Thailand is the place to go if you enjoy lively holidays. It has some of the most visually striking beaches in Southeast Asia and a focus on nightlife. While it also comes with quieter, more laid back beaches, the majority of tourists that head for Thailand are here for the buzz.
Partying in Pattaya
While a little bit sleazy, Pattaya is the oldest party beach in Thailand. It is a couple of hours south of Bangkok by highway and has more hotels and bars per capita than anywhere else in Thailand. The actual beach in Pattaya is not as nice as beaches at other prominent beach resorts, yet it is busy and the main focal point by day.
At night, Pattaya really comes into its own. If you are into drinking, eating and women of the night, this is the place to come. Prices here are invariably cheaper than at other popular beach resorts and there are literally hundreds of bars to choose from, from standard hole-in-the-wall watering holes, to expat pubs, go gos, and all out discos.
The liveliest part is Walking Street in the south at the end of the beach. It is traffic-free at nighttime and is wall to wall bars and girls. Although it has a reputation for being a bit unruly, Pattaya's bars are patrolled by tourist police and volunteers.
Lounging in Phuket
Thailand's second-most favorite party beach is Patong, located way down in the southwest of Thailand on the western side of Phuket. The beach and atmosphere in Phuket are a definite one-up from Pattaya, yet prices for accommodation, food, beer and women are steeper. Phuket has totally recovered from the devastation wrought by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Patong Beach is a lot tidier than Pattaya Beach, plus it has some surf and a far prettier promenade. Soi Bangla, right behind the beach, is the main drinking area. It is literally steps from the sand and has every type of bar you could imagine. Head for the south side of the street for the cheaper, less in-yer-face bars and north for heavier action.
The gay area of Patong lies at the second street parallel to the beach amid the Paradise complex. Although virtually anything goes in Patong, it is on the whole a lot less sleazy than Pattaya, plus there are quality beaches to the north and south. In addition, and unlike Pattaya, Phuket has its own international airport with flights from Europe and all over Southeast Asia.
Getting Down in Samui
Thailand's third most happening beach is Chaweng Beach on the island of Koh Samui. It lies in the Gulf of Thailand and also comes with an airport, yet flights here are a lot more expensive than getting to Phuket as one airline, Bangkok Airways, owns the airport and has the monopoly.
Chaweng Beach lies on the east coast of Samui, as it is more commonly known. It is the island's largest beach and has the best spread of accommodation. Prices here are generally higher than at Patong and Pattaya, yet the beach is nicer and somewhat more exclusive. Everything is low-rise and restaurants open out onto the beach at night, while right behind the beach is a string of pumping bars.
Full Moon Fever in Phangnan
Another lively beach is that of Hat Rin on the island of Phangnan to the north of Samui. It gets crazy one night of the year, during the legendary Full Moon Party. Backpackers come from far and wide to drink and revel on the beach here although for the rest of the month it remains a lot quieter. Phangnan is a bit of a pain to get to as it doesn't have an airport. It is accessed by ferry from Samui.