Exploring the Streets of Pattaya, Thailand At Night 🌛
Compared to the daytime, Thailand at night is a completely different world.
For many, Thailand is a place to relax on the beach while palm trees sway in the warm breeze of summer and the clear waves of the ocean rise and fall in the distance. Many people love how cheap massage places are all merely a walking distance away from their hotel, and the fact that everything costs less in Thailand compared to their home country. Others love the nightlife in Thailand, the partying, the pictures, the shopping — that’s why the Asiatique Night Market in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is such a popular destination among tourists.
But as a sixteen-year-old girl who calls herself a collector, creator, and reader of stories with a blog, camera, and keen pair of eyes, I clearly did not go to Thailand to relax. Pppsshhh. Please.
Like with anywhere else, I went to Thailand with the intention of educating myself further about its culture, people, and society.
A lot of observations can be made in one night, so for this post, I’d like to bring you along with me as I stroll through the streets of nighttime Pattaya and simply think about the things that I encounter.
Ready? Let’s begin. 😉
The story starts during a stormy evening in Pattaya, Thailand. It is the summer of 2017, and I am standing on the patio of my hotel room, looking at the ocean in the distance.
The resort portion of the hotel splays below me, dotted with palm trees, plastic slides, and a winding river where people can leisurely float down on pool floats. I, on the other hand, have no desire to swim or lounge on the pool deck below. I’m anxious to drive out into the main nightlife of Pattaya and test out my nighttime photography skills, which I haven’t been able to do so this summer until now.
After a little bit of waiting, my family and I found ourselves in the midst of a huge complex of street food vendors in an outdoor plaza — all of which I couldn’t try, not without me feeling super apprehensive about eating the food. 😶
Whenever I look up “things to do in Thailand” online, most websites suggest spending a night or few trying street food instead of sitting down to have dinner at a restaurant. I would do that… except for the fact that I’m allergic to some nuts and peanuts, and sadly, many Thai dishes contain peanuts. Even if a particular dish doesn’t contain nuts, the person who made it might have used utensils that had previously made contact with nuts, so I have to be super careful with street foods. Fruits seem to be the only safe street foods for me to eat whilst traveling. 😊
For me, it’s interesting to note that the food labels all have Chinese (usually simplified), English, and sometimes Russian on them. Sometimes signs don’t even have Thai on them, which proves how developed the tourist industry is in this area… perhaps at expense of the Thai culture?
I’ve always found it interesting to see what languages are shown on signs while traveling in touristy areas because it gives me an idea of where in the world tourists come from. Corresponding with the signs, I did notice that there were many Russian and Chinese tourists, and I was quite happy that I was able to read some signs in both the English and Chinese translations. 😊
Nighttime in Pattaya is vibrant in the abundance of lights and people, yes, but there’s also a sense of weariness behind the hands that place skewers of meat on fires and bag the fruits customers have picked out. I used to think it was childish of me to wonder if the people I met liked their job, working on the streets of Thailand, but I now realize that I should never stop that kind of wondering.
Whether I end up getting a sense that the person behind the food cart or grill likes their job or not, my end of the interaction never changes — I give them a smile, and more often than not, I’ll receive one in return.
There’s something so beautiful about smiling at a stranger and having them smile back. It’s wonderful when they’ve already smiled at me before, but it’s even better when they seem tired and suddenly smile. Their faces transform from weariness to vivacity. In those moments of shared smiles, despite the language barrier, I feel like I’m speaking the language of humanity with them. It’s these small moments I’ve come to appreciate and yearn for when traveling.
And besides, food tastes so much better when it’s handed over to you with a smile. 😄
I remember stepping in a dirty puddle of who-knows-what when I came to Pattaya last year. My Keens — the same ones I’m wearing now — got soaked, and I had to walk around that night with my right foot squishing and oozing with brown water. This time, I made sure to watch where I stepped to avoid another puddle fiasco, which was pretty impressive. I think the odds of stepping into a puddle in Pattaya is much higher than avoiding it, but that might just be me. 😅
On the topic of puddles though… the streets of Pattaya can be quite dirty, I admit. Trash piles up on corners, and the skins of fruit are rudely tossed to the side of streets by tourists. Combined with the greying walls of buildings and dangling electric wires peeking out from alleyways, nighttime in Pattaya could be an unappealing place to visit — but for me, it’s the perfect place for a photography trip.
But then I have to think again — I find dirty alleyways and crowded streets amazing because I’m simply another tourist in the area. I don’t live in this district of Pattaya, Thailand, and if I ever get tired of the people and the carelessly-tossed banana skins on the streets, I can always retire back to my hotel room or literally fly back home.
What about the people who actually work and live here, though?
