What’s in a name? Guest blogger John Borthwick takes a light-hearted look at Pattaya’s possible origins.
On 29th June 1959, or 29 April 1961, four — or five — US Army trucks rolled into a snoozy fishing village on the Gulf of Thailand, east of Bangkok. The village was Pad Tha Ya, aka Pattaya.
The trucks disgorged a cargo of GI's on leave from fighting in Vietnam. Or perhaps 100 marines from an upcountry base at Nakhon Ratchasima. Or American sailors from nearby Sattahip naval port. Or possibly US fliers from the also nearby U-Tapao airfield. Choose the internet-published creation myth that suits you. Like most assertions made about, or in, Pattaya, the truth is mutable.
Alternatively, Pattaya’s name might derive from the arrival there of Phraya Tak (later King Taksin) in 1767. The place became known as Thap Phraya, meaning the Army of the Phraya. This morphed to Phatthaya, or Pad Tha Ya. Which can also mean (or so we are told) “the wind blowing from the southwest to the northeast at the beginning of the rainy season.”
Any way the wind blows (which doesn’t really matter, as Freddy Mercury noted), Pattaya today hosts over six million visitors a year. Regardless of its origins, Pattaya — aka Sodom-by-Sea or the Gomorrah-of-Tomorrah — now spells “Nightlife”. In fact the town doesn’t really get going until early evening when hundreds of beer bars thronged by chirpy hostesses start to pump up the volume. For a walk on the mildly wild side, stroll down the famous, neon-blazing Walking Street, the heart and groin of Pattaya after dark. Many visitors just pull up a pew and a beer at one of the street-front bars, there to contemplate the nocturnal human zoo in all its beauty and bawdiness.