Thailand's famed Pattaya beach in danger of vanishing

Tue Feb 1, 2011 4:46am EST
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By Noppawan Bunluesilp

PATTAYA, Thailand (Reuters Life!) - The days of R&R on Thailand's famous Pattaya beach could be numbered.

The eastern city, a magnet for foreign tourists seeking sun, sea, watersports and racy nightlife, is under siege by both man and the forces of nature. One of Asia's most popular beaches is being eaten away at a rate of nearly two meters (yards) a year.

Thai scientists say sea currents and impacts of the city's booming development have intensified coastal erosion and a beach packed with deck chairs, umbrellas and bikini-clad holidaymakers could disappear in less than five years.

"If we do nothing about it, the beach will disappear in the near future -- you can see that (in) some areas the beach has already gone," said Thanawat Jarupongsakul, a marine and coastal erosion expert at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

The beach area has shrunk to 3.2 acres this year and its width is now is about three to five meters (9.8-16.4 feet), compared to more than 35 meters (115 feet) in 1952.

Pattaya, 150 km (90 miles) east of Bangkok, was a sleepy beach town until the 1970s and started to swell during the Vietnam War when U.S. troops, sailors and airmen flocked there for rest and relaxation.

The city has exploded over the last 15 years.

Hotels, condominiums, golf courses, conference centers, pubs, restaurants and Western fast-food outlets have popped up everywhere, with hundreds of pink-lit "go go" dancing bars and racy discos helping to fuel a thriving local economy.   Continued...

<p>A tourist walks along the beach of Pattaya, east of Bangkok January 26, 2011. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom</p>