Just a Bhat Bus from Big World

According to other travellers, there was nothing to like about Pattaya, Thailand. I told Eric we needed to go there as an approach to the Cambodia border and Angkor Wat. Really, it was because I read it had a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and a “miniature world.” The mention of casinos didn’t hurt either.

Pattaya can be a rough town for a girl like me.

Getting there wasn’t much fun. We had a lot of trouble finding the right bus station in Bangkok, despite its being clearly marked and directly across from a Metro exit that we descended … I guess we just like wandering the sweltering streets of Bangkok.

On our belated arrival in Pattaya, we caught a “songathew,” or bhat bus to the hotel. These are little mini trucks where you crowd into the back with 10 other people and then jump out where you want and toss the driver a few baht. I thought they were a great alternative to tuk-tuks because there’s no explaining to the driver where you want to go; the baht buses just go up and down one road.

Our hotel on the famous Walking Street was a real dive. The owner had a parrot with several perches around the reception area. He didn’t speak any English — the parrot, of course. Our room had a window with a stunning view of a concrete wall about 4 inches from the glass.

Pattaya City neon sign

The Ripley’s musuem was all I had hoped. Everything in it was collected by Ripley on his travels in the early 20th century — much of which matched things Eric and I had recently seen. Of course, I’m extremely jealous that Ripley was able to purchase a shrunken head in Ecuador and I could only view them in a museum in Cuenca. He also had an etching of the Seattle Skyline on the head of a pin which, when viewed under a microscope, made me a bit homesick. Ripley himself, as a life-sized hologram who spins a globe on his desk, introduces the museum. Eric and I watched it over and over in wonder.

We got lost again trying to find Mini Siam, the miniature world. We would have given up if not for two things which reinvigorated me: 1) We happened upon a store with ample shade and cold fizzy drinks, and 2) A drag queen mounting the back of a motorcyle across the street threw me a kiss. Minutes later, Mini Siam appeared from out of nowhere. Eric and I slipped in (after a rare lunch at McDonald’s) and were soon wandering the wonders of the world.

Why travel the world when you can see all its wonders here?

A bhat bus back to Pattaya town and the scene was heating up. Blaring rock bands competed with hip-hop DJsin every other bar on Walking Street. We listened to a band do a few pretty good ACDC covers and tried not to watch the balding fat men at every table canoodle tiny Thai women.

Over the music, we hear a short Russian guy yelling into his cellphone, “I don’t care. You just get it on plane and then you get here!” Pattaya really is a town of shrunken pleasures and pleasure-seekers. Where dirty deeds are done dirt cheap.