The Painful Truth of Tourism And The Remarkable People That It Supports5 min read
Pattaya reminded me of Las Vegas without the casinos. It’s darker because it’s primal. A place rooted in transactions. I imagined people asking, “What can I get? What can I give you?” It’s the painful truth of tourism and the remarkable people that it supports.
A Thai friend of mine called Pattaya the armpit of Thailand. Although I could easily put two and two together, however, I wanted to see it for myself.
This part of Thailand isn’t for everyone because it requires a particular palette. As a result, I didn’t stay in Pattaya for long.
I took a stroll through The Walking Street and participated in some tourist activities. Granted, some portions of the trip were great, while other sections were less palatable.
Indeed, some people will tell you not to visit certain parts of the world, however, when traveling, it’s important to maintain an open mind and decide for yourself.
You never know where a country will take you and how your world-view may change. Above all experiences are what creates long-lasting memories.
The Painful Truth of Tourism And The Remarkable People That It Supports
During a Saturday filled with time at the pool with drinks and great company, a friend suggested that we do an impromptu visit to Pattaya. Some of us hesitated because of the far drive. It’s 1.5 hours away from the town of Bang Bo (where we lived).
Seeing that traveling abroad is about random and spontaneous adventures, we caught a taxi an hour later and headed for Pattaya.
The busy streets of Pattaya lit up. Restaurants on every corner, various storefronts, and street food overpowered the neighborhood like decorations.
A stark contrast to Bang Bo. The only major attraction in our town is Assumption University. It’s a religious university that bans the selling of alcohol within 500 meters.
We stayed at this super chic and clean hotel called Citrus Parc, which cost us $47 USD for the night. We liked the impressive design of our room. However, the functionality of the narrow and small shower made it difficult to shower.
We hitched on our first motor taxi together and headed for The Walking Street. I rode at the very edge of the motorbike with a total of three people. There was nowhere to place my feet and could only hold on to the motorbike with one hand.
Subsequently, I met some Muay Thai fighters within the first 5 minutes of arriving. One of the fighters made a gesture for me to walk towards the stage. Then they said, “Pictures, pictures!”
The other fighter said something to me in Thai, touched my hair, and wrapped pieces of it around my face. People abroad are always curious about my dreadlocks.
In either case, we further explored the area. Tourists and locals alike stumbling through the streets with intoxication. The things that I saw will be permanently ingrained in my psyche and my heart. It’s the painful truth of tourism and the remarkable people that it supports
The constant solicitation for ping-pong shows (I’ll let you Google that one) and guys and girls showing us naked pictures of women for display. In any case, prostitution is very much a thing here. I’m not sure if it’s legal. We ignored many gestures and many solicitations.
The Walking Street had many clubs and restaurants. If you looked up, you could see women dancing scantily in the windows of some of these clubs.
There were a lot of men there, and when I say a lot, it’s an understatement. Many of the men were much older and from various parts of the world.
It might be presumptuous to say, but I’m sure they weren’t at The Walking Street to sightsee. The thick air choked us with lust and sins. It tore me up inside as I walked through the streets. It felt like a circus of sadistic rendezvous.
I couldn’t help to think if some of these women found themselves with the wrong guy at the wrong time. The disabled took to the streets panhandling the tourists.
There were children as young as eight or nine wandering the streets unattended. Some would try to sell you random items, while others panhandled. It broke my heart.
There were families with young children there. I’m not sure why families would bring their children at night to The Walking Street.
There were policemen stationed at every few feet. However, it was unclear if they were policing or joining in.
We met a guy on a visa run one day when we were in Laos a few months ago. He’s an MC at one of the clubs. He’s been living in Thailand for the past 12 years.
He told us he would often try to convince the women out of prostitution. Many women get caught up in the lifestyle, he says because of the money. A lot of the girls he’s known since he moved to Thailand 12 years ago. It’s the painful truth of tourism and the remarkable people that it supports
I had more questions than answers. I thought about those girls a lot during and after the trip. Are these girls the cornerstone of the tourism in Pattaya? Is this what sustains it? I also thought about the children.
Ultimately, it’s all a matter of survival for both the women and children. It’s facing all the odds when the stakes have been stacked against you. You do what you have to do to survive. You do what’s necessary for yourself and your family. I prayed for everyone’s safety and well-being. It’s the painful truth of tourism and the remarkable people that it supports
If you’ve visited Pattaya, or have been to a similar place, what has been your experience? Share and comment below.
Thoughts that came up for me:
- Pattaya isn’t the only place with shadows and dark corners. I’m sure there’s one in almost every country and every city. It’s the dark side of tourism.
- People have to do what they need to do in order to survive and meet their basic needs.
- Everyone at The Walking Street looked like as if they were in a trance but no one seemed at peace