First Trip to Pattaya

After having lived in Bangkok more than eight years, I am greeted by expressions of surprise when I tell people that I have never been to Pattaya, the famous beach resort town just a two hour drive southeast of the Thai capital city. Well, I can no longer truthfully earn those expressions of surprise because I finally made my first trip to Pattaya last month.

Why didn’t I ever visit Pattaya? Well, there was an image I held in my head of a city that was a sleazy and crowded tourist trap with a nice beach, questionable water quality, and even more questionable businesses operating until the wee hours of the night.

It turns out, that image was pretty accurate. Sure, there might be corners of Pattaya that are reasonably nice (someone told me Jomtien Beach), but the main section of town where I was staying for work was exactly as I had expected it.

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The hotel I stayed in, the Hilton, was gorgeous, with an infinity pool and lounge that offers a breathtaking view of the sunset. But even up on the 29th floor with very heavy balcony doors with thick triple-pane glass, I could hear the music amplified from the surrounding entertainment venues and it didn’t take long until I had reached my fill of seeing bright red rotund foreigners accompanied by barely legal (or maybe not legal at all) tiny brown girls or boys a quarter of their age and a fifth of their size.

The work experience was lovely – a two-day leadership development workshop for a multinational company – but I am comfortable that I can check Pattaya off the “to-visit” list and add it to the “no need to return” list instead.

 

Skyline View of Bangkok

A week ago, a couple we know was in town from Chicago. They had a twenty-four hour layover on a cruise making its way from Singapore to Hong Kong. We met them for drinks at the rooftop bar on the Marriott Sukhumvit Hotel.

The hotel opened less than a year ago and is only a few blocks from our house. I had never been there but was amazed at how spectacular the views are – the roof affords a full 360-degree view of the city.

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This first view is looking to the east and southeast along Sukhumvit Road. You can see the BTS Skytrain running along the road and Ekkamai station is just blocked by the red condo building, located between the Gateway Mall (also red) and the temple complex. That makes for an interesting contrast, no?

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This photo picks up from where the previous one leaves off, looking from the southeast to the west. You can see that we are actually not very far from the Chao Phraya River and the port area – if you look really closely, you can see their cruise ship docked. You will notice that the main part of the city is to the west, where the concentration of high rises is much denser.

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This picture continues from the far end of the bar in the previous picture. It looks from the west to the north and covers the entire Thong Lor neighborhood where I live. The BTS Skytrain station is on the left and you can see the line running into town along Sukhumvit Road. This neighborhood is more residential with lots of condominium towers, restaurants, and shops.

One thing that really amazes me about Bangkok, compared with many cities, is that there are high rise buildings all over the place with no real defined “centers” for the city. On one level, I think it makes the skyline a bit bland as there is no focal point. But at the same time, maybe being so spread out saves us from all having to commute to just one area. Who knows?

 

Old City Sunset

There are a few entries I’ll share soon of some Thai street food adventures I’ve been on with my friend Chow. In the meantime, I want to share this beautiful sunset picture I took the other day. I shot it in an alley off Rama I Road in the old section of Bangkok, known as Rattanakosin Island. 

This neighborhood dates back more than 100 years and is filled with Chinese-style shop houses. The shop was on the ground floor, a stock room was on the floor above, and then the owner would live on the floors above that. This particular alley is filled with restaurants of various sorts and becomes very busy after work. I happened to arrive just after 6:00. My seat at an outdoor table positioned me perfectly to enjoy the minute-long moment of perfect lighting as the sun shined between a few blocks’ worth of buildings and back-lit the activity on the street.

 

View from Centara Grand Hotel

While my sister and brother-in-law were in town, we had sunset drinks at Red Sky, the rooftop bar and restaurant at Centara Grand hotel at CentralWorld. In the past few years, the number of rooftop dining and drinking facilities has exploded from just a pair – the Banyan Tree hotel and Scirocco – to dozens.

