Running from Central Pattaya Road down to South Pattaya Road, Soi Buakhao is about 1.5km in length. It has many interesting places to visit, and there are some really good nightspots to choose from. This nightspot works because of three main reasons; firstly, it is a good all-rounder with lots of choice in terms of restaurants and bars; it might not be as glitzy as Walking Street, but the quality is still high and well worth taking a look at. Second, prices are lower than in any of the other main alternatives.
Finally, if you are staying in Pattaya for any length of time, then you will want to look around and visit new places just for a change.
Soi Buakhao is one of the most popular destinations for long-term visitors to Pattaya; it has a more relaxed atmosphere that gives it a completely different feel to the hectic offerings around town, and it has more of a casual sort of feel to it rather than a 'big night out at the weekend' sort of feel.
There are two other sois in the area that need to be seen; Soi Diana (Soi 13 off 2nd Road heading inland), and Soi LK Metro. Taken together these venues give you all the options that you need for a great night out, and everything is within easy walking distance. On Soi Buakhao itself, there are not too many gogo bars or coyote bars, but Soi Diana and Soi LK Metro have plenty to choose from.
If you know anything about economics, or price indexes/cost of living indexes, you may have heard of the 'Big Mac' index. It's a very basic means of weighing up the cost of living in one place compared to another by looking at how much a McDonald’s Big Mac costs in each place. In cheap locations, Big Macs are cheaper etc...
I've come up with my own index for Pattaya nightlife venues... it's called the 'beer Chang' index! In the more expensive tourist areas like Walking Street, a small bottle (330 ml) will set you back as much as 150 baht. That same bottle of Chang can be had for as little as 50 baht in some bars/restaurants on Soi Buakhao! You can also find the larger bottles (660 ml) for as little as 65 baht, which means twice the beer at less than half the cost compared to some Walking Street bars! It isn't just beer that is cheaper either; food, massage, hotels etc. are all quite a bit cheaper.
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Soi Buakhao, over recent years, is one of the most improved nightspots in Pattaya. I’ve long been a fan of the place due to the cheaper prices, but it has got some quality bars and restaurants there too, it’s not just bargain basement options. The range of bars is quite wide with a good selection fitted out with very basic tables and chairs with others being quite flash.
The older, basic bars in the area offer the cheapest prices. The ‘Nida Food & Drink’ bar in the picture below is very competitive on prices. It’s a popular place with old-timers and expats, and it usually attracts a decent crowd of people. As with many bars it has a Karaoke night in mid-week and, as is the way in Thailand, it is loud enough to disintegrate bone.
Opposite the Nida bar is the larger and busier ‘Marquee Bar and Restaurant’. Here too there is a regular Karaoke night. Prices are a little higher but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone; the customers tend to be a bit younger than the Nida regulars. Older customers are a very price-conscious lot and a good tip, if you are looking for a bargain, is to follow the pensioners. Of course, that does entail some risk that you might get caught up in a conversation with one of them... No disrespect to my mature readers but some old-timers in Pattaya are a little too fond of moaning about anything and everything!
Moving in a southerly direction down Soi Buakhao, a few yards from the Nida bar is the small complex of bars in the picture below; it's a tight-knit complex that offers another option for a relaxing drink.
On one of my Pattaya trips the hotel that I stayed at was located near to this end of Soi Buakhao, so I got to know this stretch of road quite well. During the daytime there is a local lady that spends a lot of time walking up and down the soi, she is a complete basket-case! On one unprovoked occasion she decided to unload a barrage of words at me whilst I was sitting in the ‘Nida’ bar. It was about two in the afternoon and I was minding my own business when she starts shouting at me... words to the effect of “you f*** me and you leave me” and so on.
Now, as anyone that knows me can attest, I’m not averse to having a few too many beers from time to time and, admittedly, my judgement can suffer on said occasions... but never in a month of Sundays would I have gotten romantic with this lunatic. I was speechless and I could see plenty of people in the area having a laugh at the whole episode. A few days later I was again seated in the Nida bar when she unloaded on some other poor sod that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, I did consider reassuring the poor fellow with a few supportive words, but I’m afraid I let myself down and had a good laugh at him instead...
The northern section of Soi Buakhao from its intersection of Soi New Plaza is, more or less, the start of the points of interest on the soi from a nightspot point of view. However, the best of the activity is located a little further southward.
