Pattaya Today: The Return of the Farangs
I came back to Pattaya 10 days ago and did the rounds, so thought I’d give you an update.
Pattaya definitely went a few steps up compared to when I left early September. Back then it wasn’t that bad at all, but it was mainly Indians and a handful of Asians and farangs, apart from the permanent expats. The Indians stood out, people thought Pattaya was taken over by the Indians but that was because they were the only tourists that were around in serious numbers. It really has changed now, mainly because of “The Return of the Farangs”. I see the regular 2-week-millionaires, part-time expats who come to avoid the winter in Farangland, holidaying farang couples and the Russian families have returned too. Besides that, they are also significantly more Asians around, the Koreans being the biggest group. China still keeps its citizens locked up for God knows how much longer, but if you would throw the Chinese back in too I think Pattaya would be as good as back to pre-Covid levels.
If you stay in the Beach Road area (not really Little China in normal times), you could even think Pattaya went back to pre-Covid levels already. All hotels, bars and restaurants have re-opened and are doing decent business. If you stroll around Beach Road in the afternoon and evening you see a good number of customers in each establishment. The nightlife in farang strongholds like Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao is buzzing. The predicted busy high season has started already, and I’ve heard from several that even October was quite a good month. And it’s only early November now, so the peak has yet to come!
It wasn’t too difficult to predict. There is a lot of pent up demand. Now that Covid seems a thing of the past, people go on a sort of spending spree, obviously not paying attention to the huge inflation and accompanying high ticket prices. As I have mentioned previously, we have seen that in Europe too this year. A report that came out in Holland this week showed that during the tourist season (April – October) more tourists than ever before came to Holland. That won’t be the case in Thailand yet, due to the situation in China, but if you weren’t leaning on the Chinese with your Pattaya business then high season will be a winner.
Many of the naughty boys reading your column would certainly like to know how Walking Street is doing. Well, it’s doing OK. I would say that about 90% of the places have re-opened already, with some looking better than ever before because they had plenty of time for renovations. And some brand-new places have sprung up too. Combine this with the street itself, which had a facelift, and it can be said that Walking Street is alive and kicking again (by the way, the cable spaghetti above the street is still there!). Without the Asian tour groups wandering around at the moment, I’m sure the genuine naughty boys will be pleased with the current state of things. I guess the absence of the Chinese, and partly the people from the more careful Asian countries like Japan too, will make a difference for the turnover in Walking Street bars, but it won’t be long before they catch up on that too. China can’t keep its citizens locked up forever, and the Japanese will eventually find out that Covid really isn’t the end of the world either.
Talking about Covid, the good news is that in Pattaya, face-masks are becoming a rare item, even among Thais! The Thai Covid daredevils as they are, are abandoning them more and more. I wanted to stay away from Bangkok this holiday due to the face-mask fetish of the Bangkokians, but I’m going to Chatuchak and some other places to look for items for my (renovated) apartment so will be there for a few days from tomorrow. We’ll see if the situation has improved there too. Walking in Benjakitti Park won’t be included this time because of the APEC summit I have heard, so I have to wander off to other places. Ah well, there’s plenty to see in Bangkok so that won’t be the problem.
But with all this said about Pattaya rising out of the ashes again, if you leave the busiest areas you can still see scars from the pandemic everywhere. Like I said, areas that mainly cater to Asian tourists still look quite desperate, with many places not just closed but gone. And I don’t know what it is with the stretch of Second Road between Central Road and the Dolphin roundabout, but at some places it looks like a ghost town. Abandoned buildings, boarded up, and whole blocks demolished. Opposite soi 3 off Beach Road there was a big massage parlour which has been torn down, and the street right next to it, on the right-hand side of Central Marina (seen from the beach side), has been completely torn down also, leaving a huge plot of land from Second Road to the parallel street between Second and Third Road. As I mentioned before, Drinking Street has been closed too and made ready to be torn down. Huge empty plots of land will appear soon at that part of Second Road. My guess is that new, large hotels of main brands will rise there, or more mega shopping malls. A few large condominiums is also an option. There can’t be any other reason for creating large plots of empty land over there.
