This is the final installment in our three-part series about East Pattaya.
The first two chapters talked mostly about the explosion of infrastructure projects that surround and traverse the urban sprawl running down the seaboard on the east side of Sukhumvit Road.
To be sure, the future welcomes a plethora of planes, trains and automobiles transporting money, jobs and people to and through suburban Pattaya. We looked at projects underway, projects proposed and even some just getting to the drawing board.
East Pattaya’s future is … in a word … “dynamic”.
This month we’ll take a look at what it’s like now. All this growth and improvement predicted for the next decade is fine and dandy, but what are we starting with?
How is life for your average East Pattayan?
Why do more and more expatriates choose to get away from the “action” on the beach side and move to the East Side?
To get a firm grip on what East Pattaya is, it is important to understand what it is “not”. It isn’t in the tourist zone. You won’t see any tour buses. Nobody is trying to sell you a suit or screaming “massage” from across the street. There isn’t a Starbucks or KFC on every corner. And while there are a few rustic drinking venues featuring friendly “companionship”, you won’t see any pulsating go-go bars or discos blasting that awful “trance” music.
It’s also not Bangkok. There are no skyscrapers or shopping malls. There are no swanky hotels. If you’re looking for a taxi in East Pattaya you are out of luck. If you’re looking for late night revelry, things pretty much close at midnight.
East Pattaya is where “real” people live. People with jobs.
People with families. Expatriate workers and businessmen … retirees … young, old, foreign and Thai.
East Pattaya is an eclectic suburb that excludes no one on the basis of economic status, nationality or disposition. I call it the great social equalizer. Go to an East Pattaya pub and you’ll see a real estate mogul drinking next to an engineer from a vehicle assembly plant talking to a retired Navy guy.
They’re all wearing shorts, flip-flops and waiting for “Quiz Night” to start. Even if you live in a millionaire mansion, it’s hard to be snobby on the East Side.
Housing in East Pattaya reflects the inhabitants and is equally eclectic.
There are mega-cribs that look like castles. There are gated communities that look like they were ripped right out of upper-middle class suburban America. There are zero lot-line housing estates with community pools and playgrounds. There are row houses, shop houses and town houses. And now there are even condos. The only type of housing unavailable on the East Side is high rise condos.
Purchase prices and rental rates run the gamut. One thing is for sure; you get a whole lot more for your money in East Pattaya. The 25,000 baht monthly rent you pay to live in a one bedroom condo on Pattaya Beach Road would get you a 3 bedroom pool house with a big-ass garden on the East Side. That same pool villa could cost you less than 5 million baht to purchase. It’s one of the main reasons expatriate families choose this area. Housing budgets stretch a lot further on the East Side.
Another reason families choose East Pattaya is the convenient lifestyle.
Everything you need is there. Grocery stores, gyms, pubs, restaurants, clinics, banks, salons and four international schools. What’s more, there is an endless supply of non-touristy things to do.
Pattaya’s own professional football team, Pattaya United, has their home field on the East Side. Pattaya Air Park is available for flying enthusiasts. There’s the polo fields and equestrian stables for horse lovers. And if you’re a golfer Siam Country Club offers courses that challenge the most skilled duffer. And if you need to travel up to Bangkok for a shopping spree or down to Rayong to try a new golf course, getting in and out of the East Side has never been easier.
What I personally find attractive about East Pattaya is the feeling that you’re still in Thailand.
Cross over Sukhumvit Road and you could be in any tourist town in Asia. Crowded beaches, pesky touts, noise, traffic, McDonald’s and Starbucks. On the East Side you get greenery and open spaces.
You get temples and buffalos. You see Thai kids playing in the schoolyard. You see an old lady collecting jackfruit in her samlor. On the East Side it’s still Thailand.
When I start lamenting the advantages of East Pattaya, skeptics always say the same thing, “Isn’t it boring? What do people do there?” That’s an easy fight to win. “I’ll tell you what they do” I push back. “They have barbeques by the pool with their friends. They catch a few fish with their kids at the lake. They have a nice Sunday roast at their neighborhood pub and watch their favorite team play. They aren’t tourists. They are real people with real lives that haven’t been to Walking Street in years.”
Look, we all kind of start out as tourists here in Pattaya.
At some point, most of us get tired of feeling like and being treated like a tourist. That’s a good time to take a look at the East Side. I’ve seen this behavior pattern with dozens of expatriates. They take a drive and get lost in East Pattaya. They come back blabbering about how nice it is. The next thing you know they’re living there. And unless you go to their place, you rarely see them again. They get new friends. They take on new hobbies. Their lives change for the better.
Is it a kinder-gentler lifestyle? Is it better than living beachside? I’m not 100% sure, but I do know this
… once people make the move, nobody comes back from the East Side.
by Bart Walters