Pattaya, 145km south of Bangkok, on the Eastern Gulf Coast of Thailand, was called by the Lonely Planet’s Thailand’s Island and Beaches (mine’s the 2006 version, but things haven’t changed): “A living testament to unchecked tourist development run rampant…” In it’s current incarnation, this city of bars and beaches was born of the American GI R&R action which started back in the late 50’s. As a holiday or weekend destination, the buzzing neon lights, the glitzy high-rise condos, and the fleuro white bikinis on silver poles hold little appeal for me. But, only 15km south of Sin City we turned down a winding driveway overhung with trees into a world of quiet.
Rainy season is always chancy, and as we had driven most of the way from Bangkok in weather ranging from drizzle to downpour, we thought our weekend might be a wash-out. But, when your cabin has a well covered porch protected from the elements, the weather ceases to matter. And, as irony would have it, when the weather ceases to matter, it improves!
We could have almost never left the resort: we had bicycles (ok – they had no brakes and the seats were rusted into adjustment for midget-height, but they were free!), two pools, and access to charming wooden paddle boats. We had our roomy porch and our own enclosed open-air outdoor shower at the back of our cabin. We even had hot (and I mean HOT, not lukewarm) water in the shower and sink: a rarity in Thai resorts.
So, as I said, we might have never left the resort, except that we had heard there were going to be fireworks in Pattaya in honour of the Queen’s Birthday (which had been two days prior). This was an opportunity to actually use the tripod I often carry but seldom unwrap, so we had a long discussion with the staff about where the best vantage point might be. We were warned about dearth of parking, and more than two hours before sunset when we arrived at The Viewpoint, a hill in Pattaya South, we discovered that the warnings were justified. More importantly, almost every square inch of tripod-space was already occupied. I was truly lucky to find a spot! People (mostly Thais) were out in force, with their food and their families, patiently waiting for the show.
Tripods, Set up and Waiting
The Viewpoint, also known as Pattaya Buddha Hill or Khao Phra Bat, is home to the Admiral His Royal Highness Prince Khom Luang Chumpon Ketudomsakdi Monument. Quite the mouthful, and as happens with transliterations of names from Thai into English, you won’t find the same spelling twice! One article alone had him listed as Admiral Prince Chumporn in one spot and the Prince of Jumborn in another. Either way, he was one of the many sons of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) and is called the “The Father of Royal Thai Navy”. So, the top of the hill is shaped like the prow of a boat, and there are shrines and tributes to the Prince.
Thailand still catches me off-guard regularly with it’s colourful contrasts. Everywhere there are objects or images I don’t expect to see next to each other. Of course, these juxtapositions are only remarkable to me because I am an ‘outsider’. It is perhaps not so unusual, in a country where royalty is not only revered but universally adored, that people would cover a statue of a warrior prince in gold leaf, just as they would a buddha image. But I was surprised at a shrine, where people make offerings of flowers, prayers and candles, surrounded by massive bullets. And, I found the little Naval Guards, painted like garden gnomes, rather comical.
Still, it was a great place to watch the sun go down and the night lights of Pattaya to come up.
The fireworks (“Fire Flowers” ดอกไม้ไฟ or “Flaming Flowers” ดอกไม้เพลิง in Thai) were a new and interesting photographic challenge for me: next time I’ll try to shoot from below rather than above. Still, I enjoyed them almost as much as I enjoyed the REAL flowers we found on our morning run through the lanes the next morning. No one does it better than Nature, and nature abounds in Thailand, even in the shadows of Pattaya.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. More Thai beaches are HERE and HERE and more flowers here if you are interested, and more of the flowers and fireworks are in the set below. Until next week ~ Happy travels!