What I particularly like about Red Sky is that it is located amidst many tall buildings. Unlike several of the more popular rooftop locations where you feel set apart from the skyline, at Red Sky you are right in the midst of it. Here are some photos:

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Looking north, you see the Baiyoke 2 tower, the tallest building between Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur; the Amari Watergate hotel, the new Novotel Bangkok Platinum hotel, and the golden domes at Platinum Shopping Center, all of which are located in the Pratunam (“water gate”) district.

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Looking southwest, you can see the Siam Paragon shopping center in the lower right, Siam Square in the center, and the Silom/Sathorn busines district in the distance. The golden chedi of Wat Saket (“Golden Mount”) is on the far right side of the horizon.

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Looking southeast, you see the rest of CentralWorld, the Ratchaprasong intersection (the one closed for 40 days by red shirt protesters two years ago), the Intercontinental and Hyatt Erawan hotels, the Gaysorn shopping center, and, in the distance, the high-rise districts of Ratchadamri in the center and Witthayu (Wireless) Road to the left.

 

View of Waikiki

While in Honolulu, we stayed at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. Located close to Diamond Head on the south end of Waikiki, the New Otani is situated across from Kapiolani Park. It is a good value for many reasons. Its biggest selling point for me, was the view.

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Sunrise from our balcony.

This position is ideal because the hotel is quiet, set apart from the touristy, shopping mall busyness of Waikiki. Plus, you look back at the entire beach and skyline and take it all in. If you were staying in Waikiki proper, you wouldn’t have so broad a perspective. Here are some of the pictures I shot during our two nights at the hotel.

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Kapiolani Park with Diamond Head in the background.

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Graceful palm trees backlit by the setting sun.

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Other visitors stop to capture a picture of the sunset.

A trio of pictures from our balcony at different times of the day:

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Just after sunset, I spotted the moon above the palm trees.

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One final nighttime shot, in black-and-white.

 

Sunsets on Ploenchit

Yesterday evening I finished a meeting over by Ploenchit BTS station just after sunset. The sky was a beautiful color – particularly pink in the east – and I stopped to take some pictures that turned out rather nice. I thought I’d share them with you.

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The first thing I noticed was the pink sky in the east, a reflection of the setting sun in the towering clouds on that side of the metropolitan area. This view is looking along Ploenchit Road, which turns into Sukhuvmit Road as soon as it crosses beneath that expressway. The Skytrain line runs down the middle of the street and the next station is Nana. Traffic is still pretty light after the new year holiday last weekend.

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Turning around and looking northwest, you can see Wave Place on the left and a new condo, both of which face Witthayu (Wireless) Road. The pink sky in the east is reflected in the windows of Wave Place. Immediately to the right of the condo, just poking out the right side of it, is the Baiyoke 2 Tower, the tallest building in Thailand. The LED lights at the top are showing a Thai flag: red, white, blue, white, and red stripes in that order. In the foreground is one of the remaining old properties that lie along Ploenchit Road, holdouts against the development that is taking over this area.

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A few minutes later I climb up to the Skytrain station platform and take another picture looking east. The pink sky is gone and it is actually dark purple at this point. But because I used an exposure of about 1/13 of a second, the sky’s color appears lighter.

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Looking due west, you can see a train departing Ploenchit station for Nana. Behind it is Mahatun Plaza, one of the older office buildings in this area, and the brand-new Park Ventures tower, about which I wrote yesterday. The side-view of the building is meant to evoke the wai – the polite Thai gesture of greeting where the palms of the hands are placed together, fingers points skyward.

 

Sunset Over Wat Arun

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Last weekend, the younger sister of a friend I’ve known since pre-school was in town for a visit.  We spent a day and a half touring some sites and on Sunday evening had dinner at The Deck, which is conveniently located across from Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.  Since she had an early flight on Monday, we sat down for dinner a few minutes before the sun set and I was able to get this photo.  Gorgeous, isn’t it?