Central Pattaya is predominately a sea of flashing neon and blaring music, even in the smaller sois. Walking Street becomes a pedestrian zone in the evening in South Pattaya, on Beach Roach. Here you will see debauchery at its fullest, with an array of go-go bars, open-air drinking establishments, Thai boxing venues (before you place a bet, the fights are all fixed), and, of course, overpriced tourist restaurants. Regular bars and places with live music can also be found. The energy on the street, whether good or bad, is riotous by evening. In daylight, the passageway is bleak, with bleary-eyed revelers stumbling through seedy storefronts.
Sex for money in Pattaya is an unashamedly direct business. Dubious massage parlors are numerous in northern Pattaya. Hotels insist "visitors" (a euphemism for prostitutes) register their ID with security guards, whereupon the client pays a "joiner fee." Despite its prevalence, prostitution in Thailand is illegal, so be prepared to risk a police raid, or hefty bribe to the local police or mafia, not to mention a call to your embassy. It's not all innocent fun. Stories of laced drinks and aggravated theft (or worse) abound. AIDS and STDs are major concerns. To prove they are cracking down, authorities are particularly happy to splash photos of any foreigners caught with young girls or boys across the international media.
Happily, Pattaya is not entirely sleazy these days, as indicated by some of its finer eateries and upscale resorts. There are a number of bars where you can go to enjoy a drink and maybe listen to live music without being propositioned. Topping the list is the Hopf Brew House (219 Beach Rd.; tel. 03871-0650). Designed like a German brewery, this spacious watering hole brews its own beer and serves Northern European bar food. It also has an in-house band that plays mostly easy-listening tunes. Shenanigan's is a fun Irish-bar hangout at the Royal Garden Complex (near the Marriott; tel. 03871-0641), with the front entrance on Pattaya 2nd Road. It's a good place to watch major sporting events on the big screen. Then there's Henry J. Bean's Bar and Grill (on the beach near the Amari Orchid Resort & Tower; tel. 03842-8161), which is a friendly bar with live music nightly, except Sunday. It serves Tex-Mex food, complete with margaritas and a wide assortment of beers.
The town's camped-up cabaret shows are always good, lighthearted fun. Pattaya's sensational katoeys (transsexuals) love to don sequined gowns and feather boas and strut their stuff to packed houses nightly. Both Tiffany's (464 Moo 9, 2nd Rd.; tel. 03842-1700) and Alcazar (78/14 Pattaya 2nd Rd., opposite Soi 5; tel. 03841-0224) have hilarious shows, much like those in other tourist towns in Thailand.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.