One of the best things about working in travel is some of the mega perks that come with it – like week-long jaunts to Thailand! Yep, that’s right – thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand and EVA Air, Netflights team member, Freya, was one of the lucky devils that got to jet off to Thailand to see the sights, eat all the food, and stay in some amazing hotels – so she can come back and tell you why a trip to Thailand should defo be on your radar, if it isn’t already!
We get to do trips like these to check out the delights a country has to offer first hand so we can then better inform you about where you should go, where you should eat, and where to catch 40 winks – basically make sure you have the best holiday, like, ever.
Right, keep up because we’re taking you on a whirlwind tour of some of Thailand’s most popular spots! First up, Pattaya…
Day 1: Bangkok to Pattaya
After a very pleasant 11 or so hours in the air in EVA Air’s lovely Royal Laurel business class (more on that to come in a later blog!), we touched down in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and into the (too welcoming) arms of the Thailand humidity. After a quick nip through immigration and baggage reclaim, we were quickly bundled into a minivan with the AC wacked up HIGH for the easy trip down to the coastal city of Pattaya – about 1 hour and 45 minutes away.
I’d asked Bee, one of our hosts for the trip and resident Wonder Woman (if you ever need someone to track down the phone you’ve dropped in the back of a taxi in Koh Samui at 2 in the morning, Bee’s your gal – but more on that another time), if it was a particularly windy road at any point, me and windy roads not always being simpatico, but she reassured me it was pretty much one long straight road from here to Pattaya. We caught sunset on the way down, and after some pretty close calls with overly ambitious scooter riders, we pulled up to our first hotel of the trip, the incredible MASON Pattaya.
When you first think of Pattaya, a place like MASON is not what springs to mind. Twenty minutes or so by car down the coast from the centre of the city, MASON Pattaya sits on the much quieter Jomtien Beach and is made up of 35 ultra-modern luxury villas. A whopping 13 of those will bag you a sea view, but all 35 come with their very own plunge pool. Yep, you read that right. Every. Single. One. What was it Oprah said? You get a pool, you get a pool, everybody gets a pool!
The resort’s name, MASON, comes from the idea of stone masons and its location near Angsila – a community of rock carvers and artisans. So, unsurprisingly, rock plays a big role in the design here – which is sleek, stylish, and definitely unique. Think: lots of floor to ceiling windows, sharp lines, and intricate design elements throughout. Besides those salt water plunge pools, each villa comes with a HUGE bathtub and rainfall shower, and things like a Nespresso coffee maker, sunhats (they don’t travel well) and a Marshall Bluetooth speaker – very handy for when you all come knocking on the door of the mate who booked the beachfront villa for a sundowner. They even have their own in-house bug spray, perfect for chucking in your bag for protection on the go.
When it comes to dining you’ve got 3 options: Zila Street Bistro & Bar, their restaurant with an international all day menu and where you can enjoy breakfast with a mega view of the Gulf of Thailand; KROK-A-CAFÉ ESPRESSO BAR, right next to the Sky Pool, which is the place to get cocktails, and the Beachside Bar. There’s a spa which takes traditional Thai methods and gives them a modern spin, and a gym on site too, with loads of sports activities on offer, from cardio boxing to kayaking.
We spent two nights here, and we were all pretty smitten with the place by the time we had to check out. If you want to enjoy Pattaya’s nightlife but don’t want to stay in the thick of it, like your hotels to be a little more on the unique side, or just want your own pool to have a midnight dip in – we reckon you’d love this place.
Dinner at Rimpa Lapin
After we’d checked in, there was just enough time for a quick refresh before we were off out again for dinner at Rimpa Lapin, a beachside restaurant just a ten minute walk down the road from the resort. One of the most popular restaurants in Pattaya, Rimpa Lapin is built into the hillside that leads down to Na Jomptien Beach, a 6km stretch of the coastline that’s considered a quieter alternative to the busier Pattaya City beach, closer to the centre.
Inspired by the Thai-Lanna style of wooden housing, it’s broken down into tiers, guaranteeing everyone an incredible view of Pattaya’s coastline – this was stunning at night, and I would have loved to have experienced it during the day too. A couple of drinks here at sunset? Perfect. The menu is a fusion of Northern European tastes and classic Thai flavours, and after a few rounds of seafood (and one or two pina coladas…) it was back to the resort for some sleep, and possibly a quick dip in that plunge pool…
Day 2: Pattaya
Yacht Excursion with Ocean Marina Yacht Club
It was an early start on day 2, because we were taking to the high seas, baby! Well, if not the high seas the, er, low to middle seas. We hopped in the minivan (and more of that blessed AC!) for the drive to the harbour in Pattaya, about 20 minutes or so away, where we were picking up our ride for the morning from Ocean Marina Yacht Club for an excursion out to Kram Noi island for snorkelling, channelling our inner dads for some fishing, and saying hello to the monkeys over at the aptly named Monkey Island.
The water was a bit choppy that morning, and conditions weren’t clear enough for snorkelling (😞), so we powered on to Monkey Island. It was previously allowed to visit the island itself, but in recent years this has been restricted to just approaching the island by boat to watch them from a distance in acknowledgement of them being wild animals that need their own space, undisturbed by visitors. This was plenty close for us, and we were still able to throw food for them to enjoy, watching them swim out to grab piece after piece after piece of watermelon. My aim? Could do with some practice.
