Let’s not beat around the bush: Pattaya is one of Asia’s most legendary party destinations. The celebrations in its lively bars have been going on for decades and LGBT+ travellers have been left, right and centre on Pattaya’s party scene. With Boyztown, the city even established its own, designated gaybourhood!
But there’s more to the seaside town in Thailand’s southeast. Pattaya and its nearby islands are great for water sports; the city’s outlying countryside is verdant, remaining largely undisturbed by mass tourism, and a number of religious sights invite visitors to explore Thai spirituality and architecture – the below are our favourite.
Sanctuary of Truth
There’s arguably no better place to start a historical tour of Pattaya than the Sanctuary of Truth. The city’s most recognizable landmark sits right by the waterfront (convenient if you wanted to dip your toe in the sea after your visit) and it’s truly spectacular: over 100 metres high and carved entirely from teakwood, the structure resembles an ornate Buddhist temple from the Ayutthaya period, though it was actually built by a Thai businessman as a place where people could gather to celebrate all faiths. Inside the sanctuary, visitors are greeted by meticulously sculpted statues depicting philosophical truths – a truly unique place that belongs on anyone’s itinerary!
Wat Phra Khao Yai (‘Big Buddha Hill’)
Better known as ‘Big Buddha Hill’, Wat Phra Khao Yai is one of Thailand’s most glistening Buddhist monuments and we mean that quite literally: just picture an enormous, golden Buddha statue bathed in sunlight and overlooking all of Pattaya from its hilltop location. Ascend a staircase flanked by mythical Naga creatures, and let yourself be amazed by the symbolism of countless, life-size Buddha sculptures and beautiful murals inside the adjoining pavilion hall. Wat Phra Khao Yai is a place to and explore and reflect, but it also still serves the local population who make regular trips here for prayer and meditation. This is as peaceful as Pattaya gets!
Khao Chi Chan
Khao Chi Chan might just be our favourite attraction in all of Pattaya. Not nearly as elaborate as its counterparts, the simple but stunning image of Buddha on the bare, rocky surface of a mountain outside the city centre is an inimitable sight to behold. The 110 metre-tall depiction of Buddha was drawn onto the mountainside (using laser!) in 1996 to honour the golden jubilee of then King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It’s really a rather humbling experience marvelling at the subtly contoured figure, beautifully embedded in nature, and strolling around the untouched, surrounding countryside. Head here for a pleasant break from Pattaya’s wild party scene!
Nong Nooch Tropical Garden
Need more green? Combine your Khao Chi Can adventure with an afternoon trip to nearby Nong Nooch Tropical Garden and take in all the natural goodness Chonburi province has to offer – in one place. Though there are more than just local plants here: from the cactus conservatory to the bonsai collection and the marble statue galore of the Italian garden, Nong Nooch offers something for everyone. If plants aren’t your cup of tea, head for the skywalk or enjoy a cultural dance performance in the on-site theatre instead. Name a better way to get in the mood for some celebrations back in Pattaya. We’ll wait.