Travel warning: Pattaya

Two of our crew opt to site-see in Bangkok today, while the rest hire a local to take us southeast to Pattaya, a waterfront town known for its beaches, Admittedly, it feels a bit foreboding, riding along this dusty road through desolate countryside in a beat-up sedan that’s clearly not a licensed cab. But safety in numbers is a comforting thing, and we’re getting close to our destination.

Hardly a scene from Pretty Woman

This is the first time I’ve felt regret over a travel-related decision. Pattaya is the most dirty place I’ve ever seen, both physically and metaphorically, and I’m thinking we should’ve traveled north to Chiang Mai.

The open-air bars of Walking Street are flooded with young girls — some only fourteen years old — hoping to support their families by “shacking up” with male tourists. The sassy bartender at our hostel, Pink, says the girls are trained to seek men who will shelter them for at least a few weeks. Pink’s teenage daughters live with their grandparents to ensure they are far from here, demonstrating that this environment isn’t considered to be an acceptable cultural norm by all locals.

A little redemption?

I find a new dress for only a few dollars worth of Thai baht currency. It’s so humid and hot — more than 90 degrees fahrenheit — but that’s not why my hands are sweaty. It’s surreal to be 8,800+ miles from home in a completely unfamiliar place. And it’s amazing how travel anxiety cultivates bonds.

Haggling with tour peddlers is more of a process here than usual, but we negotiate our fare to board a speedboat to Koh Larn Island. The emerald ocean is inviting, just like the beach bar. We are too exhausted from a week of seriously hard travel to explore the island, so we enjoy some waterfront Chang brew instead. Perhaps the relaxation provided by our little cove was worth the venture south of Bangkok.


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