Since its transformation from a small fishing village into Asia’s most popular seaside resort, Pattaya has played host (and been home) to some wild and ingenious characters.
The late 1960s saw the arrival of shell-shocked warriors from the front in nearby Vietnam. One marine sergeant managed to hide his pet bear, Roscoe, in his kit bag so he could bring his furry comrade on R&R. The garrulous twosome holed up in a bungalow resort at North Pattaya. The then-manager (now a local businessman) refused to let Roscoe use the pool or the restaurant, so the marine refused to come out of his bungalow.
“The soldier ordered beer and whiskey from room service all day and all night,” recalls the ex-manager. “Those two drank everything in the bar, the restaurant and the store.”
When the MPs finally arrived to take the marine back, he couldn’t pay the huge bill, so the bear, even drunker than its owner, was held against the soldier’s return. The manager tethered him to a palm tree on the beach until he got him sobered up. The marine never came back the for the critter, so the resort kept him as a mascot.
Some people have come for the weekend and stayed for life. Dolf Riks sailed into Pattaya Bay in 1967, “to relax a couple of days, then put back to sea.” As usual in Thailand, fate had other plans. Dolf relaxed a bit too much and soon found himself “let’s say, flat broke.” The enterprising Dutchman took a job as a cook and quickly got a name for his inventive cuisine. He says: “At that time you couldn’t get ingredients for European dishes, so you had to improvise.”
Dolf mustered his talents and his savings, and opened his own establishment, Dolf Riks, on the beach road. A couple of years back, Dolf moved his now-famous restaurant to a secluded spot in North Pattaya. People come from Europe and the United States to sample his rijstaffel, a memory of Dolf’s days in Indonesia, and to listen to this amiable raconteur bring to life an era of Thailand long past.
The spirit house you see perched in the garden of your hotel and decorated with garlands and food is the deluxe suite of the most important resident, the property’s guardian spirit. Cantankerous and unpredictable, it can play merry hell if the mood strikes it. Keeping on its good side is a smart idea. One foreign hotelier learned this the hard way.
A new, beachfront hotel was going up. The land had been bought after the eviction of an old widow and her cats. Disgruntled, she predicted the hotel would not be built THE SPIRIT HOUSE without trouble. Soon after building
started, the baby son of a laborer fell into a ditch and drowned. The distraught mother, aware of the old woman’s curse, immediately blamed ghosts for luring the child to its death. Having lost his firstborn son (not only a tragedy but also a bad omen), the father took to drink. Then one of his friends slipped from the bamboo scaffolding during a brief shower and broke his back. Most of the men quit, and the remainder—staying on only because they desperately needed the money—had to work longer shifts.
One night, the father got roaring drunk with his few remaining buddies, knocked over a kerosene lamp and burned the quarters to the ground. No one died in the blaze, but construction came to a grinding halt. The foreign manager tried to explain that accidents do happen. The workers knew better. So, nine monks were invited from the local monastery to help solve the problem. After an elaborate exorcism ceremony was performed, the strange accidents ceased. Workers were hired, the hotel opened just a few months behind schedule, and the worker’s wife was soon pregnant again. It goes without saying that considering the hotel’s modest size, it has an impressive spirit house.