They can’t decide to suddenly go back home because they’re tired of tourists; for the people at food carts and for those who run outdoor souvenir shops, their success for the night determines their amount of income.
Or… am I completely wrong about these people’s need for money through their nighttime sales? Is there a book out there I can read about this topic? It’s good to ask questions while traveling — asking questions led me to read a book on Hong Kong maids. Because of that book, I now know more about HK domestic workers than I ever had before.
I soon found myself in a maze of outdoor souvenir shops, where layers and layers of jewelry and random accessories were splayed out on wooden tables. As a little girl, I used to be obsessed with buying accessories like hair ties and earrings. When I saw a table with rows and rows of earrings on display, I knew that if I were ten again and saw that, I would have bought at least five pairs of earrings from that stand.
Now, though, I don’t buy souvenirs. I haven’t gone clothes shopping in a while, and I have no desire to buy random accessories. I’ve cleared my closet, bathroom, and room of things I no longer have a use for, because buying excess things makes me feel so wasteful now. Whenever I see a piece of clothing, I don’t think about how good it will look on me as an outfit — I think further back and wonder about how that piece of clothing was made.
Was it made in a factory that uses child labor? If not child labor, then was the clothing made with illegally low wages or other nonethical methods?
I’ve been wanting to read a book that traces clothing of major brands back to the factory it was originally manufactured from to educate myself about how the clothes I wear are made. It really goes the same with all these souvenirs I see while traveling — how are these objects made? And if I did know how they were made, would I want to buy them and support the manufacturing process it came from?
With music flowing in my ears, I stand on the side of a busy street and try my hand at some slow-shutter speed night photography. Everything turned out shaky, and it was in that moment that I realized how much I needed a tripod with me on my travels. Nevertheless, I got some pretty unique pictures from my shaky photography session. 😊📸
In the photo above, you can see how a line of women are sitting outside a massage store, waiting for customers to go in so they would have work. It’s important to note that most massagers in Thailand, I’ve observed, are women. I’ve also discovered, through research and asking around, that one of the main reasons why that is the case is because of the culture — many Thai women learn how to massage from their mothers and grandmothers, and when they need to find work, they have the skill to work at a massage shop if they don’t have other work options.
Of course, that’s only one possible reason; I hope I can find out more about why this is in the future.
Finally, it is time for me and my family to go back to our hotel.
The lateness of the hour has not diminished the noise, lights, or crowds bustling about on Pattaya’s streets; in fact, I think it’s only gotten more energetic in mood. I hang on to the metal rails on the side of the Songthaew — a truck with two rows of seats on the back — and make sure that I, along with everyone else, do not fall off the back of the truck.
There’s something really exhilarating about sitting in the back of a truck as it whips through busy streets and alleys. Lights turn into blurry lines, and even when I see something interesting, I can’t stop to think about it for very long before another point of interest sweeps my attention away. Sort of like with this situation:
While driving past a building, I saw a ton of people lined up around it. I pointed this out to my mom, who looked confused for a second until she saw the sign on top of the building.
“Look,” my mom said, and I followed her line of sight.
Oooooh… I see. People were lining up to see a show of girls in glittering swimsuits. 😑
Then the building and the line of people blinked away from sight as the driver of the Songthaew turned into a new street.
Eventually we got back to our hotel, and after I settled down, I tried to fall asleep.
There’s a lot to see in one night in Thailand, and it is during nights like these when I realize how important education is. For example, I’ve learned in just one night that I need to
~ Learn what role factory workers and child labor play in manufacturing the goods that I use in my daily life
~ Do more research on the backgrounds of people who work at street vendors and food carts
~ And also understand why most massagers are women in Thailand
Even if I do find the answers to these questions, there is still much more I’ve yet to understand about Thailand and its culture. But in the end, it’s the effort I put into understand the world and my desire to know more that makes traveling so life-changing for me. 😊 Yes, perhaps it is nice to relax on the beach while palm trees sway in the warm breeze of summer and the clear waves of the ocean rise and fall in the distance…
but while I can physically relax, my mind both won’t and can’t and doesn’t want to.
If I’m on the beach, I’ll wonder where the chair I’m sitting on comes from and whether the person working at the towel distribution shack likes his or her job. I’ll notice how men unabashedly stare at women in swimsuits and create a long, frustrated rant in my mind based on that. Oh, and also, do people think it’s alright to not say thank you if they’re the one being served?
I’m thinking these thoughts as I’m trying to fall asleep… This, everyone, is why it takes me at least an hour of laying in bed to fall asleep, no matter what the time is. 😇😭
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed walking through the streets of Pattaya at night with me and following along with my thoughts and contemplations! 😊
Thank you so much for stopping by,
and I hope you have a wonderful day or night,
wherever you are in this world.
🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔 🌕
I’ll cya nex time in my next adventure!