Having just returned from a week’s vacation in Phuket,
it might be interesting to point out some contrasts for those in Pattaya
who have never been to the southern resort.
The biggest and most outstanding difference was the
sidewalks. Now that might sound trivial but it completely changes the
complexion of Phuket and gives it much more of the feel of a real vacation
resort. Anyone who’s ever been to Waikiki knows that one of the most
enjoyable activities is strolling up and down Kalakaua Avenue in the
evening. The same goes for Orchard Road in Singapore.
Tourists, especially the better class type who don’t
come just for the nightlife, need to have something to do after the sun
sets and expect to have an easy time to shop and dine.
Here in Pattaya the sidewalk on the commercial side of
Beach Road is almost non-existent or taken over by shops extending into it
or vendors setting up tables every night.
Worse still are the riffraff who lay out their wares on
the ground. You can hardly enter or leave the Royal Garden Plaza without
tripping over someone’s junk or having useless articles thrust into your
face. Yes, Pattaya has its Walking Street, but how many parents want to
take their kids down the heart of the red-light district?
In Phuket, there are signs saying no trade is allowed
on Beach Rd. Since TIT, the street sellers find ways to stretch the law,
but by and large it works. There are huge crowds, many families, walking
on the sidewalk. While there are a few of those makeshift stalls, most are
relegated to the side streets. With all these people passing by, hotels
have left their frontage open and set up outdoor restaurants and bars.
Many provide live entertainment. It is so nice to see all this open space
along the road instead of having buildings come right to the edge of the
If Pattaya finally does go ahead with the widening of
Beach Rd, it must incorporate broad walkways. Since Beach Rd south of
Central Rd is already a lost cause, the section north of Central could be
turned into a pedestrian mall. Hotels along that stretch should be
encouraged to open up their properties to the sidewalk. However, there is
little incentive for them to do so unless the authorities can guarantee
that they will keep the walkways free of vendors and other unsightly
Another big difference relates to traffic. Beach Rd in
Phuket is still two-way, which makes things much more convenient. In
Pattaya, businesses located up Beach Rd probably suffer because there is
no way for someone on lower Beach Rd to take a baht bus directly up there.
Beach Rd in Pattaya could probably be made two-way if
they got rid of all the baht buses, mostly empty or carrying only a few
passengers, from plying it. In Phuket, most of the little red converted
trucks are parked, waiting for customers. Also, there are men in uniform
who do a fairly good job enforcing parking rules and collecting parking
All in all, the road/sidewalk situation in Phuket is
much more orderly and makes a much better impression. All of the beach
chairs are wooden frames with colorful foam mats. It costs 50 baht to rent
one, but that includes some fruit. They are much neater looking than the
ragtag cloth chairs on Pattaya Beach.
The 2 a.m. closing time is strictly enforced except for
a row of beer bars facing Bangla Rd, which somehow are able to keep on
swinging. A good number of police officers continuously patrol the Bangla
strip at night, offering a sense of security sometimes lacking in Pattaya.
Phuket seems much better positioned to appeal to the
mainstream traveller. Despite all the talk of a tourism slump, the place
was positively bustling. Pattaya knows what it needs to do. The city
officials have to stop talking and start acting. Cleaning up the ocean was
absolutely necessary, but it’s just a start.
There’s much more to do. But not cracking down on
bars and discos, which is easy because no one can complain. Addressing the
difficult problems of recovering the sidewalks, controlling traffic and
parking, straightening out the beach vendors, tearing down illegal
structures, etc, will bring much more significant results.