Cocktail Cars are one of the coolest fixtures on the streets of Pattaya and other beach resorts in Thailand, adding colour to the landscape as well as cool spots to hang out with friends, listen to music, and drink beer, cocktails, and other beverages while watching the world go by!
On my second night in Pattaya, I decided to walk down to the waterfront to take photos of one of the 365 sunsets that the sign over the entrance to a cocktail lounge had promised me.
It had almost seemed like a personal invitation. But instead of climbing the chairs to what I assumed would be an outdoor terrace serving cocktails with a sweeping view of Pattaya Bay, I decided to make my way to the beach, instead.
When I got to the road that fronted the beach, however, I discovered that the sign represented false advertising.
There was no sunset that night nor was the one the night after (and, if I remember correctly, there hadn’t been one the night before, either).
On my previous trip to Pattaya, in fact, I had also been disappointed when the legendary yellow and orange light show failed to take place, as well.
I had access to the hotel’s executive lounge, which offered sweeping views of the bay. While the canapes and cocktails were fantastic, however, the sunsets had failed to materialize.
Should I go shopping instead?
That’s when I discovered something even more enchanting than a sunset: the cocktail car!
I mean lots of beach resorts have sunsets. But how many of them can boast Volkswagon vans that have been creatively converted into outdoor cocktail lounges?
The roof lifts up, one of the sides folds down and – voila! – you’ve got yourself a bar. Add some stools, chairs, and tables and you’ve got yourself a cocktail lounge.
Add blaring disco music and some flashing neon lights and you’ve got a very stylish outdoor club.
I stumbled across the first cocktail car at the entrance of one of the most upscale shopping malls in Pattaya, which was also directly across the street from Pattaya Beach.
And then another … and another … and another …
So instead of taking photos of the sun sinking slowly into the Gulf of Thailand, or shoppping till I dropped at a shopping mall, I decided to do a photo essay of the Cocktail Cars of Pattaya.
In addition to cocktail cars, which were invariably housed in renovated Volkswagon vans, I came across a coffee car and vans several fruit smoothy cars.
Some of the vehicles appeared to be ones of a kind. And others – such as the Mango Kings – were obviously members of a chain.
Original Cocktail Car?
The first cocktail car I stumbled across had a sign claiming to be the “original cocktail car”.
Was it really? I asked an employee working at the hotel I was staying at if cocktail cars originated in Pattaya, but he wasn’t sure.
He said that he and his friends used to like to hang out at cocktail cars when he was attending university in Bangkok, but that they had since been banned from the streets of the Thai capital because they represented unfair competition with the conventional businesses that had to pay rent.
Upon hearing this, I realized that all of the cocktail cars I had seen in Pattaya had been parked at the entrance of shopping malls or similar venues so they had probably had to pay rent to the owners of those establishments.
I can’t help but think that the owners of such venues might actually plan space near the entrance to accommodate cocktails cars because they probably think having them parked near there is good for business.
Without doubt, cocktail bars add an undeniable buzz to the landscape of Thai resorts.
Vehicular food and beverage vendors are nothing new. From the hot dog stands of Manhattan to the taco trucks of East Oakland, they have long been an integral part of the urban landscape.
But there is something very unique about the cocktail cars of Pattaya that I found to be uniquely enchanting.