Early last year I got a call from an old friend who lives in Vancouver. His wife had been nagging him to take a “family” vacation to Thailand for the past few years and he finally succumbed to the pressure.
“Give me some guidance on where to go” he said “We’ve only got 8 days”. “If you’ve only got 8 days” I said. “Just come to Pattaya”. My friend fumbled with is reply. “Uh, um, uh, I don’t know man … I heard about that place. Are you sure?”
Two weeks later I was checking him, his wife, his two kids and one skeptical sister-in-law into the Royal Cliff on Pratumnak Hill.
Worn out from the long flight, his wife flopped down on the big fluffy bed in their jumbo suite and exclaimed, “This place is fabulous”, and then fell into a deep jet-lagged sleep. The skeptical sister-in-law stood speechless on the sea-view balcony. “I didn’t know it was like this” she whispered. And she said it again while we sipped some fruity cocktails and watched the sunset.
With the help of my secretary, we orchestrated activities for a family that included, an over-worked father who just wanted to play a round of golf, a stay-at-home mom, a 13 year old girl who had discovered a penchant for photography, a rambunctious 7 year old boy and a hard working legal secretary (aka … skeptical sister-in-law). The eight days went by in a blur.
The first order of business was to get these pasty white Canadians to the beach for some sun, sand and seafood. Our first stop was Bang Saray where the culture-seeking ladies and the budding young photographer marveled at the seaside Buddhist Temple. Meanwhile, the boys kicked a football around with the 7 year old on the golden sands of Bang Saray Beach.
Later we set up camp under some umbrellas down the road at Hat Ban Amphur. As the kids got involved in a volleyball game, we sipped beers and munched on grilled squid in the shade of coconut trees. As the skeptical sister-in-law settled into her hammock and second beer, I inquired, “You okay Marta”. “Yeah man” she replied, “I’m more than okay”.
That evening I loaded the sun-kissed Cannucks into a van and headed for a night of laser-light music and magic at Mimosa. The whole crew had napped after the beach and woke up hungry.
Before the light show started we hit the German Restaurant in Mimosa’s immaculate European village and assaulted several roasted pork knuckles and big-ass beers. Later, when the light show and music started, the kids were mesmerized. The young teenager snapped picture after picture asking her aunt to accompany her right down near the stage for close up shots of the performers.
When they came back, skeptical sister-in-law leaned in close, pointed at the lead dancers on stage and whispered, “Are those dancers what I’ve heard so much about”. “Yes”, I said. “Welcome to Thailand”. I had to chuckle. What trip to Thailand would be complete without at least one lady-boy experience?
The next day I sent my secretary off with the wife and kids to see the award winning Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens followed by the Cartoon Network’s water park extravaganza.
I figured the nature loving adults would totally dig the gardens, and our budding young photographer would lose her mind over some of the exotic flowers and foliage. And later the 7 year old could wear himself out in one of the coolest water parks you’ll ever see.
Meanwhile, I kidnapped my friend for day of leisure sports. At 7 AM we were picked up by a driver I had arranged in a flaming red vintage 1959 Cadillac. The folks at New Nordic on Pratumnak Hill have a fleet of exotic and vintage cars that can be hired for special events. My buddy and I cruised in old-school luxury out to Burapa Golf Course just this side of Laem Chabang.
He was stunned by the shear natural beauty of this course and I heard him say time and time again, “This place is gorgeous”. I picked Burapa because of the manager’s eye for unique design and penchant for populating the course with unusual creatures like the white swan with a black neck and head. And, what golfer wouldn’t want to see the world’s largest sand trap? Well, it may not be the largest, but there is one at Burapa that has to be in the top 5.
After he humiliated me on the golf course, we showered up at the clubhouse and headed back to the center of Pattaya. I figured, “Now it’s my turn”, and took him to Legends Sports bar and billiards palace just off Pattaya Klang. We grooved to cool jukebox tunes, shot pool on the finest tournament billiards tables known to man and refreshed ourselves with frosty adult beverages.
That night I played babysitter while the visiting adults sat outside on the Roof Sky Bar at [email protected] Hotel in North Pattaya and enjoyed the 360 degree views of Pattaya Bay drinking cocktails whilst listening to chilled house classics.
Later that night they went to the opposite end of the musical spectrum as they experienced some blistering rock-n-roll riffs supplied by Pattaya’s own “Band of Smiles” at Leo’s Blues Café in North Pattaya. They showed up back at the hotel in the wee hours chattering like school kids.
And that’s kind of how it went for the entire 8 days. They went to different beaches including a day trip to Koh Samet. The ladies and kids went on a shopping and sightseeing tour to Bangkok. “We had no idea it was this close” the slowly becoming not-so-skeptical sister-in-law exclaimed as she modeled her new Jim Thompson sundress. Most importantly, my buddy and I got too hit two more world class golf courses and I even introduced him to my get-away-from-it-all place, Jomtien Sauna.
As we alternated between the herbal steam, the dry sauna and the ice cold plunge pool, he lamented all the things they’d done on this trip. “The girls love this place … the kids have had a ball … and I’ve taken your money three times on some spectacular golf courses”. He paused a minute, smiled, shook his head and then uttered the words I love to hear.
“I can’t believe this is Pattaya”.
by Bart Walters