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'Dancing in light, shimmering.. like a giant diorama made from mother-of-pearl… was Lake Baikal'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

What is the only resort in famously cold Siberia with guaranteed year round temperatures of +30C?

By The Siberian Times reporter
08 July 2012

The beaches here are thronged with sun-seekers, children paddle in the warm waters — even the babushki are relaxed.

Anastasia, 23, came to Pattaya from Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, to have a rest after a long winter. Picture: The Siberian Times 

The beaches here are thronged with sun-seekers, children paddle in the warm waters as parents top up their tans on the white sand; even the babushki are relaxed,lying back in deck chairs eating succulent fresh pineapple as they gaze out at jetskis criss-crossing the bay.

Nearby, from simple open-air cafes, wafts the scent of tasty spiced meats on the sizzling shashlik. Ready for another cocktail? There's not a fur hat in sight, but all around are native Russian voices, and its in the same time zone as Novosibirsk.

You are in Pattaya, Siberia.

Siberians in Pattaya Thailand

Russian and Siberian visitors are very interesting because in most cases they're coming here as couples or as families, and enjoying Pattaya as a resort which has something for the women and children and not only the men, and this is exactly what we're keen to encourage. Picture: The Siberian Times

Okay, okay. So Pattaya is in Thailand, but honestly these days you wouldn't always know it as you stroll around this unique cosmopolitan resort, and even more its beach-hugging little sister, Jomtien.

Something extraordinary is happening here. While many countries remain muted when it comes to opening up for traveling Russians, whether tourists or those seeking a foreign property foothold, Thailand — and especially Pattaya — is holding out a large sign saying: 'Welcome'. Not only saying it, but meaning it with that famous Thai smile. 

As a result, as The Siberian Times has discovered, a veritable flow of Russians is coming here: those seeking a quick defrost from the harsh winter, others who choose to make Thailand a second home either for retirement or regular holidays, and, increasingly commonly, people opting to send their children to international English-speaking schools with a view to later attending foreign universities.

Siberians in Pattaya Thailand Siberians in Pattaya Thailand

Ittipol Khunpleum, the Mayor of Pattaya (r), said that he is aiming to increase the advertising of the resort for Siberian tourists. Pictures: The Siberian Times

New figures disclosed to us by Ittipol Khunpleum, the Mayor of Pattaya, reveal a staggering thirty per cent increase in 2011 for Russians visiting the resort. No other country match it. On one estimate, more than two thirds of those were from Siberia. 

‘There's no surprise in this’, said Irina, 27, a native of Novosibirsk, who has lived in Pattaya for almost two years, where she is educating her young children. 

‘The journey times from Siberia are far less than from European Russia. If you're in Moscow, you might go to Montenegro or in winter to Egypt or Dubai. For a lot of Siberians, Thailand and in particular Pattaya is the logical choice, and it has so much to offer both for a quick holiday or as somewhere for more permanent living. 

‘I've travelled a lot abroad, but I've never known a place as easy for Russians to come to, be welcomed, and lease or buy a condominium or a house.

‘I feel happy and secure here. When my friends come from Siberia to stay, they arrive weary and often stressed from the life back home. The next thing is a slight culture shock from all the new sights and smells, the sudden vivid impressions, and also the heat. It takes just a few days, and perhaps a relaxing Thai massage or two, and it's as if the worries lift from their shoulders’.

For many tourists seeking a first taste of Pattaya, package tours are the usual route, many offering exceptional value, especially for families. Bangkok Airport — around an hour and a half's drive away — has regular arrivals especially during the winter season from many of the major Siberian cities, for example Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Khabarovsk, as well as services from Russian cities further west such as Ekaterinburg and Moscow. 
Most of the flights are from the major domestic operators S7, Aeroflot and Transaero.  

U-Tapao aiport, which is a only forty minutes drive away from Pattaya, is also witnessing the influx of arrivals from Siberia. 

Siberians in Pattaya Thailand

Pattaya taxi driver, 38, says that about eighty percent of his clients are Russian, and majority of them are from Siberia. Picture: The Siberian Times

Welcoming different nationalities is nothing new to this resort.

