147km (91 miles) SE of Bangkok

The slow evolution of Pattaya from a sleepy fishing town to a sprawling development of high-rise coastal resorts began in 1959 when U.S. Army GIs, stationed in the northeast, started coming here in their free time. Word spread, and with more U.S. troops arriving to fight in the Vietnam War, the town became a hot destination for partying and sex. Pattaya today still has an astonishing number of go-go clubs, beer bars, and seedy massage parlors along the beachside.

Tourism boomed in the 1980s, and unchecked resort development was exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure upgrades. Recent years have seen a few civil projects to clean up the bay area with some success, but environmental work is still needed to improve water quality, making swimming an unpleasant experience at times.

The town is trying to create an image as a family destination, expat retirement magnet, and convention hub. However, while these efforts are worthwhile, and though it now has some of the facilities to back this up, the commercial sex trade remains the lifeblood of the city.