The Pattaya city fathers and tourist operators like to believe Walking Street is internationally famous. It’s a little like so many things across the planet billed as being ‘world famous’. OK, let’s dispense with the world famous tag for starters. Spot the odd one out: Disneyland, Taj Mahal, Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Walking Street, McDonalds, Route 66. Chances are a straw poll of 1,000 people would have heard of six of the seven: Walking Street would be the odd one out. In other words, it is not world famous. Patpong in Bangkok is, arguably, far more famous than Walking Street. All that said, Walking Street in south Pattaya leaves Patpong (and Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, the other two foreign-oriented nightlife areas in the capital) for dead.
It starts gently enough with a couple of beer bars, live music venues, and restaurants as well as routine businesses in the first 50-60 metres. Then it becomes increasingly bar oriented with go-go’s, beer bars, touts, female barkers with toothy smiles holding signs, and neon flashing everywhere. It is an assault on the senses and for most first-timers it can be a daunting and confronting experience. At the beginning of 2006 there were 43 go-go bars in and around the Walking Street area. The rest of the city had 24.
Although tourist numbers grow year on year, the number of beer bars in Pattaya has exploded since the millennium and now number more than 800 spread between Naklua and Jomtien and between Beach Road and out to Third Road and beyond. Turn down almost any back soi in Pattaya and you are likely to stumble across a beer bar. So what are they? At their most basic, a small enclosed space with seating for 10-20 customers on stools surrounding the bar, a couple of fridges, a TV (usually tuned to a Thai channel) and girls who run the gamut from young to ancient, thin to fat, beautiful to past-their-use-by-date, good English and dressed-to-kill to fresh off the farm.
They serve beer, usually in bottles as many of them are not set up to handle draught. They also serve any other drink you fancy, from coffee and tea and soft drinks to spirits. The drinks prices vary depending on the beer bar location. Many places have an all-day happy hour policy designed to catch the early birds; perhaps the best known are Wonderful Bar, Wonderful Bar 2 (both on Second Road between Sois 13/1 and Soi 13 and Eagle Bar in Soi 7. Most girls working in a beer bar start work between 4:00 and 5:00 pm. The real stars might not come to the bar until 7 or 8:00 pm. Freelancers, who will work out of a series of bars in different areas, will turn up whenever they feel like it. The salary for most beer bar girls is not much more than 3,000 baht a month. Where they make their money is via tips and lady drinks, and being bought out of the bar by customers.
At the beginning of 2006 Pattaya was blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with around 67 go-go bars. The vast majority of these and easily the best versions are on or about Walking Street. Although the city fathers have been touting Pattaya as a family destination for the past few years, the reality has seen a huge growth in beer bars and go-gos. In 2005 alone, more than a dozen opened their doors just on Walking Street. Go-go bars are enclosed, air-conditioned venues featuring dancers who take turns hanging on to a chrome pole while dressed in a g-string bikini in most places and sometimes a lot less. Most times there are 8-10 girls on stage and as each song ends generally one or two come off stage for a rest and are replaced by one or two fresh dancers.
Not all go-go bars are worth visiting, while many others should not be missed. There are those best visited in the afternoon, yet by early evening you’d be better off trawling through a swamp than trying to find a potential sleeping partner. Most of the go-go’s that open in the afternoon are located away from Walking Street. Tahitian Queen, Club Nevada, and Far East Rock are pretty much the pick of the small bunch. The vast majority of go-go bars don’t start until 7:30-8:00pm. Once again there are those worth a visit early in the night; others don’t seem to get into the swing of the action until after 10:00pm. Depending on the go-go bar, the selection on offer includes dancers, hostesses, showgirls, and waitresses. The bar fines are higher than beer bars, with 500 baht the industry standard, although showgirls can be 600 baht plus.
If you don’t mind being deaf for a day or two afterwards, a Thai disco can be fun. There are three major Thai-oriented discos in Pattaya: Hollywood (off South Pattaya Road); X-Zyte (Third Road), and Star Dice (Naklua Road). They differ from foreign-style discos in that the entertainment switches between live entertainment and a DJ or two spinning discs while patrons generally stand up at small round tables and drink; the Thais tend to go for whisky sets: a bottle of, say, 100 Pipers and mixers of soda and/or coke and a bucket of ice. These places are not usually pick-up joints. The places that are pick-up joints attracting a lot of freelancers are on Walking Street: Marine, Marine 2, Lucifers, and Tony’s. Lucifers tends to be the early starter and is usually packed by midnight, the others seem to start later but go on until 3 and 4:00 am.
Thai cover bands abound. Some are very good, most are average and some are just dreadful. The majority work behind beer bars but unfortunately have to compete with other bands in nearby beer bars as well as piped music of varying quality. A few years ago a live music venue called the Blues Factory opened its doors in the Walking Street area featuring foreign musicians. It has proven a great success and has been followed in partial measure by Climax (also on Walking Street). Lucifers disco also has a very good band in its front bar area.
This includes Walking Street (in the south of the city), but basically runs from South Pattaya Road to Soi 13. Included in this section are Pattayaland Soi 1 and 2 (Sois 13/3 and 13/4), the Siren and Best Friend beer bar complexes (around 15-20 beer bars in each), Soi Post Office (13/2), Soi Yamato (13/1)
Basically from Soi 12 to Central Pattaya Road. There are major beer bar streets down Soi 8 and 7.
Stretching from Soi 6 to the Dolphin Roundabout, near the Dusit Resort. Soi 6 is best known as a afternoon destination with a lot of short-time bars.
Better known as Germantown because of the overwhelming number of German-owned and run bars.
Over the hill and far away from the hustle and bustle of south Pattaya. The main bar area as such revolves around the Jomtien Plaza Complex. It is home to a collection of truly excellent restaurants offering brilliant European (and some Thai) fare. The bars tend to be of the indoor beer bar style, most with a regular ex-pat crowd but newcomers are always welcome. The girls tend to be plain but friendly, although many have the idea a night of passion with them is worth the same remuneration as many a Pattaya go-go girl.