Something else that is noticeable on that stretch is that, while there were about 35 – 40 beer bars (apart from the Drinking Street area) between Central Road and the Dolphin roundabout some years ago, there are just 4 or 5 remaining. They were spread out over the approximately 2 kilometers it covers, so it’s not just one bar area that has disappeared. Some were located in blocks that are going to be torn down, but others weren’t. And one by one they’re all disappearing, while several of them were doing quite well. This started pre-Covid already. Coincidence? Or is that whole stretch going to be “sanitized”, so the occupants of the new hotels and / or condominiums will not have to face dodgy bars (in the eyes of the people in power) around their place of stay?
And Pattaya wouldn’t be Pattaya if they hadn’t started ANOTHER big project at Beach Road. What would Pattaya be without Beach Road being dug up? They started digging up Beach Road from the beginning, near the Dusit hotel. All the way up to Central Road the trees at the side of the road have been removed already, and between the Dusit and soi 1 the whole footpath has been opened. I’ve asked around what the purpose is, but as usual after asking the locals people start to talk, and when they’re finished you have more questions than you started with. Maybe it’s because my Thai is very limited, but even if I ask Beach Road vendors who speak English (and who are looking at the works every day) I don’t get clear answers. My guess is that they are creating parking lots. After the start of the pandemic the Thai started to use the 3rd driving lane, created a decade or so ago by putting in a lot of effort, time and money to get rid of the traffic jams, as a parking lot. Couldn’t hurt then, with the city being as good as dead. Now that the city is coming back to live they still do that, causing traffic jams again already on the 2 driving lanes that are left, and the Chinese tour buses aren’t even back now. Creating parking lots would (partially) solve that problem, although I hope the line of trees next right to the road will be back if they’re done with whatever they are doing.
And another rather disturbing thing is that now that the tourists are finally returning, there’s a new sheriff in town who thinks it’s necessary to close down the whole town at 2 AM, except some large discos that won’t be visited by the vast majority of Stickman readers. Rumour has it that it has something to do with dodgy characters running dodgy clubs. Obviously the new police hot shot wants to make a statement, but this statement is going on for quite a while now and nobody knows when it will come to an end. So at this moment, bars who are finally being filled up again have to send their customers out at 2 AM.”
So far for the antics in Pattaya. I’m in Bangkok now and have been looking around what’s going on here. Bangkok also has become busier. As many readers stated already the tourists are back, especially if you have a look at the farang strongholds. A tour around lower Sukhumvit shows bars and restaurants are doing well. It’s all a significant step up compared with 3 months ago.
I decided to do old Stick a favour and had a look in the Arab quarter too, but that was quieter than the main Sukhumvit stretch. It looked a bit poor to be honest, and the difference with the farang strongholds was noticeable. I was there at around 6 PM, and expected it to be a lot busier. The good news for you is however that Margarita Storm was very busy! Had a meal there and the vibe was good (the food too, as usual).
Another thing that I noticed was, while the presence of marijuana shops was very visible 3 months ago already, it all went up from there. In all honesty I can say that I think that while strolling around I must have passed more marijuana outlets than 7-Elevens, and that really says something! Of course I was cruising lower Sukhumvit, and it will be different when you venture out to less touristic areas, but still it’s quite remarkable.
And last but not least, the reputation of Bangkok as Facemask Central is coming down! If you are near Skytrain or MRT stations, and during business hours, still 95% of the Thai people is wearing masks (was 100% 3 months ago). But the further you move away from such places, and the later it becomes, the lesser you see facemasks. I’ve seen restaurants with all staff without facemasks, groups of motorcycle taxi drivers hanging around without masks, the hookers/pimps/ladyboys at night at lower Sukhumvit not wearing them etc. etc. OK, the majority of the Thai is still wearing them, but if it goes on like this that won’t be the case anymore somewhere in 2023. And the good news is that, with the tourists returning, the percentage of people without masks is getting significantly bigger anyway. You’re not an outlaw anymore without one.
The author cannot be contacted.