Jomtien Beach Pattaya in Thailand
Jomtien is the beach just south of Pattaya to which most Thais flock on their weekend escape from Bangkok. Do the locals know more than the foreign tourists?
The first differences that attract the locals are price and style. With more than 10 kilometers of sand, Jomtien is much longer than Pattaya’s three kilometers of beach. With more available space, many cheaper accommodations and restaurants flourish here. For the same reasons, many Bangkokians own condominiums along this beach.
The difference in style is critical too. Pattaya is seen as a ‘tourist’ beach, while Jomtien is much more ‘Thai’. Both food and prices in Jomtien are local, plus there are more choice and better flavors to satisfy the Thai’s fastidious needs when it comes to eating. In Pattaya, many restaurants that chase the foreign tourist trade put their major effort into the atmosphere, lowering their focus on spicing and other subtleties that Thais customers demand in their cuisine. This is a potentially mortal mistake for restaurants in this country – unless they have foreign customers – for Thais won’t return to beautiful places if the sour-salty-spicy levels are not precisely right.
Thus, the large over-water restaurants in south Pattaya have lost virtually all of the Thai clientele who kept them alive 25 years ago. These are now ‘tourist’ restaurants through-and-through, shunned by most locals. Thai families and groups now flock to the far south end of Jomtien at sunset to dine on seafood in the open-air restaurants perching on the narrow sidewalk beside the ocean. It’s all very basic, but the flavors and prices are right. That’s Jomtien.
A windsurfing school and rental business do a thriving business here for thousands of Thais have taken up their sport over the past generation. Kitesurfing, which has virtually knocked out windsurfing in many places, is just beginning to catch on with the locals here.
Most Thai families, however, come here to relax in the deep shade of the umbrellas, eating and drinking the day away while their kids frolic in sand and water.
Jomtien – where are the beachfront resorts?
Jomtien is long – ten kilometers of straight sand from the top end to Ocean Marina, seen in the bottom of our Jomtien Beach map. A big busy road runs right along the top six kilometers of beach, the very portion that holds over 90% of the hotels, condos and small accommodations here. Forget beachfront accommodations here, and look to the quieter south end where we find several in the area of Ocean Marina, the only significant landmark that breaks this long stretch of sand.
Jomtien is completely transformed once the road turns back to the highway, leaving the beach without traffic. Development is comparatively sparse, with only condos and private houses for the next three kilometers south. Then we reach the hotel zone in our Jomtien map, a black-and-white contrast with the north end.
Only at this quieter southern end, with the road 600 meters from the sand, can we find true beachfront accommodation. Pinnacle Jomtien Resort, a 3-star establishment, is the first of these. With the quickest access to Jomtien and Pattaya, this is a good choice for those who want to enjoy Pattaya’s nightlife and lifestyle establishments but then escape to an out-of-the-way beachfront resort at the end of the evening.
Next down the beach is the huge, rather featureless Ambassador City. This is principally a conference resort, with large buildings but few trees or landscaping over its huge area. When no corporate events are in action it offers the atmosphere of a deserted schoolyard. But the beach is wide and empty.
The most attractive and best quality resorts on Jomtien Beach are a little further south, where we find three interesting ones side-by-side on one of the best parts of the beach; see Ravindra Beach Resort, Dor-Shada by the Sea and Botany Beach Resort.
Jomtien: problems in the environment, water & development
With so much sand, Jomtien is less crowded than Pattaya Beach, though the northern end where most hotels and condos are located also sees a lot of people and activity each weekend when the Bangkok crowd arrives. It is this proximity to Bangkok that powers the economy of Jomtien, not the quality of the beach or surrounding countryside. Jomtien has only a fraction of the nightlife that Pattaya has, though it is a better place to find authentic Thai restaurants.
Environmentally, Jomtien has little going for it. The water quality here is the same as on Pattaya Beach – polluted to a degree it could be hazardous to human health. It has a sickly green tinge to it, but many people do continue to swim here. Swimmers often run into plastic bags and junk on its way to the beach. Plastic washes up on the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand in huge volumes, something the locals are neither to blame for nor able to stop. A plastic bag discarded in far-off Chiang Mai might land on the sand here months later, following a trip down the Chao Phraya River and a sloshing around in the Gulf of Thailand. Still, it would be nice if the local authorities organized for the never-ending beach flotsam to be cleaned away more often.
Jomtien’s once-tranquil buffalo grazing grounds are suffering the same blight that turned Pattaya into an ugly urban jungle; rampant, uncontrolled development with no long-term planning. Where are the open public spaces or green areas like parks, sand dunes or picnic spots in either Pattaya or Jomtien? Everything green is rapidly being cut and covered with a scab of cheap concrete, spaghetti wiring, and advertising razzmatazz. Given a few years, Jomtien will look virtually identical to its famous sister over the hill, and much like the blighted suburbs of Bangkok.
The over-crowded beach road is a disgraceful mess, with few trees remaining save those along the beach top. Crossing this road can also prove hazardous to health if you are not alert, and sometimes fleet at the foot.