Pattaya bar girl’s fairytale cut short by coronavirus


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It was almost a fairytale ending for 23-year-old Nid. An Issan farmgirl turned Pattaya bargirlfell in love with a boyfriend who was about to sweep her off to a better life in England.

And then the coronavirus hit.

Queuing up for handouts of rice and eggs this week, Nid, who came to Pattaya from MahaSarakham two years ago, came so close to fulfilling the dream so many young women from Thailand’s northeast have imaginedfor 50 years.

While Pattaya’s adult entertainment industry has turned mercenary over the past decade, it wasn’t always that way. Decades ago, the goal wasn’t to score as many lady drinks as possible or find a customer to entertain for a half hour. It was about finding a young, handsome foreign husband.

Unlike most of the women in her South Pattaya beerbar, Nid wasn’t an single mother. She worked in the bar to pay for college. But long before the pandemic, business had become so bad she had to quit school, saving what money she could after expenses in hope to returning some day. But then business got so bad, she had to take a second job.

Then, one night, a young Briton walked into her bar and her luck changed. The two struck up a relationship. Plans were laid. Visas were planned. He showed her British university websites and told her she could enroll there.

Even before the coronavirus struck, tourism was on the downturn and beer bars were struggling to get customers.
Even before the coronavirus struck, tourism was on the downturn and beer bars were struggling to get customers.

At the same time, the novel coronavirus had begun its hurricane-force sweep across the globe. Before they knew it, airlines were canceling flights and governments blocking entry from virus-hit Asia. Her beau quickly had to pack his bags and get home before Britain closed the borders.

Nid was left behind. Her bar closed and her boss said it would never reopen. She applied for the government’s 5,000-baht a month casual-worker handout, but bar workers don’t qualify. Braving a threatening thunderstorm Wednesday, Nid joined the line of the hungry and unemployed seeking free food handouts.

Nid said she feels no shame in taking charity. So many people are in the same boat she said. The entire country is suffering. And now that the government has extended its emergency decree another month and slowed Pattaya’s planned reopening plans, she said the pain will only worsen, especially among bargirls like her.

Many of her friends were lucky enough to get home before the government halted interprovincial buses and trains. She had lingered in Pattaya until it was too late.

The final blow, the lockdown, bars ordered closed, some never to open again.
The final blow, the lockdown, bars ordered closed, some never to open again.

Locked down in her tiny rental room, alone, Nid pines for both her mother and boyfriend, both of whom she can only see via video chat.

She does have an aunt in town and goes with her most days to seek out free food. But the stress has been tough to handle and, at one point, Nid ended up in the hospital. She predicted many others will end up in the mental ward if the government sticks to its strangling lockdown for all of May.

For Nid, each day has become about survival. There’s no more tought of an English fairytale ending. The coronavirus pandemic is worse in the U.K. than Thailand and her boyfriend is locked down with his family, probably for months, she said. He’s not coming back.


“I wish him best of luck and hope that I will see him again some time,” she said.

Instead of England, Nid simply hopes to make it back to MahaSarakham. Some regional trains will begin running again May 3. Flights also are resuming, although at prices she can’t afford. Eventually, she’ll get a bus.

Nid is done with Pattaya; done with bars. She hopes now to get home and tend vegetables. With the world upside down, she said, no one knows what the future will look like when it turns right-side-up again.