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11. Posted by Matt19849 (Budding Member 33 posts) 7y

Degolasse - I really appreciate the time you've taken to write that out and its made me think that maybe Phuket isn't the right place - no doubt we will visit there maybe for a few days but I dont think were stay there for a few weeks, by the sounds of it theres a lot of other places/islands that sound a lot better. Would be good to experiemce the other islands etc but with only a month out there the last thing we want to do is be rushing between places to see them all and not enjoy it.
Diving is a big thing out there for me i'm hoping to do a couple more courses (up to my rescue diver) while im out there so if Ko Tao is cheap for diving out there I might look at the costs of courses there too.

Thank you

12. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 7y

Here are a few thoughts on Pattaya for those who can’t make up their mind, or are worried about the sex industry and what it’s like for single women, couples, children etc,

Pattaya is a cheap and, in general, cheerful town On the Eastern seaboard of Thailand, the climate is great....just about the driest place on the Thai coast and the cost of living is cheap.....

The image most people have of a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah is really a result of careless and sensationalist reporting by various media around the world. It is true that there are many middle-aged men who have found they can afford to retire here often with a wife or girlfriend half their age...who are we to judge? - ...but it is also a fun holiday resort and great value for money.

The demographics are changing – new markets have been found in Eastern Europe and Asia..Korea, Taiwan China and India – the new economies are sending their people on holiday for the first time in many cases and Pattaya is ideal for them

There is also a lot to do if you are a family on holiday.

Visually, the beaches in Pattaya are not up to much compared to elsewhere in Thailand; it’s a very urban environment...rows of umbrellas and deck-chairs. Although people do swim, the sea is rather polluted…how much is unclear….they claim to have cleaned up the water a lot in the last few years and have marked of areas for swimmers. Neighbouring Jomtien beach about a 15 min “bus” ride away looks to be more swimmer-friendly but there is the occasional bout of untreated sewerage there from time to time. (This IS Thailand!). Cosy beach and Sugar beach between Pattaya and Jomtien offer less crowded or urban alternatives. Bear in mind that what is done to monitor pollution on any of the beaches throughout Thailand is not clear. Inevitably, wherever you are, ALL the main holiday beaches in Thailand are subject to pollution from time to time depending on season wind and tides.

All the same many people enjoy the beaches in and around Pattaya....At both Pattaya and Jomtien beaches you can hire all sorts of water sports stuff, and it’s all pretty cheap. All beaches have plenty of people selling drinks and snacks etc....have a fresh coconut and drink the liquid inside through a straw....very refreshing!

Off shore there are one or two islands with much nicer beaches, they are easily accessible for a day trip. If you go to Koh Laan, the main beach is really just a row of restaurants etc., but, it’s well worth hiring a moped and driving over to the other side of the island.....views from the top are great and there are some very quiet beaches there. Or simply walk along the coast for a bit to get away from the crowds.

Further down the coast towards Sattahip there are some quite reasonable beaches, Ban Sare or Ban Amphoe for example.

On the mainland, Pattaya offers a range of amusement parks, gardens, and theme parks and various sports.

There are numerous good quality golf courses, horse riding and motor sports, both karting and a car racing circuit. There are some small airfields nearby for fans of light aircraft too.

Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens although recently scandalised by the Beeb for their treatment of Elephants is worth a visit, just don’t support the Elephant rides. Elephant village is similarly not to be supported. Pattaya Park is a Water World amusement park that offers all the usual water rides plus a revolving restaurant and some hair-rising ways of getting up there and back down. Mini Siam is a miniature tour of Thailand - full of bus-loads of tourists with a MacDonald’s’ at the entrance. Million year old stone park has beautiful gardens - feed the 5ft long catfish! And cringe at the abysmal treatment of tigers and crocodiles. Further a field is Sri Racha tiger Zoo...to be avoided at all costs, and Kao Keow Open Zoo, a refreshing change from the usual callous way animals are treated in Thailand. There is also the “Water World” Aquarium on Sukumvit Rd. Any hotel or travel shop will arrange to take you there. For kids and the easily pleased, there’s also Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Toys R us!

