The Walking Street in Pattaya is known the world over as a go-all-night red light district. But lots of other attractions have sprung up on the street to accommodate male and female vacationers that come for a night out, as well as the busloads of tourists that walk through for a quick, curious look at the notorious nightlife spot.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see gaggles of Western girls hitting the bars and clubs of Walking Street as well as — yeah, we don’t know why either — entire families taking in the “sights.”
A quick search online returns feedback from previous visitors along the lines of: “It needs to be experienced at least once,” and “It requires an open mind, or you will leave the street in a state of shock.”
Not everyone loves the more inclusive parts of Walking Street, though. Some former fans of the area lament the changes, like one male reviewer from the UK who said, “It was a street of bars and nightclubs all set for a boys’ night out, but now it’s mainly just a stop off for tourists to walk up and down.”
Here are our top picks for things to do on Walking Street if you’re avoiding the seedier parts of the action:
Visit the Turkish ice cream vendor
This Turkish ice cream vendor is pretty well-known, with people all over the world posting photos and videos of his antics and calling him a “highlight” of the street. He really knows how to work a crowd — though we’d say his ice cream is nothing special: he has just vanilla, strawberry, or mango for THB80 (US$2.4) a cone — but it’s the love he puts into the performance of delivering the cones that makes this a great experience.
His show involves juggling, preening, and tricking his customers over and over into thinking he’s handing them their ice cream, then whisking it away again — it’s a traditional “trick” that ice cream vendors in many parts of Turkey do. Our Pattaya guy dances, flirts with the ladies, and entertains the kiddies, all from under his heavy mustache, caftan, and fez.
Interact with street performers
From stilt walkers, to dancers in body paint, to this weird guy dressed up and surrounded by signs proclaiming how much he loves his mistress, Walking Street draws cosplayers and street performers hoping to get some attention and make a few bucks.
Much like those in New York’s Times Square, if you interact or pose for a photo with them, they’ll expect a tip.
Thankfully, Pattaya’s breed is pleased with THB20 (US$0.6), unlike the New York crew, who’ll chase you down the street demanding US$5-10.
Shake things up in a Rocketball ride
Grab a buddy and get strapped into this open-sided ball that gets launched into the air on what are basically large rubber bands. Located next to Mixx nightclub by the pier, the ride is open afternoons and evenings. Note the spinning, moving cage design — this thing doesn’t just bounce, it also rotates.
Pro tip: Do not go when you’re drunk or have just eaten a huge meal. Just trust us on that. But if you need a drink afterwards, they have a bar on the premises where you can toast your bravery and laugh at the next groups having a go.
Late night dancing to local and international hip hop
The party does not stop in Pattaya and the true club people know that the good dance spots are a few steps off walking street and don’t open until midnight. Sure you can hit Mixx, Insomnia, or 808, but Pattaya’s true hip hop heads — as well as lots of local hospitality people after they get out of work — hip up Flexx, in a second floor warehouse behind McDonald’s. The later you show up, the better, as it closes well after sunrise — and, they often host surprise emcee performances late in the night.
Eat some pretty great food
Whether you want to grab skewers of greasy, salty pork from the street, have fresh shrimp and lobster at any of the street’s seafood restaurants — fans rate King Seafood as among the best — or even try Irish fare, Walking Street’s food scene extends far beyond 7-Eleven toasties and the 24 hour McDonald’s. Last time we were there, we had amazing falafel and shwarma sandwiches on a the street with with ice cold beers for THB100 (US$3).
Catch a buzz from weird street drinks
As you walk down the street, you’ll see small bar stands and carts offering all kinds of colorful and unfathomable shots and drinks. Hey, why not try that weird blue jelly or black cocktail called “disobey?” Or grab a whole rainbow of shots that are probably made of sugar, lao khao (cheap local spirit), and food coloring for THB150 (US$4.5). We guarantee your head won’t thank you in the morning but the photos will be keepsakes for your children.
Buy some tourist tat to take home
As in most places in Thailand, you can always shop. Get your souvenir t-shirts, cheap sunglasses, shot glasses, elephant pants, straw hats, and ill-advised Buddha statues here.
You can also get more risqué items such as water pipes, brass knuckles, knives of all kinds, and illegal sex toys. We just can’t recommend that you put those in your luggage for your flight home.
Chill out in Pattaya’s only ice bar
When the heat of Walking Street gets to be too much, both figuratively and literally, you can step into Pattaya’s Ice Bar V20, Walking Street’s only ice bar. They bring you a rack of furry coats that you can don for your stay, as well as on-theme drinks with words like “frozen” and “polar” in the names.
The front room is an actual cooler kept at -11 degrees Celsius, where you can pose for photos with a guy in a polar bear suit. On the day we visited, he had “accidentally” put his suit on backwards so that the tail looked like a penis. But we think it wasn’t an accident since it is Pattaya.
Get your live music on at any of the street’s ‘rock pubs’
Get away from the street’s sleazier element at one of the live music bars, where you’ll find lots of couples and groups not engaging in the lady trade. We recommend Hot Tuna Bar, where the long haired Thai musicians — decked out in cowboy hats, turquoise jewelry, and bell bottoms — keep the mood alive with a steady soundtrack of ‘70s and ‘80s rock like Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, and Steely Dan.