When I tell people I live in Jomtien, they usually give away something about themselves with their reaction. People who only know Pattaya from arm’s length raise an eyebrow and say “Oh really?” because they think I’m just trying to say “I don’t live in Pattaya”. People who live in Pattaya screw up their face and say “really?” because they can’t imagine separating themselves from the “action” on their side of the hill, whatever that is. But some folks give that knowing smile and say, “Ahhhh yes, Jomtien”. It is then I know I’m talking to a fan or fellow resident of J-Ville, the kinder/gentler seaside village hiding in big-sister Pattaya’s shadow.
Now, I’m not talking about Jomtien Beach Road which looks like any Beach Road in any seaside resort in Thailand with clusters of shop-houses all selling the same cheap flotation devices and knock-off sunglasses. I’m referring to the neighborhoods east of Beach Road from Jomtien Second Road all the way to Sukhumvit. It is here you will find a wide array of places to live, eat, drink and chill out. It is here you will find family tourists, long-stay retirees and long-time expats co-existing in harmony. Jomtien is what the Tourism Authority of Thailand wishes all of Pattaya was.
When I first started living in Jomtien, it was a barren no-man’s land. It wasn’t exactly “on” the beach and it wasn’t “on” Sukhumvit Road. It was kind of “on-the-way” to both. All of the roads that connected Sukhumvit with Jomtien Beach Road would jam up during long weekends with Thai families flocking in from Bangkok to get a little sand and sun. For many people, the area I’m talking about is closely associated with waiting in a car to get somewhere else.
Several years ago Jomtien Second Road opened in grand fashion. A beautiful ribbon of road suddenly appeared giving travelers an easy way into and out of Jomtien without the miserable slow-n-go traffic of Beach Road. Viola! A neighborhood was born.
Modern day Jomtien is a cozy enclave of houses, condos and villas. There are shops and markets galore and many people think all of the good restaurants in “Pattaya” are actually in Jomtien. Please allow me to walk you through a typical day for a J-Ville resident.
First I wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and palm trees rustling in the sea breeze. Sipping my morning coffee, I contemplate how best to get an eye-opening workout to start the day. I could walk down to Tony’s gym just or I could take a motorbike up to Bear Gym on Soi Watboon if I really want a “pump”. If I’m in the mood for a combination of workout and relaxation, I could pop in to Jomtien Sauna, swim laps in their crystal clear pool and then alternate between steam, sauna and cold plunge pool. Nothing gets the circulation going like Jomtien Sauna. In the end I opt for a totally natural approach by power walking a circuit that includes a mild uphill grade on Second road and a return trip right down the newly widened walkway on Jomtien Beach with the sun dancing off the Gulf of Thailand. Who needs a gym?
On the way home I stop at my all-time favorite Thai market at Rompho. During the day this open air market provides the neighborhood with fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and even meat kept in proper refrigerated meat cases. At night the whole parking lot turns into a huge open air food court. I visit my fruit lady and pick up some mangos and bananas for my after-work out smoothie.
Next I enjoy a couple of hours poolside at my condo. Jomtien boasts dozens of condo complexes with the most spectacular pools in town, and my place is one of them. All of the newest condo communities feature huge water parks at their center. Laguna II, Dusit Park and the theme park-like Atlantis are the biggest. In case you didn’t know it, they give good pool in Jomtien.
In the afternoon I’m scheduled to have a few beers and watch Rugby with some other like-minded J-Ville residents. On the way I stop at Bak Fabrik, the big German bakery and restaurant on Second Road for a loaf of fresh dark pumpernickel that will feature in my breakfast for the next few days. I meet the boys at Hemingway’s super pub near the Jomtien Complex. We enjoy Happy Hour and the extensive menu while cheering on our favorite side. Cold beer, good friends and violent sports … is there a better way to spend the afternoon?
A few of us decide to have an early dinner together and engage in a lively discussion about where to eat. Should we go upscale to a place like Gian’s or Bruno’s or Café Des Amis? Should we go ethnic and hit Mike’s Mexican or Indian by Nature? Maybe continental cuisine at Laongs’s or Natan’s? Maybe we should pay homage to Iron Chef Winner Chef Paolo at Marco’s Italian bistro. In the end we go for the best barbecue in town at Prime Time on Nine near the go-cart bungy-jump facility on Thepprasit Soi 9. More cold beer and sizzling ribs served outside picnic style combined with funky DJ tunes and the sunset just over the horizon.
Later I indulge in a secret guilty pleasure at Made in Italy, a cool little deli near Chonburi Immigration. I enjoy a big slab of homemade tiramisu and a double espresso and run into another old friend and J-Ville resident who talks me into a few games of pool at the lively beer bar complex at Rompho Market.
Around midnight, full, tired and a little buzzed, I stroll towards home turning down my quiet soi soaking in the night air and sea breeze.
Is this the “perfect day”? I don’t know, I’d have to compare it with countless other days just like it full of good friends, good food and good times. Just another day in J-Ville.