With the beach chairs and umbrellas gone, trash cleaned and sun shining, Pattaya Beach has never looked so appealing. Unfortunately, for sun-lovers, it’s closed.
Last week’s order by Chonburi Province to close the beaches came after both Thais and foreigners ignored pleas for social distancing and to stay home. Even with the sand now “off limits”, some people continue to mill about, either ignorant or uncaring that they may be silently contracting or spreading Covid-19.
The pristine sand – rebuilt with millions of baht over the past several years – certainly looks inviting for those that don’t mind the scorching April sun. Certainly the beach vendors wish people were there.
Yet even in the days before the closure order came down, there were only a handful of tourists sunbathing or swimming, many of them stranded refugees unable to get home after flights were canceled and Thailand’s borders closed in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
If one counted, there were probably fewer than 50 people on the sand along the 3.5-kilometer shoreline. More, of course, were congregating in groups too large for the times on the promenade.
One beach chair vendor looked shell-shocked at the speed at which high season was turned upside down.
The beach closure order, she said, came so suddenly she had no time to prepare. She had to scramble to pull all her lounges and umbrellas off the beach. Now she has no income. Even the road workers have left, leaving their drainage tunnel project uncompleted and Beach Road still dug up and blocked off.
Pattaya’s lockdown and the pandemic won’t last forever. When it’s over, the beach will be healed from all the ecological abuses the city’s locals, tourists and businesses have heaped on it. The only question is how long it will be until that time comes.