Preparing for Takeoff

The birth of modern Pattaya began in the mid-1960s, when the U.S. opened a nearby air base and an influx of battle-weary and pleasure-hungry troops turned a quiet fishing village on Thailand's eastern seaboard into an R. and R. playground. Though the soldiers went home in the 1970s, Pattaya remained a preserve of anything-goes hedonism—and an object of either love or loathing, depending on whom you asked. Now the city, already Thailand's second biggest tourist draw with more than 5 million visitors annually, is poised for another reinvention, and once again it's the result of its proximity to a landing strip—in...

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