Pattaya is a city in Thailand, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 165 km southeast of Bangkok located within but not part of Amphoe Bang Lamung ( Banglamung ) in the province of Chonburi.
The city of Pattaya is a self governing municipal area which covers the whole tambon Nong Prue (Nongprue) and Na Kluea (Naklua) and parts of Huai Yai and Nong Pla Lai. It is located in the heavily industrial Eastern Seaboard zone, along with Si Racha (Sri Racha), Laem Chabang, and Chon Buri ( Chonburi ).
The city of Pattaya has a population exceeding 100,000 (2007). Pattaya is also the centre of the Pattaya-Chonburi Metropolitan Area, the conurbation in Chonburi Province, with a total population exceeding 1,000,000 (2010).
The name Pattaya evolved from the march of Phraya Tak ( later King Taksin ) and his army from Ayutthaya to Chanthaburi, which took place before the fall of the former capital to the Burmese invaders in 1767.
When his army arrived at the vicinity of what is now Pattaya, Phraya Tak encountered the troops of Nai Klom, who tried to intercept him. When the two leaders met face to face, Nai Klom was awed by Phraya Tak's dignified manner and his army's strict discipline. He then surrendered without a fight. The place the two armies confronted one another was called Thap Phraya, which means the Army of the Phraya. This was later changed to Phatthaya, which means the wind blowing from the southwest to the northeast at the beginning of the rainy season. Today the city is officially known as Pattaya.
For centuries, Pattaya was a small fishing village. But a change occurred on April 26, 1961, when the first group of about 100 American servicemen who were fighting in the Vietnam War arrived in Pattaya for relaxation. From this beginning, Pattaya became a popular beach resort which now attracts over 4 million visitors a year. Fishermen's huts along the beach were replaced by resort hotels and retail stores, including Asia's largest beachfront shopping mall, the Central Festival Pattaya Beach Mall.
The city (Mueang) had 104,318 registered inhabitants in 2007. As with the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, that figure excludes the large number of people who work in the city but remain registered in their hometowns, and many long-term expatriate visitors. Including non-registered residents, the population numbers around 300,000 at any given time. Other estimates put the figure as high as 500,000.
Most of the officially-registered Pattaya residents are of Thai-Chinese ancestry. Due to the tourist industry, many people from the Northeast (known as Issan, the poorest region of Thailand) have come to work in Pattaya, and are counted for census purposes in their hometown.
There is a fast-growing community of foreign retirees living in Pattaya. Thai immigration has a special visa category for foreigners over age 50 who wish to retire in Thailand. Pattaya is attractive to many retirees from Europe and other Western countries not only because of its climate and exotic, easy lifestyle, but also because living costs are a fraction of those in Europe, a major consideration for people on fixed pensions or incomes.