Pattaya gets hit by brain gain

Steve_in_Santa_MonicaPattaya clearly offers more than looks and attitude – for Professor Steve Crow, one of its newest residents, is not the type to be easily impressed.
After a dazzling career as a teacher, scientist and inventor, he arrives in Pattaya fresh from picking up an architecture degree ‘for fun’ in his first years of retirement.

‘I’m flying back to Colorado next week to continue another degree in quantum physics,’ he says.

Before drawing his final pay cheque at 58, Steve Crow split his time between teaching at universities and running his own companies.

His best-known invention is probably the ‘Starcar’ – a car that is also a plane. In his retirement, to fill out spare moments from studying quantum physics, he is now developing a computer system to protect divers from decompression sickness.

In his view, Pattaya is a bit misunderstood. On top of its famous bars and clubs, the city has a range of attractions – and they appeal to aerospace engineers as well as airheads.

‘Walking Street is actually a small part of the city, even if outsiders think that is what the whole town is about,’ he says.

Steve Crow took a typically methodical approach to picking his new hometown, systematically narrowing his focus from an entire continent.

‘I first came to Thailand in 1993 as part of a trip also to Singapore and Hong Kong. The idea was that the 21st century would belong to Asia and should I move to be part of this new world,’ he says.

In the end, he was won over by Pattaya’s ‘dynamism’, its ‘plain element of charm’ and its close resemblance to the California he grew up in.

‘Pattaya is just like California in the mid-fifties,’ he says. ‘It’s just like Long Beach used to be then – a combination of dynamism and grit.’

He was also drawn to Pattaya’s real estate, picking the Vineyards – a development where he is applying his newly acquired architectural smarts on his own ideal villa.

In a rural setting by a lake the Vineyards is far from the popular image of Pattaya.

‘It’s a perfectly balanced combination of internal space and landscape and will be right by the highway to Bangkok when it opens,’ he says.

Professor Crow’s other favourite spots include the Sanctuary of Truth and a stalactite-themed restaurant that stages traditional Thai puppet shows.

But the vast botanical gardens of Suan Nong Nooch are his favourite example of how Pattaya can transcend reality, enabling its residents to genuinely ‘live the dream’.

‘It’s something that you could only find in Thailand – a fantasy superimposed on reality. It gives a dreamlike quality to life,’ he says.

The egghead perspective: Professor Crow’s favourite spots in Pattaya

sanctuary of truthThe Sanctuary of Truth – a 105m-tall teak temple being built by an eccentric millionaire. ‘It’s an astonishing piece of architecture and a spectacular site with a beautiful ocean view,’ says Professor Crow, who recommends taking a meal at one of the nearby restaurants.

Central Festival Pattaya Beach – one of Thailand’s newest and best malls. ‘It’s a world-class mall and architecturally splendid. It would be quite at home in London or Los Angeles,’ says Professor Crow.

mabprachan raceMabprachan Lake – this lake on the outskirts of Pattaya is technically a reservoir, which means anglers and canoeists enjoy a tranquil atmosphere free from motorboats and jetskis. In October, though, the peace is pulverised by charging buffalos and straining oarsmen as the rainy season is welcomed by a buffalo race and a longboat smackdown.

Buddha-Patt-7Buddha Hill – a tranquil viewpoint separating Pattaya from its calmer sister resort of Jomtien, which Professor Crow recommends as an ideal place for a stroll when you want a break from the more hectic atmosphere of the main resort town.

Royal Cliff Beach – a resort with four five-star hotels and a host of upscale eateries nestled in a tropical garden.

Walking Street – one of the world’s most extraordinary thoroughfares, which should probably be better named as ‘Standing-dumbstruck-with-jaw-on-the-floor Street’. ‘In truth, it’s a small part of Pattaya, even if it’s what outsiders think the whole town is like,’ says Professor Crow.

Nong_NooghSuan Nong Nooch – 500 acres of exotic botanical garden with statues, topiary displays, recreations of dense tropical forest and elephant shows. ‘Only in Thailand – a fantasy superimposed on reality,’ says Professor Crow.

Koh Lan – a hilly island 40 minutes by ferry from Pattaya offering clear water, empty beaches and a host of seafood restaurants.

Joe Louis Thai Restaurant – a combo of traditional puppet displays and good food on the beach boulevard. ‘It’s part of the boulevard’s transformation from a honky-tonk atmosphere to something like Miami beach,’ says Professor Crow.

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