Royal Cliff balconies

Thai Angles, Royal Cliff

Three Indian men enter the lift without waiting for those inside to get out. Two are wearing the same Thailand souvenir shirt. All have moustaches.

They join a noisy chorus of 40 or 50 replicas in the lobby of the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel overlooking the Gulf of Thailand at Pattaya.

It’s a marble caked ode to late 20th century resort design – hard shiny surfaces, sharp angles and loud echoing hallways; a faded five-star heading down market but ok if you don’t expect too much.

Next day, the conference group, Indian pump salesmen, not a woman among them, fight for pool space with Chinese and Russians visitors.

The men, several in underwear, splash and shout like kids, having a great old time. Other guests move away.

Cosy Beach Bar Restaurant

Cosy Beach Bar Restaurant

One or two head to nearby Cosy Beach, a narrow slice of old-school Thailand framed by several rickety beachfront bars and restaurants run by dark-skinned Thais, who live out the back in multi-generational family communities.

Beers cost $2, meals from $3. There are no floors, just sand between your toes, and it is dark inside, an escape from the intense tropical heat.

The day is bright, the wind onshore and the water murky. At high tide, the beach is barely five metres wide, wind driven waves slapping into the shore.

Here Russian tourists dominate the way they once did Eastern Europe.

The Russians rule Cosy Beach. They are everywhere, altogether a different crowd, every shape and size, loving the sun and cheap food.

Sweating bodies lie baking beneath the searing sun; women in-strings, leopard print scarves, plastic sandals, beers and cigarettes before lunch.

Later that day, soon after the sun melts into the sea, two or three dozen tour buses are parked at the northern end of Pattaya.

They have brought the Chinese, big groups of them. Hundreds move through Walking Street, a cacophonous sleaze fest of bars, prostitutes, predators and bug-eyed tourists.

The Russians and Indians are there, too, in large numbers.

Welcome to the new faces of Thai tourism.

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