With fireworks banned and public parades banished, Christmas in Pattaya was a time to eat, drink and shop merrily.
Organized celebrations were canceled in Pattaya in observance of the mourning period for HM the late King and, overall, city streets seemed a little quieter than usual. Inside malls and restaurants was a different story, however.
Popular restaurants were packed as ever with many places booked two weeks in advance. Set courses featuring roasts, turkey, side dishes and desserts were most in demand.
Many, particularly expats, decided to stay home and host their own dinners so that they could avoid the traffic and crowded restaurants.
Hotels, like the popular Dusit Thani Pattaya, Amari Pattaya, Hilton, Centara hotels and others posted occupancy rates of 85-95 percent. Their Christmas Eve dinner packages offering all-inclusive champagne and buffets seemed to have sold well for those who wished to relax at the hotel instead of fighting their way through a crowd of people.
Shopping malls and markets were quite busy as last-minute shoppers grabbed up promotional items and deals for friends, family and loved ones. Central Festival Pattaya Beach was one of the primary locations for shoppers, but the newly reopened Central Marina had a great crowd of people as well.
Despite all the retail worship, the religious side of the Christian holiday was not forgotten with crowds of Thais and foreigners packing into St. Nikolas Church and Assumption Church for services in both English and Thai languages.
Of course, in Pattaya, where the unusual is usual, elephants were brought in to celebrate Christmas at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. Director Kampol Tansajja organized seven pachyderms, ages 2-3 years, to dress up as Santa for the occasion. A parade formed and sexy female Santas posed with gifts and elephants. The celebration runs through Jan. 3.
Walking Street in South Pattaya was abuzz as well, with shoulder to shoulder pedestrian traffic enjoying the many diverse sights the area is known for.