The Sanctuary of Truth is a rather unexpected attraction given the nature and reputation of Pattaya as a holiday destination. Built by a wealthy business family to celebrate the religions of the world, it is an enormous hand-carved wooden building built on a small promontory at Naklua the Northern end of Pattaya.
You’ll need a Sawngthaew or Motorcycle taxi to get there and it is rather dear to get in....current price unknown.
Work on the building seems to be continually in progress, and provides employment for many artisans and craftsmen from all over the country.
A walk around the site you’ll see carvers at work, inside the building are signs explaining each section of the building, and just marvel at the wonderful if rather crude carving.
The building itself is amazing but there are also some peripheral attractions that don’t seem so wonderful. One can rent a horse to ride around the site. At the time your correspondent was there one of the animals had got out of control and was being chased around the site by clearly untrained staff.
Another “attraction is the dolphin show. Here a small species of Dolphins (they are replaced from time to time!) -are put through there paces in a muddy pond, balancing balls and splashing the audience....it’s all rather embarrassing really.
However, all in all despite the rather second rate other attractions the site is well worth a visit.

Pattaya offers some of the best shopping outside Bangkok, and it is actually more accessible being sited in a much smaller area. New shopping malls are constantly being built – Central is the latest to spring up on beach road. Beach road and second road are the main shopping roads.

Along the beach stalls shops and arcades offer all the usual souvenir stuff and some things that might cause a few raised eyebrows.... (A Samurai Sword or replica gun?!?!). Lots of ersatz stuff and big brand copies, CDs and DVDs for 150 baht, computer programs.....
The malls....several new malls are currently being built or just about to open - Check out the older “MIKE’S” & “ROYAL GARDEN PLAZA” - accessible from Beach Rd or Second Rd) offer more quality goods still at great prices. Royal garden has an eatery with good views of the bay on the top floor and Mikes has a public swimming pool on the roof!
Other Malls around town include “Big C” on 2nd road, Tesco’s on Pattaya North (Nua), and Carrefour on Pattaya Central (Klang), and the new the Avenue Complex on Pattaya Second Road, featuring the Villa supermarket for those craving a taste of home – at a price. All these have a range of other shops and restaurants all under one air-conditioned roof. Tesco and Big C also have stores on Sukumvit Rd - the main road from Bangkok.

Eating out in Pattaya & Jomtien is a treat! There’s everything form every country and it’s all cheap! Even the up-market stuff is half what you’d pay in Europe. You can eat US, French, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Full English Breakfast, Italian, Belgian, Dutch, German....... The list is endless.....BUT - what am I saying?..............There’s one I’ve missed out....

THAI food! Thai food is wonderful.....everything from mild Chinese based noodles to hot and spicy Issan food....seafood, barbeque, Tom Yam soups...try it...you’ll love it.....if you want to spend a bit of Money try Ruen Thai on 2nd road or Sugar Hut on Thap Phraya Rd, the hill between Jomtien and Pattaya. Ruen Thai has great food from the all regions of Thailand and puts on an ethnic floor show music, dance or even demonstration Thai boxing! Sugar Hut is in fact a very beautiful resort, the restaurant is in a traditional Thai style wooden house. The atmosphere is amazing.... you remove your shoes on entering the dining area and the seating is either traditional low or for those of us who are less flexible there are “normal” height chairs and tables. Everything is teak and silk....just a pity the menu is so badly written and the food is a little on the bland side, but for a one off evening out it’s a must.
At the other end of the price range there are the small Thai restaurants and street stalls dotted all over town....many won’t have a menu in English so just walk in, sit down and look hungry.....let them bring you something and try and guess what it is you’re eating....for (a lot) less than $5 for 2 you can’t go wrong. A bowl of street noodles can be as little as 15 baht.
Just one phrase you might find useful....”Mai Pet” (one for the Geordies!) - this means “not hot”...it won’t mean no chillies but it might bring it down to a level where you can just about eat it! - “Mai Prik” is NO chillies at all.
And for the mindless, bootless and unhorsed, the culturally stagnant and the grossly obese, there is the usual plethora of fast food outlets....McD’s, KFC, and Burger King....how can people eat that stuff!?!?!? And WHY when you are in a land of gastronomic delights, would you? (My comfort food of choice is a big plate of liver and onions - mmmmmmm!)

13. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 7y

Part 2 -
he night life in Pattaya is legendary....although now the bars officially close at 1.00pm; this does not stop some places from turning music down and carrying on till the early hours of daylight.
There are discos, clubs bars of sorts including the girlie places....

As with almost everywhere in Thailand, the sex trade ripples through Pattaya like veins through a stilton, and in a similar way gives the place its distinctive character. Aimed at both Thais and tourists it is quite unlike the red-light areas of Europe and America, it isn’t nearly as sleazy; mainly it consists of small open bars where (middle-aged) men sit drinking beer and talking to the “bar-girls”. If a tryst is arranged it will probably take place in one of the hundreds of hotels that permit “guests”. There is very little open display of lewdness as this is not approved of in Thailand. The “Go-go Bars” are behind closed doors and have naked or semi naked girls pole dancing or rather holding a pole and swaying to music. You and your (young) family would not be admitted to a Go-go bar – (couples would). If you went to an open beer bar you would be treated as a perfectly ordinary customer and the girls would dote on your children. (They are mostly mothers themselves). ..............and as for the “seediness” how many men do you know go to Hamburg or Amsterdam and find a wife?

