

    $179 for a villa of that quality is an unbelievable deal … just another reason I love Thailand!

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      Indeed! Best value luxury in the world!

  • Allison
    May 12 2017

    That villa is absolutely gorgeous! I can’t wait to go back to Thailand and love all your tips 🙂
    Allison recently posted..Month in Review: April 2017

    • Alex
      May 15 2017

      Thanks Allison! Glad you enjoy them!

  • Justine Lopez
    May 14 2017

    Haha, this is so funny to read. I stayed in Pattaya (Jomtien to be exact) for an entire month a few years ago. My boyfriend and I had been on the road for months, and we were desperate to find someplace cheap to stay that had reliable internet so we could work. We randomly met this really cool girl who lived in Pattaya and highly recommended it. So we just kind of went there and found a great (and super cheap) apartment. But because we hadn’t done any research (go us!) we didn’t realize how seedy a reputation the city had! Honestly we were far from downtown so we managed to avoid it for the most part. Our apartment was actually filled with Russian families, and we ended up having a pleasant (if boring) month there. I’m not sure I’d ever choose to go back, but we did get a lot of work done 🙂
    Justine Lopez recently posted..This Expat Life (Beijing + Italy): Month 33

    • Alex
      May 15 2017

      Oh wow Justine that is hilarious! I met a guy once who did his divemaster in Pattaya… he had just booked an all-inclusive training package online without doing any research, and he LOATHED it. Still seemed bitter about it years later. I also recently met a guy in Bangkok who was stationed there for an oil job and seemed similarly repulsed. So at least you had a more positive experience than they did!

  • Sheree
    May 14 2017

    In my opinion it is so important to not be put off by the bad things you hear about a place. Naturally there needs to be conversation to address negative issues but it is so important to keep an open mind when travelling. I am yet to visit a place where I can’t find at least one good thing to say about it. Glad you managed to enjoy the trip even though you won’t be rushing back!
    Sheree recently posted..HOW TO SAVE MONEY FOR TRAVEL

    • Alex
      May 15 2017

      Frankly, I definitely wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for the festival. With all the amazing places in Thailand, I don’t feel any huge rush to flock to the centers of sex tourism 🙂 But I like your attitude… always good to look at the positive.

  • Dominique
    May 15 2017

    My grandmother used to spend the Dutch winters in Pattaya. I visited her once when I was a little girl – I can tell you Pattaya brings about quite a culture shock. I didn’t see much more than the beach, the shops & one of the ladyboy shows, but I’ll never forget that place!
    Dominique recently posted..Cliffs of Moher – A Day Trip

  • Rachel Clarke
    May 16 2017

    A great example of making a visit to a not so great place pretty awesome… Shows how who you travel with makes the biggest difference!

    How gutting about the Winery though haha, although technically you visited (a peep through the window) I’d say you can probably still tick it off the list 😉
    Rachel Clarke recently posted..A quick trip to Hadrian’s Wall

  • Juander Woman
    May 20 2017

    $139 for a four bedroom villa? I would have gladly stayed there the entire day. 😂
    Juander Woman recently posted..Dasol, Pangasinan Travel Guide – Itinerary, Budget, Resorts

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