Finally, we are almost in Pattaya, the beach destination of the trip. Everyone is exhausted and sick of temples and ready to sit on a beach and explore the city, which is known for its debauchery, drinking and commercial sex trade that overtakes the entire place.
Before we check into the hotel, though, we stop at Gems Gallery Pattaya, the world’s biggest jewelry store, which everyone is not only disinterested in but wholly against visiting. After lunch, where we chug some Changs, this riot only grows with many of the guys planning on taking a cab to the nearby hotel as soon as we get to the gem factory.
Somehow though, this plan disintegrates and everyone is convinced to at least walk into the gem factory once we find out we only have to stay for 45 minutes. Once inside, we relish in the air conditioning and our lunchtime buzzes and we walk through to see Thai people in booths creating jewelry, which is pretty cool, and very quickly make our way to the buying section. We don’t stay in there too long once we see the prices – most pieces are well over $500 and even we are not drunk enough to casually buy a piece of jewelry for he nothing. After drinking another Chang, we get back on the bus well before the 45-minute mark and wait for everyone else to hop on.
Slowly but surely, most of the group makes its way onto the bus with some of the girls, including Paul, a member of the tour’s daughter, Rachel, displaying a piece of bought Thai jewelry to show everyone. Soon, the only people we are missing are Natalie and G.R., who we loudly speculate about and laugh, since Natalie was definitely not one of the people who didn’t want to go into the factory.
Heidi and I go back inside to use the bathroom since it seems like G.R. And Natalie won’t be in for awhile, and when we get back in, everyone is talking excitedly and I see that Natalie and G.R. are back on the bus. I walk to the back to see what all of the fuss is about, and finally, it’s obvious what took them so long – Natalie, and all of the other girls, are admiring a bright ruby red ring on her right ring finger. Our tour is now host to an engagement, too.
That night, Natalie and G.R. go to a ladyboy show with the tour group, but Mike, Brandon, Heidi, Erica, Jordan and I get dressed and look through the ripped pages of my guidebook to pick out a dinner to go to, which after a week of buffets full of typical Thai items such as basil chicken, chicken and cashews and steamed rice, will be a very welcome visit. We pick out a restaurant called Mantra, which is supposedly one of the most “talked-about restaurants in Pattaya,” according to my guidebook.
We walk through the dark, narrow streets, which are filled with street food, stray dogs, tourists, Thais, motorbikes and cars zipping along through more lawlessness, although it seems that in a place where only the strong survive everyone knows when it’s time to hop back on the sidewalk to avoid that speeding truck or what alleyways to avoid.
Once we are in downtown Pattaya, the pandemonium expands into main streets of more zipping cars, people, bikes and cabs before we get to the restaurant. Once we walk in, I see why it’s referred to as one of the most talked-about restaurants. The tall, slender Thai hostesses walk us to a velvet raised booth for pre-dinner drinks before taking us to our table overlooking the downstairs floor of the restaurant, which, dressed in colors of yellow, deep reds and black, have sky-high twinkling lights and red velvet curtains.
For dinner, I splurge on the tournedos rossini, a 120-day grain-fed Australian beef tenderloin with pan-fried foie gras, black truffle mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and port wine jus for $48, since many of the meals we have had here cost less than $5 and I figure Mike and I spend that much on one person when we go out to eat in the States anyway.
We walk home afterwards, full and sleepy, yet I feel a little more nervous now walking through this dark streets in a city known for its sex industry. I feel relieved when we get back to our hotel and go to sleep, ready for a day at the beach. Ironically enough, that night, I feel very sick from my very expensive steak. Maybe my body misses all that Thai food after all.
CONTINUE READING HERE: Smut and sun in Pattaya