A couple of hours in, the skies cleared and the water settled, giving us better conditions for a spot of fishing before a much smoother ride back to the harbour, about an hour away. Word to the wise – when the skipper offers you something to take the edge off the nausea, take it! The waters off Pattaya are quite choppy naturally, so with a bit of wind they get real interesting…
The Glass House Beachfront Bar and Restaurant
Back on dry (and steady) land again, we wasted no time in getting lunch and headed to Glass House Boho, another popular beachfront restaurant in Pattaya, about ten minutes away from the harbour by car or around 40 minutes on foot.
Smack bang on Na Jomtien beach, with sweeping views of the Gulf of Thailand, the Glass House puts the boho in boho chic: think lots of warm, neutral tones, soft curves, pottery lining the walls, and rattan left, right, and centre! It’s got a serious menu that runs the gamut from Thai classics like Som Tum and Tom Yum Khung (try saying that 5 times fast) to an assortment of seafood options (as fresh as can be, what with it being on their doorstep and all) and on to more western dishes like carbonara. But the vibe here was very laidback – I’d definitely stick to lunch here and dinner at Rimpa Lapin for that stunning view at sunset.
Thai massage at Let’s Relax Spa
As much as we’d like to have stuffed ourselves at the Glass House, we were under strict orders to eat light as we had an appointment to get turned inside out and upside down at the Let’s Relax Spa branch inside the Movenpick Hotel – that’s right, folks, it was time for my first Thai massage. Or any massage, for that matter! You know what they say, trial by fire…
Traditional Thai massage is a little different to how we get it done here in the UK – instead of working directly on the skin with oils, in a Thai massage you wear a loose fitting top and trousers because your body is moved around a lot more during the process. A little pull here, an elbow to the back there, and then BAM! One by one your fingers are pulled out of their sockets. And that’s before they get on their knees and start crawling up your legs…
Sounds torturous, but I actually nodded off multiple times. In short? It was amazing. Loose limbed and languid, we all met back in the reception area to discuss the moments we’d almost had to use safe words over a cup of green tea.
Day 3: Pattaya to Koh Samui
Pattaya City Sign Viewing Point
Day 3 was our last in Pattaya, which meant an early start, checking out of MASON Pattaya, and having some tearful goodbyes with our private pools. We weren’t down for long though, because we had a tour of the city to enjoy. Our first stop was the Pattaya City Sign, with its mega viewing point over the harbour. It was gorgeous, but that morning was an absolute scorcher so we stuck around for a little bit to soak in the scene before chickening out and scrambling back inside the air-conditioned confines of the minivan, fast becoming our safe space in the infamous sticky heat of Thailand at the beginning of the rainy season. Speaking of rain, we had yet to get caught in a shower since our arrival, but we were about to get out first taste…
Big Buddha Temple
We headed back down into the city itself and went south because we had a date with a god, a very big one. On the top of Pratmanak Hill sits the biggest image of Buddha in the Chonburi province. Clocking in at a whopping 18 metres tall, you can’t miss him. But before you can approach, you first have to climb a set of steps, flanked by two golden Naga snakes, said to protect the temple.
Once you’ve reached the top and have paid your respects to the Buddha image, known as Luang Pho Yai, you can also join the locals in paying your respects to the seven smaller Buddha images on the temple grounds, each representing a different day of the week – in Thai folklore, you should worship the form that represents the day you were born on. Just pray that you weren’t born on a Saturday…
It was here that we got caught in our first shower, which have a habit of coming down thick and fast out of nowhere. Luckily, they don’t tend to stick around for long and they also break the heat, which can be pretty relentless at times!
The Sanctuary of Truth
We pegged it back to the minivan, only a bit damp, and then made our way through Pattaya to the Sanctuary of Truth Museum, found to the north and smack bang on some prime real estate right by the sea. Previously unknown to me, I’d Googled this place before the trip, curious as to what I’d find – and I wish I hadn’t. This building is the sort of place you want to rock up to having no idea what to expect. As you slowly turn the corner and watch it come into view for the first time, your jaw will drop.
The Sanctuary of Truth is a museum built entirely from wood in the traditional Thai carpenter style, filled with intricate sculptures and carvings depicting various pieces of wisdom when it comes to the philosophy of life. Though it looks like a kind of temple, our tour guide was quick to stress that it’s not intended to have any religious connotations, and instead only seeks to provide wisdom and direction on how to live a good life for yourself and those around you – pretty deep stuff.
The building itself was breathtaking, and is actually still under construction today – you can watch wood carvers at work, carefully creating the next intricate section to be slotted in to place. And because it’s essentially still a building site, you’ll have to go around with a very attractive hard hat on – not my best look, but definitely worth it to see this place up close and personal.
After that heady dose of Thai culture and a quick stop for lunch, it was time to say jer gan (that’s see ya in Thai) to Pattaya as we were off to U-Tapao International Airport to catch a flight with Bangkok Airways down to the beautiful island of Samui, where we’d begin our next part of the trip by landing at what might just be the world’s prettiest airport…