Thailand can also be a dynamic family experience

Thailand has much to offer for those seeking a family vacation the children will never forget.

The sanctuary of truth  (photo credit: REVITAL HORESH)
The sanctuary of truth
(photo credit: REVITAL HORESH)
A lot of water has caressed the beaches of Pattaya, Thailand, since it was a sleepy and peaceful fishing village. Nowadays it’s known as the world’s sex capital and a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
With the arrival in the area of American soldiers in the 1950s at the outbreak of the Vietnam War, Pattaya began to flourish in the sex tourism business. Since then the city has developed a dubious reputation worldwide as the city of sin. All other quarters around the world known for their red curtains seem pious and innocent in comparison. For this reason, many people are not aware that in recent years, this city has gone to great efforts to shake off this image by establishing a plethora of attractions and entertainment centers that make for a really fun family vacation.
The convenient location of Pattaya, just a two-hour drive from Bangkok, and the many hotels to choose from, including luxury resorts and hotels with water parks and a host of children’s activities, make the city a popular family vacation destination. The following is a list of the top attractions in Pattaya that you can enjoy while traveling in Thailand with children.
Ziplines For those of you who always dreamed of playing Tarzan, just a short drive from Pattaya awaits an unforgettable experience: a thrilling ride on a dizzyingly high three-km. zipline that will take you gliding over the top of the rain forest. The zipline has 26 stations, as well as lots of hanging bridges and long rope poles that dangle all the way down to the ground. Although my own sixyear- old daughter loved every moment of the ride, it’s not for everyone. You need to think about this and decide before you start, because once you take off, there’s no going back.
Tip: You can get there on your own, but the package deals you can book through agencies make the price worthwhile. Packages often include transportation, lunch and a tour of the nearby Khao Kheow Open Zoo.
The Sanctuary of Truth Overlooking the sea, the Sanctuary of Truth is a unique temple in which every detail and image in wood is crafted by hand. All the parts of the sanctuary are connected using a special jigsaw-puzzle-like technique that doesn’t require even a single nail. Hundreds of workers and artists have been busy creating the temple for more than 30 years, and it is not even near completion.
In certain areas, you can watch the sanctuary being constructed. You can walk around and view the beautiful statues and wood carvings that reflect the beliefs and philosophies of Eastern religions, which claim there is no single truth in the world. In the restaurant on the banks of the alluring lake, guests are invited to watch entertaining folklore shows, and the on-site massage parlor offers treatments at extremely reasonable prices. Visitors looking for a little more action can go horseback riding, drive ATVs or go sailing on the lake.
Tip: The entrance fee at this temple is higher than at other temples (450 baht (NIS 49) for adults and 225 baht (NIS 24) for children), but you can purchase tickets at discounted rates on the temple’s website. There are also package deals that combine entrance to the temple with other activities near the site.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden The Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, located 18 kilometers south of Pattaya, is one of the most spectacular sites in Thailand. It boasts European- style gardens with statues scattered around, French gardens inspired by the gardens of Versailles, cactus gardens, floating gardens, a small butterfly- shaped garden, animal-shaped bushes, and gardens with flamingo statues.
You can walk across a rope-and-wood bridge that hangs over the lake or along the smooth paths, ride a bike, go for an outing in a pedal boat on the lake or catch a ride on the minibus that is constantly circling around the gardens. For younger kids, there’s a jungle gym, a petting zoo, a giant aquarium and a covered market.
Guests can watch the daily elephant show and folkloric performances, including traditional Thai dances involving sticks and swords, a mock traditional Thai wedding ceremony and martial arts demonstrations.
Tip: If you’ve booked your own private transportation to the site, I recommend booking it for the return trip as well, since it’s quite difficult to find a taxi leaving the gardens. The few drivers who hang around the site waiting for customers know this and charge astronomical rates. If you’re not planning on visiting additional sites on your way to or from the gardens, I recommend booking a package deal that includes transportation both ways.
Dolphin World If you’ve always dreamed about swimming with dolphins, you’ll be able to fulfill this dream in Thailand – and at a much more reasonable price than you’d be able to in other locales around the world. At Pattaya Dolphin World, you can watch a dolphin performance, and for an additional 2,500 baht (NIS 270), you can get close to these intelligent mammals, caress them, swim with them, and even kiss them and get a wet, salty kiss back. Dolphin World is not on as high a level as other aquatic sites around the world, but the price is also lower, and it will certainly be an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
Inside the complex, a variety of attractions are available at additional cost, such as a water park, pony rides, a shooting range and a climbing wall. Be aware, though, that some of the attractions are not open every day.
Tip: It’s advisable to reserve your time slot for swimming with the dolphins ahead of time. Also, they are very strict about carefully trimmed nails so that the dolphins do not get harmed.
Cartoon Network Amazone The newest family attraction in the region is undoubtedly the amazing Cartoon Network Amazone, created by the animation giant that produced Ben 10, Powerpuff Girls and Adventure Time.
Cool presentations that are some of the fastest and most state-of-the-art in the world are supplemented by live performances and well-known Cartoon Network characters that are constantly walking around inside the park and interacting with visitors.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum Another popular attraction in Pattaya is Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. In addition to the hundreds of bizarre exhibits guests see in the museum, visitors can take advantage of other attractions on site, such as a haunted house of horrors in which hidden characters and incredible effects will surprise you at every step (not recommended for the faint of heart or small children). There’s also a 4D movie with moving seats that take you to a wonderful world of phantasmagoria with scary sound and light effects.
Tip: A number of these attractions could be too scary for young children, so it’s important to check ahead of time to make sure they are age-appropriate for your family. You can purchase tickets for each attraction separately, or receive a 30% discount on packages.
Artificial floating market The Pattaya artificial floating market showcases traditional-style buildings from regions all over Thailand, from the north to the south.
You can sail around on little wooden boats through the canals and view the cabins, stalls, and even a little temple and gallery with wooden carvings.
Tip: A visit to this market should not be a substitute for visits to other large floating markets in Thailand, such as Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa near Bangkok.
Pattaya Park Tower If you are always in search of the next ultimate adrenalin kick, you’ll love being able to race down at a dizzying speed from the 55th floor of the Pattaya Park Tower on a zipline or open cable car. Those who prefer a more sedate experience can make the trip in a closed cable car. There’s also a revolving restaurant on floors 52 to 54, an amusement park with a roller coaster and a water park.
Translated by Hannah Hochner. Originally published in Ma’ariv.