By Nicky Short
Dec 10, 2020
WITH THE HOLIDAYS UPON US, lots of Bangkokians are having to switch up their usual jet-setting seasonal plans and look for a Christmassy getaway a little closer to home. Enter stage southeast: Pattaya. The notorious seaside spot has a reputation as a destination where anything goes, but it’s spruced up its rep in recent years, thanks in part to the gussied-up Na Jomtien beachfront strip and popular Wonderfruit Festival swooping in every December (in 2020, it’s been rebranded Moobaan Wonder; read about that here). Gather the gang: sea, sun, sand and fun of all types await for every taste.
For a festive getaway, Pattaya is ideal. Convenient at less than two hours’ drive from Bangkok; diverse, with everything from chic beachy retreats to super-safe kid-friendly resorts, and from boozy big-day brunches to down-home soul food for homesick expats. There are beaches and beach clubs, waterparks and Walking Street—something for the whole family.
Think of Dusit Thani Pattaya, for example, like your elegant grandma who relocated to the seaside. She welcomes everyone with warmth and treats for everyone via the Ultimate Pattaya package. There are sultry sunsets from the Club Grand Room terrace for the grown-ups, seafaring fun on a yacht complete with picnic and snorkeling for the romantics-at-heart, and super-soaking adventures at Ramayana Water Park for kids, big and small. The package is bookable until the end of February, so you could always stretch the season and celebrate later.
If Dusit is your glam gran, OZO North Pattaya is your fun aunt, fully committed to making sure everyone has the best time ever. Wanna snuggle up slumber party-style? Get cozy for movie or games night in your living room (fully soundproofed so the neighbors can’t hear your karaoke classics), with connecting bedrooms, plus snacks and drinks. Feeling cruisey? Hop aboard the boat(s) best suited to your crew, whether on a laid-back island hop for a select few or a fleet for up to 100, decked out with drinks, trampolines and waterslides. OZO keeps everyone in yacht-fit shape with access to TONE where, as well as your standard weight and cardio staples, you’ll find battle ropes, medicine balls and kettlebells to keep your festive fitness regime fun.
Let’s say, for you, the holidays are less about how much you can lift and more about all-you-can-eat—who are we to judge? Pattaya doesn’t. At Renaissance Pattaya Resort & Spa, 609 Kitchen has all the big dates covered: there’s a roast carvery buffet on Christmas Eve, packed with fresh grilled seafood and free-flow drinks. Come New Year’s Eve, it’s a Blanc en Blanc gala extravaganza, moving to Pebbles Bar & Grill for the countdown and fireworks. At Hilton, meanwhile, the newly refurbished Edge restaurant welcomes families for brunching and buffets overlooking the water, including carols and a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve. Alternatively, drop the little ones off at the dedicated kids’ zone and head up to the roof for grown-up dinners and private dining under the stars over Christmas and New Year.
Speaking of sparkling, InterContinental hooks the adults up with a bottle of bubbly and a bubble bath, keeping the kids happy with blowing-bubbles and a little teepee set up in the room. And for full-blown family fun, Amari gets bonus points for bunk beds as well as chances to get crafty and creative all Christmas Day long. Decorating cookies and cupcakes, and making your own ornaments, anyone? Plus, the roast dinner stars a traditional turkey with all the trimmings and a visit from Santa (man, his Pattaya schedule is packed).
If that all sounds a bit much and you prefer your end-of-year escape a little lower key, Jomtien is the place to be. Away from the bustle of Pattaya proper, this southerly curve of coast is steadily gaining a rep for laid-back seaside chic, thanks to stylish spots like Ana Anan Resort & Villas: think beanbags on the lawn, sunken bathtubs in your beachfront villa and cocktails at the swim-up bar. Stay on a weekday and get an upgrade plus minibar included—your secluded seasonal escape starts looking increasingly celebratory from there. It’s a similar story at Veranda Resort, where your sleek stay comes complete with ocean-hued rooms, sofas in the pool and peaceful sunset views. This is Christmas as your effortlessly elegant gay uncles would do it.
At such close quarters with Bangkok, a Pattaya day-trip is eminently doable and if you’d rather confine your holiday jollies to lunch or dinner and then hit the hay at home, your drinking and dining options are diverse. The Glass House (with branches in North Pattaya and on Na Jomtien Beach) gives beachfront, barefoot boho energy, with fresh Thai-style seafood. It’s like a sailing club but spicier. On the other hand, Tigglebitties has cheeky treats and guilty pleasures covered. For stretchy-pants comfort food, look no further than their menu of downhome American favorites. Nothing says Christmas indulgence like bacon-wrapped shrimp.
With borders still closed, the holidays are looking a little different for residents of Thailand this year. But there’s plenty of joy to be enjoyed, and we dare say consider Pattaya. Like your eccentric cousin who busts out the surprise moonwalk at a wedding, the place is not to be underestimated.