Living in Bangkok makes it easy to access places like Phuket and Koh Samui, both of which have beautiful beaches, by plane. However, sometimes I dont want to buy an expensive plane ticket (prices go up a lot on weekends and major holidays) to visit the beach, and just want to catch the bus to my destination.
Ive written before about visiting Hua Hin, one of my favorite beach resorts in Thailand. Hua Hin is close to Bangkok, but it isnt quite as close as Pattaya, and as such doesnt attract as many visitors.
Pattaya is a beach resort city thats about two hours from Bangkok. Its easy to get there from Ekamai Bus Terminal, which is located close to Ekamai BTS Station on the BTS Skytrain. I get the bus there for just over 100 baht and usually arrive within two hours, although sometimes it can take longer.
Pattaya has a lot of beautiful resort hotels, including the new Hilton right beside the beach (winner of several hotel awards and arguably the nicest place in town). Theres also the Dusit Thani and other nice places, many of which are older but have great facilities.
The beach in Pattaya is horrible, with lots of dirt and garbage, as well as street hawkers everywhere. At night, the entire road along the beach is full of prostitutes (this is a recurring theme in Pattaya, which I will talk about later) but there are other better beaches nearby Pattaya, including Jomtien, which is a quieter beach (but still not very quiet) just around the headland from Pattaya city.
The worst point of Pattaya is the constant sleazy nightlife thats present everywhere in the city. Almost all hotels in Pattaya are full of older male tourists with escorts in various sleazy states of dress, including high end hotels. In Bangkok some hotels allow people to bring guests back (there is a list here so you can avoid them) but most nice hotels bar this type of nightlife from intruding into the property. Its very annoying to pay over $100 per night for a beautiful room only to arrive at breakfast and feel like youre in the middle of a dirty nightclub.
Aside from this, Pattaya is an alright beach resort and an okay break from life in Bangkok. With that said, I recommend spending an extra hour on the minivan and visiting Hua Hin instead, which has a much nicer beach and less of the sleaze factor of Pattaya. Hua Hin doesnt have quite the selection of hotels and activities as Pattaya, but overall its a much better destination, especially for couples and families.