Figures Lie and Liars Figure
I read the lengthy, and obviously well researched piece here Tuesday morning on Thailand tourism numbers. My intent is not to discredit the author in anyway, but to give a different picture from that which the tourism agencies report.
To me, the statistics for Pattaya only tell the story of Thailand promoting cheap tour packages for huge numbers of Russians, Chinese, and south central Asians. And I do agree with the writer's opinion that the rest of the world hides prostitution whereas Thailand does not hide the hooking for foreigners as it makes it easier for the non-Thai speaking tourists to find the selling agents. Several locations in Pattaya, scattered places on Bangkok's Suhkumvit Road, and Phuket's Patong Beach provide a wide selection for visiting men (and women). Societies living under various forms of morality have different priorities, and here with an abundance of attractive women and historic poverty it seems natural to me that such places evolved. And are promoted.
Would it be safe to assume the Thai Tourism Authority would like some large numbers to attract as many tourists as possible to "Amazing Thailand"? Of course and that is their job. If you have been on Walking Street in the past few years you know that most of the people doing the walking do not walk into bars. If the Indians do – and they are allowed in – they are charged more for drinks.
Certainly the long trains of Chinese who appear to be hard working middle class folks on a package tour are not buying lots of lady drinks nor paying barfines. And they do follow they flag bearers to keep from getting lost. It's impossible for me to imagine my countrymen being in groups like that.
Once I recall about 30 walking in to Super Babies and sitting then leaving when asked to buy drinks. Chinese do not pay 120 baht for a bottle of water.
Yes, I have heard the Russians do sometimes pay barfines and know a girl who was given a new Camry by a young Russian in his late 20's. But she says he has not been around much lately. Guess he had to go home and reload, however he would legally or illegally do so. I have never even seen a Russian in a gogo, and I have spent more time in those places than I would care to boast about.
The folks from whatever of the two big south Asian countries are normally seen in groups of 4-5 and the lady who sells doner wraps (the best and she has been there 10 years!) at the Walking Street end of Soi Diamond <I'd recommend the Egyptian guy at the intersection of South Pattaya Road and Second Road – Stick> told me last night once in a while a group of them will try to buy one wrap for 70 baht and divide the thing. Makes me wonder how much they contribute to the Thai GNP. Yeah, and I have walked by a group of them more than once haggling with a chubby Beach Road girl over a group rate somewhere around five hundred baht. Big spenders.
Back to the Chinese and when you see them walk by, they generally appear tired from a lifetime of hard work and I have to ask myself, just exactly what were they told Thailand would be like? With those masks on their faces, it's hard to tell what they are thinking. I would be wondering what happened to my money and that Riviera like beach I saw in the brochure. Well, I am sure they work it all out as they appear to be seasoned survivors.
As I live next to Central Festival, I see Russians in big numbers each and every time I go there. They do not carry shopping bags, but dominate the food court in the basement these days. About month ago on a baht bus I had the occasion to talk with a young Russian couple and the girl spoke good English. She told me the same thing a few others have and that is that most of them come from Siberia and the round trip including lodging near the dark side costs a thousand dollars on a one week trip. The tourists are not flush with cash laying blessings on Pattaya merchants, in fact twice in the past two months Russians have made scenes in 7/11s over a couple of hundred baht requiring police intervention. With Moscow being among the most expensive cities on earth, it is hard top imagine their citizens going anywhere like this place.
Isn't it safe to say that the world's oldest profession is likely to stay until the technology revolution finds a way for men and women to digitally recreate pleasure? If you try to get to Walking Street pretty much anytime of the week, you are likely to be walking the last 400 – 500 meters as traffic is always jammed up in the early evening. Yeah, sure it is nice that they all want to come here and go see the place. But, we all know who actually pays the money to get those beautiful girls to be there creating the draw. It is not package tours from populous countries, but I suggest refugees from sexually challenged western societies that are laying down those bar fines. Along with the prosperous Thais. The payers are of all ages and means. We know who we are and why we are here, and most of us seem grateful to be able to afford this fantasy.
The manipulation of Thai tourism numbers has little to do with our experiences here except to point out that the world is varied and that Thailand promotes itself well to the world. Those of us who write into Stickman are not from the dominant numerical groups that visit Thailand these days but I suggest our financial contributions are higher on an individual basis. Without its main driving force, what would Pattaya have for the world to see? Ten years ago it was billed as a family recreational tour site and that one should "allow our hostesses to show you the sites".
Numbers being what they are, how does one imagine the business of Pattaya to go away? It is what it is for each of us.
We are not here for the som tam…