For something a little more “wholesome” - on 2nd road spend an hour or so at the newly relocated Malibu Bar....it’s a girl and lady-man show....a low budget affair, they make their own elaborate costumes and mime to well-known western songs. Every night they tread the boards from 8 till about 12.00 midnight...sometimes poor and amateurish but always entertaining...DO NOT miss Tina Turner! This guy (now the owner?) is actually quite professional and very good indeed. He does a couple of performances every night and the place fills just to watch his act. Unfortunately sometimes he has to take time off (twice a night, 7 days a week, year in year out - who wouldn’t?!? and the act is performed by a less talented stand-in. All -in- all a great friendly atmosphere, lots of couples and even kids - and no smut!!!!....no admission charge, and they do food.

If you are finding the heat a bit too much there are plenty of enclosed air-conditioned bars with a western theme, be they Irish, English, Belgian or whatever. Here you can eat “comfort food” and watch replays of your favourite old TV shows and live football.

If you’re tired out by all this...get a massage. Make sure it’s actually a massage establishment and not a “gentleman’s relaxation” facility! There are plenty of small boutiques you can go in and get a 1or 2 hour leg rub for about 150 to 400 baht and some beautiful Spas that will pamper you for the best part of a day for a few grand. (Thai baht that is!)

14. Posted by Matt19849 (Budding Member 33 posts) 7y

Again thank you for the posts - very detailed. We weren't planning on going there as much but it looks like theres quite a bit going on so we might go there for a week on the way back to Bangkok. Not so sure about the whole animal treating thing that you were saying about we were looking forward to walking in amngst the tigers and having an elephant ride but not so sure we want to now if there being treated badly - is there anywhere out there that treats them well that we can go to?

15. Posted by james1988 (Budding Member 25 posts) 7y

Hi

Not sure if you are already there but with regards to money withdrawls I have spent a while looking into this. Definately do not take all cash and do not use travellers cheques. You loose money changing into them and converting them where there, and its just an unconvience.

Currently Nationwide are still the best bet with there current flexi account. It was until a week or so ago 0% cash withdrawls abroad, but has changed to 1% due to the "economic climate". It is still the cheapest method. Post office have a card too but charge for withdrawls more than nationawide. They do however have a credit card with 0% on international purchases, also offered by Nationwide. This may be worth looking at as a back up incase you loose you card.

Finally, Barclaycard also offer 1years free credit card protection with their barclaycard at the moment. If you loose you cards abroad, they can arrange to cancel all your cards for you, arrange for you to receive emergency cash, and arrange for replacement cards to be sent to you free of charge. You dont have to use the card for this service, just own a barclaycard, so its worth taking out, and you have another back up. Really worth having a look at.

16. Posted by KevinRB (Inactive 76 posts) 7y

Hi

The point I raised from my previous posts that needs careful consideration is that whatever method you decide to use, the UNKNOWN is what exchange rate you will receive.

There is no such thing as a "free lunch", so the Nationwides offers of 0%-1% are NOT really that cheap, as I am sure that they will also give you the worst exchange rate, how else can they still earn their commissions !!.

The cheaper the offer "up front", the more hidden costs there are behind it !!.

Kevin;)

17. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 7y

I've always got a good rate over the years with my cards - Kevin what are you basing this info on?

I got the impression that the commission was charged by the card, but NW swallowed that fee - they are now stopping this in June for ATMs outside Europe.

as I said there are other ways of using an ATM.
However whatever the rates - and I'm sure your can check quite easily - it is hard to find a more convenient alternative to the ATM/Credit card in Thailand.

Check fees with your bank - I think you'll find the card company sets the rates at that days retail rate.
Let your bank know you ae going to Thailand - very important!
Take more than one card and/or TTs as backup.

[ Edit: Edited on 21-Mar-2009, at 19:45 by wildfk ]

18. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1596 posts) 7y

Quoting james1988

Hi

Not sure if you are already there but with regards to money withdrawls I have spent a while looking into this. Definately do not take all cash and do not use travellers cheques. You loose money changing into them and converting them where there, and its just an unconvience.

