Hiking in the Cinque Terre

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bangkok to Pattaya

with ladyboys of Alcazar Cabaret

We'd always get a few small souvenirs at least.  These refrigerator magnets we purchased in Pattaya.

In the early years when we were dating, Kade and I would go to the beach, especially on weekends when we were off work.  And in you're in Bangkok, with a chance for just a quick getaway, one beach city you should consider is Pattaya.  The beaches in that area are not the prettiest - light years away from the white sand beaches in other parts of Thailand.  However, Pattaya has amazing nightlife, incredible seafood and a wide variety of fun activities.  I remember one of the things we did was go the to Alcazar Cabaret featuring the lovely ladyboys of Thailand.  And we regularly sauntered up and down Walking Street, a perfect spot for people watching.  Be prepared for lots of flash, loud music, short skirts, bar girls and neon lights.  Pattaya is regularly listed as one of the wildest beach towns in the world.  Think Bourbon Street, Las Vegas and Amsterdam's red light district.

If your idea of the beach is simply relaxation, and you want to avoid the seedier side of Pattaya, you can take walks on the beach or simply sit under one of the umbrellas and order up some yummy food, like Som Tum.  What made it a bit easier for us was that Kade's family had a beach condo on Jomtien Beach, the quieter side of Pattaya. 

Two interesting facts about Pattaya:  One, there's a large number of Russian travelers and expats in Pattaya.  On the beaches or on Walking Street, if you see a gorgeous, leggy woman in a bikini or min-skirt, there's a good chance she's Russian.  Russian businessmen (legit and not) also operate restaurants and nightclubs, and many businesses, even the Thai-owned ones, advertise in the Russian language.  And I bet if you viewed the statistics of condo sales over the last decade, the bulk of ones sold to foreigners are owned by Russians.  Two, as a tourist destination, Pattaya really took off during the Vietnam War era.  It went from a small seaside village to a growing holiday destination.  American soldiers on R&R from the war would spend time in Pattaya.  This surplus of soldiers, desiring a good time and a chance to forget about the war jumpstarted the brothel services and prostitution trade that remain a very visible presence in Pattaya.   And long after the end of the Vietnam War, more US servicemen flood Bangkok when war ships dock off its shores for a break in the action.  A different kind of action is taking place!  These young, taxpayer-paid sailors are investing heavily in Thailand's well-known flesh trade.  Once, when we were in Pattaya, we got word that a US ship was about to make a port-a-call.  Sure enough, the streets were soon flooded with young men looking for fun, and the bargirls were ready to make some cash.  As I walked down the sidewalk, I looked across the road.  And on the other side, young, college-aged American GIs, were walking in packs towards the night clubs.  I saw one guy wearing an ALABAMA football cap.  I let out a ROLL TIDE!, then he looked up, glanced across the street at me, smiled and waved.  What's funny is that nowadays, when I hear from a military wife that her husband is the Navy and patrolling around Asia, and could be gone for a year, I think to myself, "It's Operation Freedom alright."

A family member who did serve in the Vietnam War shared this:
You have to remember that I was the Commander of the Medical Squadron and the Medical Supply Officer for the base as well.  I could not immerse myself in the local bar scene, not would I have if I had not been in those positions.  There were available girls wherever GI’s were stationed.  More so in Viet Nam than Thailand .  More trauma and hardship plus more Army infantry types who would come in after weeks in the field and be ready to blow a month’s pay because they may not make it back after the next patrol.  In Thailand the girls would flock to the area around the bases from smaller cities and from the countryside.  They could make 2-3-5 times what their father could make in a month.  For them it was not a hard choice.  The prize was to get married and maybe to get to the US .  It was a thriving business.  We handed out condoms at the bus stops and our annual budget was $38,000.  At $.03 to $.05 each, military cost, that was a lot of condoms.
Pattaya beach was a nice tourist spot.  The place in Bangkok was Patpong Road .  Night Clubs and bars galore.   Around the bases the popular contact point was massage parlors.  You could get a legitimate massage or more if you dared.
I can tell you a true story about one of our Flight Surgeons stationed in Thailand who decided to marry a Thai girl.  He started applying for her visa six months into his one year tour.  When it was time for him to return home, he had to go along.  Though he had planned to stay in the Air Force for a career (he was a bit of a nerd with no bedside manner and probably would have had a hard time in private practice), he had to get out and return to Thailand as a civilian to continue the process.  Lots of us counseled him about those difficulties ahead of time, but he would hear none of it.  When I was returning stateside he was still trying to convince the US Embassy.  Also, I had several airmen in my squadron apply to marry locals as it was described.  They had to get my permission as Commander and then the Base Commander’s permission or otherwise, the AF would not take responsibility for benefits or transportation to US.  Remember that there was a war going on, that we had no dependents allowed there from the US , and we had no provisions for dependent care or family housing.  Several did marry and had to live off base at their own expense (which was minimal back then).  Very few of them managed to get their new wives through the immigration process.  When it came time to return to stateside some of them “re-upped” for another tour and some just left their wives there.  I suspect that the latter was more common than I knew.

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