Pattaya’s Walking Street is pacing some new business ideas

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A shooting range is one of the latest ideas to diversify Walking Street.
A shooting range is one of the latest ideas to diversify Walking Street.

Pattaya City Hall’s decision to revamp the resort’s most famous pedestrian landmark by allowing one-way traffic at night and encouraging Thai domestic tourists looks like the start of a substantial face lift.

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The tourist police minibus which physically dominated the entrance for 25-plus years has been sidelined to the pavement area as motorbikes and private cars enjoy a new shortcut to areas of South Pattaya. Club staff outside are still waving boards which promise discounted drinks all night, but the signs are increasingly in the Thai language.



There are even moves afoot to diversify the area away from alcohol, go-go and striptease. Near the main entrance on Beach Road is a pistol practice range. Nat, the guy in charge, said, “It’s just something different which appeals to both foreigners and Thais. You can impress your girlfriend by showing her what a good a shooter you are.”

There are certainly more people talking a walk than there were a month ago. But they are Thai domestic tourists who, especially at weekends, pack the resort thanks to government subsidies on hotel bookings. “The problem,” says security officer Somchai at a noisy hip-hop dive, “is that they are mostly just looking not spending.”

Foreigners are a very scarce commodity because of the strict ban on all overseas tourist arrivals. Bob, an American expat just emerging from the Moulin Rouge club, said, “I’ve had some great evenings on Walking Street, but the atmosphere in the Street has gone now. I can’t see it returning soon, if ever. Many of the bigger clubs haven’t even tried to reopen.”

The reality, of course, is that Walking Street has been in decline for years as the crowds of westerners grew less, to be replaced by countless Chinese tourists who were happy to look-see but preferred to spend their cash in the several 7/11s strategically positioned thereabouts. And if Walking Street was once a red light district, the colour changed to amber years ago. Category “X” sex shows have long been a thing of the past. Well almost.

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Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome has said he accepts that foreign tourism is dead in Pattaya for the foreseeable future and wants the Walking Street – actually a diverse area about the size of Vatican City – to become a leisure area for Thais in particular.

Club staff wait to welcome Thai customers.

There have been plans in the past to knock down the existing structures which some say were illegally built in the 1960s and 1970s to cater for American servicemen on rest and recreation, and replace them by family-orientated entertainment plazas including children’s rides, cafes and funfair paraphernalia. Not to mention a small zoo and park.



In the past, the owners and leaseholders of the waterfront properties have strenuously objected to the claims they were illegal squatters and have delved into the land archives to support their arguments with voluminous documentation. Maybe one of the results of the Covid-19 pandemic for Pattaya will be that opposition to change on the Walking Street will now wither. That’s because the place is no longer making money. Many may be tempted to take the compensation and run.