It feels like a dream now when I look back on my first experience of coming to Thailand, it was well over 15 years ago now and things have changed a lot – both for Thailand and me personally.

A beast of a long haul flight

Even my memories of the plane journey here are very different now to when I get a plane to and from the UK when I go back to see family and friends. Roll back a decade and a long haul 12 hour flight from Heathrow to Bangkok was epic, it was unheard of to travel such distance for me. Before hand I considered a 2 and a half hour drive from London to Birmingham a long journey, now such distances I can do at a canter.

Whether it is rose tinted glasses I cannot be sure, but the plane trip seemed different. I remember seeing far more single, aging guys on the plane than is the case now. Now I absolutely see families and it’s a challenge to find the guy on his way to Pattaya for a blow out. I find the tattoos and boy band haircuts on the retirees the biggest giveaway; and I don’t mean any disrespect by that comment, good on them I say. We live only once and it is up to the individual how to live their life. Many people worry too much about what others think and it is just not important.

When I first traveled to Thailand it was with my younger brother, he suggested the trip to Pattaya. I was recently single and he said Pattaya would be like paradise for me. Who was I to turn down such a proposition?

Back then the international airport was Don Muang airport, so straight after the long flight you then needed to do another 2 hour taxi journey to get to Pattaya. But I enjoyed the taxi journey, for I was in awe of being in Asia. I found my energy immediately, until we arrived in Soi Baukhao.

‘Where the hell have you brought me?’

When I got out of the taxi the first thing I did was ask my brother, ‘Where the hell have you brought me?’. It was a mess, lots of overhead hanging cables, it stunk from the underground road drainage. My first impression of Pattaya was very bad. And then, of course, I went out in the evening into the bars and my view of Pattaya changed very quickly. I was a single guy in my late twenties so you can imagine. The women were gorgeous and all over me. My brother was right, this was paradise.

The bar scene has changed incredibly in a decade. I loved the Soi 7 and 8 adventures back then, the classic open beer bar was so much fun. Sadly these days seem numbered and are making way for air conditioned venues and nightclubs. Back in 2006 Pattaya was the stomping ground for the older Western guy, not a Russian, Chinese or Family in sight. A Disney land for men.

I had never ridden a motorbike before and my brother hired one for me and immediately we headed off on the busy Pattaya streets – no licence, nothing. I had to learn fast, something made more difficult when leaving a bar late in the morning drunk to drive back to my hotel.  Seems unbelievable when I look back on it now.

The Pleasant Fragrances Synonymous with Pattaya

For me though some of my biggest memories are from the smells. Wherever you went you could smell the fresh laundry from where the clothes were hanging to dry on the side of the Sois. When I smell this now it immediately ignites my first memories of being in Thailand. And in the morning the delicious chicken BBQ smell from the various food vendors found all over the Sois – it is such a symbolic fragrance of being in Thailand for me. Beautiful.

Of course, the climate and the Thai islands made a huge impact on me. Wonderful heat all day long. Thailand, from my very first vacation here, I was addicted forever. My memories of Pattaya – although certainly a little devious- I will always cherish, it was an adventure not every person gets to experience in their lifetime.

This article was originally published in 2018.


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