For many decades, since the Vietnam War, Pattaya has held a candle for foreigners. First, as is well-known, for US soldiers who sought their solace and comfort in the arms of Thai women during 'rest and recreation' breaks on its sunny shores. Later, for male expats of probably every Western country who were also captivated by its many and varied charms, a lot of them marrying Thai brides and many settling here. 

Its development as a sex capital in Asia was undisputed, and while this side of it still exists — a nighttime stroll down Walking Street will prove this — there is nowdays much, much more to Pattaya. Not only more to the nightlife than the myriad pulsating go-go bars, which you can take or leave as you desire, but far more to the city than its old stereotype.

One example: modern Pattaya is a microcosm of so many different countries and cultures, Western and Eastern, that its eclectic selection of foreign cafes and restaurants — French, Italian, German, American, Australian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, Malaysian, Indonesian and, yes, Russian and Ukrainian, to mention only a few — gives a near endless authentic culinary choice from around the world on top of the delicious Thai food. Very few resorts anywhere can match this, and especially at Pattaya's value for money prices.

Siberians in Pattaya Thailand

Svetlana, 27, from Vladivostok says that Thailand is easily one of her favourite destinations, easy to reach and welcoming. Picture: The Siberian Times

Another example: a conscious decision by the Thai authorities to rebrand Pattaya, making it both more upmarket and more family friendly.

‘In this connection, the Russian and Siberian visitors are very interesting because in most cases they're coming here as couples or as families, and enjoying Pattaya as a resort which has something for the women and children and not only the men, and this is exactly what we're keen to encourage’, said one tourism official.

This in part explains the Mayor's clear appreciation of the importance of Russian tourists to Pattaya. 

‘We realize that the majority of our Russian guests arrive from Siberia. We welcome them, and want to make sure that anyone and everyone, who wants to get a quality rest is our dear guest here.

‘We might be working on a marketing program, dedicated specifically to Siberian market’. 

Another key factor in the Siberian rush to Pattaya is a special visa arrangement which is beneficial for Russians compared with, say, the British, Germans and Scandinavians who are long-time fans of this resort city.

This scheme was a major success for the negotiating skills of the Russian Foreign Ministry, but also reflects the importance the Thai authorities attach to Russians in both tourism, property, and inward investment. It means that Russians citizens can remain in Thailand for three months on a tourist visa without needing to go out of the country to re-enter each month, as Western citizens need to. 

Other visas, for example applying to people with legitimate jobs in Thailand, or those running businesses, or to educate your children, or for marriage to a Thai spouse, can allow longer stays. Men or women over 50 can also apply for retirement visas. Another key sign of Pattaya's changing face is the number of private schools, many with expensive fees, where Russian pupils are not only enrolling but thriving.

Siberians in Pattaya Thailand

Tara Pattana International School, Pattaya, Thailand. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Such schools usually offer an English curriculum taught by and large by expat British or US teachers, and can provide a seamless route for leavers to graduate to universities in Britain, the US and other Western countries.

Yulia, 35, from Irkutsk region: ‘we came to Pattaya, as many other Siberians do, for a sunny break in the middle of our long winter. It was here that I’ve met several families, whose children attend local International school. 

‘We’ve checked the schools out, and now our daughter Dasha is a third year student of Tara Pattana International School. 

‘I’m pleased that my daughter spends almost all year round outdoors, that she can swim as much as she wants, and have very good quality fruit and vegetables. Children here can go and play golf, enroll in one of many Polo or Yacht clubs, they normally study several languages, like English, Chinese and Thai, and keep in touch with the Russian culture and language thanks to a huge Russian community here. 

‘There is a high quality Russian ballet School with teachers from St Petersburg. And I like it that at school our children are taught a very good work ethic from a very early age. They are encouraged to learn, discover, explore, and all that in the truly international family of other pupils and teachers from all over the world’. 

Comments (2)

And Cairns, in Northern Queensland, is not far away.
Enrique, Spain
01/08/2013 19:46
0
1
I think that the Philipines are closer.
Enrique, Spain
01/08/2013 19:44
0
1
1

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