For the past two years, I’ve had the honor of being invited to a special martial arts camp in Thailand. Hosted by legendary Kyokushin karate champion Judd Reid, this one or two-week uchi deshi (live in) karate camps has been named one of the top 10 toughest martial arts camps in the world. It’s hosted in a place called Jomtien, a quiet seaside suburb of their version of Las Vegas, Pattaya.
For these camps, participants are all housed at the Asia Pattaya Hotel in Jomtien, and that’s where the training sessions are held, too. For that reason, the total of about four weeks I’ve spent at the Asia Pattaya Hotel seems like four years, and it’s become a very familiar and special place to me.
Located at the bottom of a steep hill in an isolated section of Jomtien, the hotel is actually one of the first establishments built there, I believe in the 1960s. I’ve seen overhead photos of the hotel and surrounding grounds from that era, and there was literally nothing but jungle and farms around the hotel then.
It was truly a luxury icon at the time, and while it’s still stuck in yesteryear in many aspects, that’s also a good thing, as it speaks to its history and elegance. The hotel is situated by a small golf course. I don’t know if it’s 3 holes or 6 or what, but it is small. However, it’s very well kept and adds to the luxurious feel. Approaching the main entrance, you walk into a grand lobby with plenty of seating area, a high ceiling, and plenty of natural light. Towards the back of the hotel is the dining area where we have all three meals every day for the camp. The food is actually really good (consistent with Thailand), yet not at all fancy. The highlight is the huge breakfast buffet they put on every morning, but most hotel patrons prefer to eat lunch and dinner elsewhere because the food is so amazing everywhere in Thailand. There is also a nice cocktail lounge/sitting area with a big television by the dining room.
Walking out the back of the hotel, you’ll find an outdoor seating area that’s an extension of the restaurant, and then one of the highlights, the lawns. In fact, they have a few acres of close-cropped, gold course quality green grass, something that’s pretty rare in Asia. This lawn is interspersed with trimmed bushes, plantings, and palm trees, making the whole thing look like Hawaii. There are also benches and some weird statues that the Japanese and Chinese tourists like taking photos with.
Adjacent to these lawns is a huge swimming pool with slides and meandering oval areas, which is one of the best parts on a hot day. Keep walking down the path, and you’ll reach another area with a specialty seafood restaurant and bar that overlooks the hotel’s epic vantage point. In fact, it sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with a winding stone staircase bringing you down to a private beach and the water.
The rooms, too, are old but not outdated, with quality so apparent that even if furnishings, appliances, and fixtures, are 30, 40 or even 50 years old, they work perfectly and bestow charm. The rooms are spacious, the AC works great, and the views of either the golf course or the grounds are entrancing and somehow comforting. All of this costs about $40-$60 a night, but you usually have to book directly through their website because I don’t think they’re on hotel aggregator websites.
If you want more things to do while you’re staying at the Asia Pattaya Hotel (aside from a karate camp!) then try the restaurant, Cabbages, and Condoms next door. Seriously! It’s a historical landmark in Thailand and has a fascinating history!