Currently Nationwide are still the best bet with there current flexi account. It was until a week or so ago 0% cash withdrawls abroad, but has changed to 1% due to the "economic climate". It is still the cheapest method. Post office have a card too but charge for withdrawls more than nationawide. They do however have a credit card with 0% on international purchases, also offered by Nationwide. This may be worth looking at as a back up incase you loose you card.

Finally, Barclaycard also offer 1years free credit card protection with their barclaycard at the moment. If you loose you cards abroad, they can arrange to cancel all your cards for you, arrange for you to receive emergency cash, and arrange for replacement cards to be sent to you free of charge. You dont have to use the card for this service, just own a barclaycard, so its worth taking out, and you have another back up. Really worth having a look at.

I use debit cards in Thailand all the time. My debit cards are through credit unions in the US. I pay no annual fees with these cards. Between the two cards I can make at least 10 free ATM withdrawals overseas if ever necessary. That is 10,000 baht per withdrawal (I rarely need more than 2 to 4 withdrawals in one month unless it is to pay for plane tickets out of Thailand to somewhere.) The rate I get is good too! When you compare the rates you get you have to compare what the going rate was for that particular day. Rates change every working day, what you get today will be different on another working day.

I have no problem with travelers checks either. The fee of 33 baht to change one has been pretty consistent over many years. I get my travelers checks without any commission through the same credit unions. If you are lucky to get them without any commission they are not a big problem plus you get the added safety. If you take travelers checks only bring the largest denominations you can get so you don't have lots of 33 baht fees for $10 checks. Travelers checks (US) get a little more in exchange than ordinary cash so even with the small fee to change them the rate is still pretty good. I would bring a larger denomination if I could get them without any commission but my credit unions don't issue them.

Left over Thai baht can be changed back into your home currency at the airport before you leave for home, by the way.

When US tourists bring US dollars they get a little more in return when big bills like $100 and $50 are exchanged compared to smaller sizes. I have no problem taking cash with me either. Cash always works when ATM's are not available or not working. The rate of exchange in Thailand for cash (for me US currency, large bills) is okay, just slightly less than a TC - I only bring large denomination TC's of $100 size.

Like the other post mentioned, tell your bank (or credit union) that you will be overseas and where. Otherwise your ATM withdrawal may be denied because of suspected fraud.

I bring credit cards for emergencies only and use cash for all purchases except for charging the plane ticket.

I keep enough money in my debit card accounts to see me through my time overseas, if I need extra I can use the internet and transfer money from my bank to the debit card accounts via Bill Pay. I like Bill Pay a lot! I can schedule payments weeks ahead of time or on the spot if necessary.

So, for me debit cards, travelers checks and cash works and I like it! I don't like the interest and ATM charges that come with credit cards - not to mention the possibility of CC fraud! When I use debit cards it is only in ATM's and when the bank is open just in case the card gets stuck. If you use an ATM when the bank is open the clerk can get the card back for you! If you stay in cheap hotels you can get by with using cash for all cheap purchases.

Oh yeah, you can store the serial numbers of your travelers checks on the internet in case they become lost of stolen you will have a record. I do the same for my $100 bills. Fat chance that the police will ever find them if stolen but who knows, at least I will have a record of them. I write the info (and other must remember info) in email form and then send it to myself and save it in memory. Lots of stuff can be saved in email form, such as flight schedules and itineraries and e-tickets too! If you can find an internet shop you can retrieve that info!

Have a good trip.

19. Posted by KevinRB (Inactive 76 posts) 7y

Hi Wil

I have just checked back a few actual examples, and as a debit card holder, I currently use an ATM machine a couple of times a month.

For the pleasure of using the machine Barclays Bank charges me 4.6% of the value of the sterling value of the transaction.

I have also checked back ATM withdrawals versus Thai Bank cash withdrawals (on the same dates), and there is a 3% exchange rate variable between Barclays & the Thai bank, so in total the "flexibility" of using an ATM costs me 7.6% !!.

Now you can say that running credit cards doesn't cost that much, but sit down & work it out, running debit cards has ALWAYS been cheaper than running credit cards, and this is the price of "easy money" !!.

I have also done bank transfers in GBP£, and that costs you an average of £50 per transfer (£35 sending bank & £15 receiving bank).

I have also done UK - Thailand Thai Baht bank transfers - which are cheaper than GBP£ transfers, but once again you get "shafted"on the exchange rate the bank gives you.

So however you do it, other than carrying a big bag of "swag" around everywhere with you, the banks have you by "the short & curlies"

But I am not sure if all of this is going to help the innocent questioner !!.

Kevin

20. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 7y

Yes - I too have heard that Barclays are really dear when it comes to this sort of stuff.

try some other banks.