Bangkok's Destination Dupe Is Budget-Friendly And Just As Captivating

Often overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of Bangkok, Pattaya, a coastal city just a two-hour drive away, is one of Thailand's many diverse and enticing destinations. Pattaya is renowned for its breathtaking beaches, lively nightlife, and rich cultural activities, attracting nearly 10 million visitors annually. This destination dupe promises an experience as enriching and exciting as Bangkok but with the added benefit of being more budget-friendly.

Pattaya is a popular Thailand destination for an incredible beach vacation. The main beach, Pattaya Beach, stretches for 2.5 miles along the city center and offers an array of water sports, bars, and restaurants. It's the perfect spot for those who enjoy the buzz of a busy beachfront. Jomtien Beach, Bang Saen Beach, or Bamboo Beach provide a more private and peaceful escape. Here, you can sunbathe, swim, or savor fresh seafood.

While Bangkok is famed for its electrifying nightlife, Pattaya is not far behind. The Walking Street is a wild mix of clubs, bars, and street performances, offering entertainment options that cater to anyone. Check out Club Insomnia, Mixx Discotheque, or 808. Visit from 6 p.m., when the street is blocked from all vehicle traffic. For something more luxe, hit up Horizon Rooftop Bar on the 34th floor of the Hilton (happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.). For a local experience, visit the pink-neon-lit bars on Beach Road Soi 7 or attend a late-night Muay Thai match at Max Muay Thai. 

From wooden castles to water parks in Pattaya

Pattaya has a range of must-visit cultural sites. The Sanctuary of Truth is a marvel of architecture and Eastern philosophy — it's also the largest wooden castle in the world. This awe-inspiring edifice, entirely made of wood, began construction in 1981 and is still in progress. Tickets cost $20, with tours available in multiple languages. Ensure to dress modestly for the visit.  

For nature lovers, the award-winning 600-acre Nong Nooch Botanical Garden showcases stunning landscapes and a variety of themed gardens, including a bonsai garden and a dinosaur valley. Nong Nooch hosts daily shows like traditional Thai dance and offers opportunities to feed animals like deer and monkeys. Full garden and show access costs $9 for adults and $5 for children. For family-friendly fun, Art in Paradise, an interactive 3D art museum, provides a unique and playful experience for visitors of all ages ($12 for adults and $6 for kids). The Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark, another family favorite, offers more than 30 thrilling water rides and is themed around popular Cartoon Network characters. Tickets cost $50 for adults and $40 for kids.

Pattaya's culinary landscape is as diverse as its attractions. Street food stalls at Thepprasit Night Market serve up steamy, spicy, and delectable Thai favorites like Pad Thai and Som Tam for affordable prices. If you're feeling adventurous, try some fried insects! Otherwise, Cafe des Amis and Mum Aroi Seafood Restaurant offer more upscale dining experiences. 

Shopping, accomodations, and travel tips

The city has markets and malls catering to every shopping need and budget. The Pattaya Floating Market offers a unique shopping experience where you can buy local handicrafts, art, and clothing while floating down the waterways on a boat. Central Pattaya, on the other hand, provides a more conventional shopping experience with a mix of local and international brands. It's also Asia's largest beachfront mall, with over 350 stores!

Accommodation in Pattaya ranges from budget-friendly hostels like Nonze Pattaya to lavish resorts, such as MASON Pattaya, all at an average lower cost than Bangkok. This variety ensures you'll find a place to stay that suits your style, whether you are a backpacker or a luxury traveler. Pattaya has a tropical wet and dry climate, which is divided into the following seasons: hot and dry (November to February), hot and humid (March and April), and rainy (May to October). Unfortunately, it's one of those places you should never visit in the summer. The best time to come to Pattaya is between November and February. However, this also coincides with peak tourist season. 

To reach Pattaya from Bangkok, you have several options. You can take a taxi or rent a car at Suvarnabhumi Airport, with the journey typically taking about two hours. Alternatively, the most cost-effective method is by bus, which departs regularly from Bangkok's Ekkamai, Mochit, or Sai Tai Mai terminals. These air-conditioned buses depart daily every 30 minutes and will take you straight to Pattaya.