Ever since discovering naturist Europe – especially France – I’ve been hell-bent on finding something of an equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere. You know, when our cold, northeast winters are offset by their sun-drenched summers. We have now amassed a few options that meet that criteria, including Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa, but it seems Thailand is quickly pulling into the lead as the single country in Asia that is at the ready to give the discerning naturist a few excellent choices.
I have written quite a bit about my previous visits to naturist venues near Chiang Mai and Phuket, with a particular fondness for the new PeaceBlue Resort near Rawai Beach. But this time I thought I’d head the other direction, flying into Bangkok’s international airport then driving about 90 minutes to the sprawling seaside metropolis, Pattaya. If there is an Asian equivalent to the Jersey Shore, this would most certainly be it, with towering apartment buildings and beaches packed with umbrellas and loungers, all for the privilege of splashing around in the murky waters where snorkeling would seem futile – if not a little disgusting – at best.
My base camp this time would be at the relatively new naturist resort – Phuan Naturist Village – located on the edge of a small village about 25 minutes (by car) outside the center of Pattaya. For those who have visited Oriental Village near Chiang Mai, you would find this somewhat similar given its proximity to a couple small stores and some other basic amenities, but you’re not likely to walk into the village for dinner in the evening – unless you’re really accustomed to hardcore “be like a local” travel.
To that end, Phuan has a restaurant on grounds that’s open pretty much all day every day, including the highly coveted luxury (at least to me) of fresh brewed coffee. (What is it with the rest of the world with their incredibly high tolerance for Nescafé. That is not coffee!) Otherwise, their menu is a bit limited, but enough choices to warrant staying in to eat naked.
In combing through their website, I had a difficult time figuring out the lodging configurations, which are most definitely a two tier affair. I stayed in one of the simple bungalows for the equivalent of about $45 USD per night. A small cabin with low ceilings and a shower that simply consisted of a sprayer head anchored to the wall below a small water heater – You know, the one that washes down the entire bathroom, draining to the lowest point in the corner of the room? But otherwise, the AC was excellent and the bed was comfortable enough. Certainly adequate for one person; perhaps a bit cozy for two.
The alternative looked to be a significant upgrade, beginning at about three times the price. The villas are referring to several modern two bedroom houses scattered about the property. You can rent the entire villa, or you can choose to “share” a villa, which means you and your housemates will each have your own bedroom, but share all the common spaces such as the bathroom, kitchen, and living room. I could certainly imagine doing that when traveling with good friends, but I guess it’s not uncommon for total strangers to rent “a shared villa” – at which point, I guess they would become good friends rather quickly. Seemed they were running near capacity during my stay, with an interesting mix of guests of both Asian and Caucasian heritage, including several northern Europeans, and perhaps two Russian couples traveling together as well. Clearly, their international marketing campaign is working.
Since I was only there for a long weekend, and quite enjoying the excellent Wifi connection to get some work done from the poolside open-air cabana, I debated about actually making the trek into the crowded and reportedly over-stimulating mecca of Pattaya, though it seemed a bit absurd to go to one of the world’s famous beach towns, and not go to the beach. And… I really wanted to duck in and see Chan Naturist Resort, somewhat famous in naturist circles for being the first such establishment in Thailand. I had written ahead to inquire about day use, and indeed, they offer a day-use fee of about $15 that gives you access to a locker, restaurant and pool. Having read mixed reviews of the rather confined feel of the place behind 10-foot walls along a city side street, I was pleased to find the place crowded and convivial, with a clientèle a bit older on the average than that of Phuan Village, but also quite international. (Meaning mainly European again, I think.)
I especially enjoyed the restaurant, with a significantly more extensive menu than Phuan, particularly given the ambiance of the small alcove (seen in the photo above) next to the pool. With all the rage for naked dining opportunities trending at the moment, I would actually say this is a naked dining destination, and best of all, if you go the “too spicy” route, you can jump in the pool once your meal is over. I didn’t bother to check out a room, but the property appeared comfortable, clean, and modern. In short – I would stay there in a heartbeat.
I think Bruce, the co-proprietor of Phuan Naturist Village hit the nail on the head. (The place is actually run by his wife and her sisters, but their previous place of residence was New Mexico, so her American English as extraordinary.) Bruce noted that if you’re looking for a place with solitude and the opportunity to read and snooze by the pool all day, it’s hard to beat the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Phuan Naturist Village. Agreed! But if nightlife is a priority to you, and a big part of your travel experience is seeking out the best local eatery with the highest rating on Yelp, then Chan Resort if your place. Should I have an opportunity to return, I would fancy a few days at each resort, as each has a unique ambiance, and if you’re hell-bent on spending your days on the beach – with a swimsuit, I should add – you’ll get there a lot faster from Chan Resort than from Phuan Village. (Though neither is in walking distance.)
As a post-script, it’s worth noting that the Thailand Naturist Association organizes a boat excursion to a secluded island with a make-do naturist beach on the last Sunday of each Month. Unfortunately, my stay didn’t coincide with this event, but it seems it would be worth planning one’s itinerary around that. Few things in life sound better than getting naked on an island in Thailand when it’s icy and below freezing at home.