The R-Con complex, still in the northern section, is a fairly lively place which always seems to draw a crowd. There are two bars in the complex and directly opposite is a third bar that is probably the busiest of them all. I believe it is called the ‘Easy Corner Bar’, although I’ not certain on that since the signage for the place is hardly visible.
Just after the R-Con complex is the night-market; it is home to lots of market stalls that sell all sorts of foodstuffs. I think that local Thai people form the main clientele once you get past the roadside kebab stall.
Opposite the night-market is the smaller of the two R-Con bars. The food there is very cheap and quite palatable if you want a simple snack before a big night out. I ate there a few times over the New Year period and one occasion I could have eaten for free. The waitress forgot to add my Tuna sandwich to my check-bin; unfortunately I allowed my western sensibilities to interfere with my judgement and I owning up to the omission and made the payment. It was a bad move, the waitress denied all knowledge so as to save-face, I paid money that I needn’t have bothered paying and, for my efforts, the rest of the staff though I must be a bit weird for paying for non-existent food... only in Thailand!
The bars that adorn the area from the intersection of Soi Made in Thailand and Soi Diana range from basic open-air beer bars to stylish, modern drinking holes. New bars are opening with increasing frequency, and old bars are closing and being refurbished quite regularly. The anticipated migration of the nightlife away from the expensive property locations near to the beach is gradually gaining pace, and I do expect this trend to continue. At the current time there are lots of bargains to be found here, with beer prices well below the average.
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The Players Lounge on Soi Buakhao opened early in 2014 under the name ‘Booze Lounge’ but it soon rebranded to its current name. It is a lounge bar, meaning that there is an air-conditioned indoor area, but there is also a decent outdoor area as you can see from the picture. I did mention previously that Soi Buakhao is not the best place in Pattaya to find a lady for some companionship, but this place is certainly a decent offering in that regard; some of the ladies that work there are quite cute.
The Katesiree House has to be mentioned for the simple reason that it is an absolute bargain. The beer prices there are the cheapest that I’ve found at any bar in Pattaya. As you can see it is another popular bar and my ‘follow the older guys for value’ rule is in evidence here. The bar is almost always busy, day or night, but there are some complaints on Tripadvisor against the staff that work there. I can’t say that I’ve ever had any problems there though, and I suspect that the moans are coming from the older crowd who, as stated above, often like to moan all day long for no good reason…
The Witherspoons bar, not to be confused with the UK chain ‘Wetherspoons’ is one of the best Soi Buakhao bars for watching live sports. Beer prices are, sadly, a little higher but if you want to watch a game of football then you might want to be at a place with some atmosphere. Witherspoons has the right atmosphere for such things with lots of other sports fans choosing it as their favoured watering hole whenever a live game is on. As you can see, you needn’t worry about the wrong game being featured as there are lots of screens there with most televised games being shown simultaneously (the sound system will only work on the main game though). I think this place is particularly popular with British visitors; it is the only open-air bar that serves up real ale (at exorbitantly high prices though). Food is also available and from what I hear it is good quality stuff.
The ‘Fantasy Bar’ is probably the best known of the Soi Buakhao ladyboy bars. The ‘girls’ there can be a bit grabby if you wander past on their side of the road; I’ve been grabbed and offered a massage for only 100 baht by one of their staff. Unfortunately, it just isn’t my thing, but you would be surprised by just how many of the older expats have spent some private-time in the company of a ladyboy!
Take a look at the picture; if you ever wanted an example of the scourge that is the mobile phone then this is it! Lots of Thais, girls and ladyboys, are virtually inseparable from their mobile telephones. Part of the reason, a big part, is the fact that they often use them as a means of drumming up business. Facebook is universally popular in Thailand and if the girls aren’t texting their foreign benefactors then they are usually conversing with someone on Facebook.
Living in Pattaya is not expensive wherever you go, but the value offered here means that you can save a lot of money. Many long-term visitors and expats feel the same way and choose to pitch their tents here.
All in all, Soi Buakhao is well worth a look if you are staying in Pattaya for any length of time. The fact that it is not so well known is a big selling point if you want to avoid all the first-time visitors, and especially so if you want to avoid the hordes of flag following Chinese visitors…
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