My take on Pattaya September 2023: Walking Street so quiet

The diversification of Pattaya’s Walking Street has led to several more gun shooting ranges.

Surprised to see Walking Street so quiet
I’m just back in Pattaya after a compulsory sojourn in Manchester where it’s about to rain if you can see the hills. If you can’t, it’s already pouring down. The post-Covid improvements in Walking Street are impressive – cables underground, cobblestones replaced and licks of paint everywhere – but not many people strolling midweek and only about 10 percent of those looked to be from Europe, America or Australia. The most public interest seemed to be generated by three separate units of BB Gun in Pattaya. There used to be only one such shooting range. But I’m told the Street as a whole is much busier at weekends when the Bangkokians are here.

The tourist police and their foreign volunteers look to have largely disappeared, being replaced by City Hall Thai public order volunteers with “Special Affairs” emblazoned on their shirts and sitting in groups looking bored or telling a motorbike driver where he can park. You may remember 15 years ago, in the heyday of Walking Street, Howard Miller and his foreign volunteers appearing in the action-packed TV drama Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand which achieved notoriety and popularity round the globe. These days, you get the distinct impression that there wouldn’t be anything significant to them to do.

Friends tell me that the action has moved to Sexy Soi 6 where there are certainly many dozens of maidens standing around in the street to attract business to the bars and gogos. But there was a distinct shortage of bad-boy customers, although maybe we were too early at 10 pm. Soi Buakhao and Tree Town certainly have their fans, especially Brits, but we were reminded by business owners many times, “It’s the slow season you see.” Maybe the volume will increase next month down through Christmas, yet you do get the impression that some of Pattaya’s traditional good time venues are presently having a hard time. Is commercial sex getting less and less important in Pattaya? Just a thought.

Wow, the fines have gotten steep
Pattaya’s finest were out in force with road checks starting as early as 7 a.m. in some areas. It’s all to do with the hefty price hike which started on Monday September 5. Driving a motorbike without a helmet or driving a car without a seatbelt in place have leapt from 500 baht to 2,000 baht. Speeding, running a red light or failing to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk have all jumped from 1,000 baht to 4,000 baht. And that’s just a few random examples. Reckless driving or breaking the drink-driving regulations could see you in very hot water indeed.

Immigration woes misguided
There seems to be a lot of panic amongst Pattaya expats that compulsory medical insurance is about to hit all retirement visa holders rather than just those with O/A. I’ve been asking around but I don’t get the impression anything like that is brewing. It’s true that Big Joke, a deputy national police chief, did say weeks ago that annual extensions of stay were too easy to obtain, but he’s a very busy guy with many public statements to his credit. I rather think that the immigration bureau will be consumed in the near and medium term future by the government’s plan to boost the tourist cash registers by admitting millions more Chinese tourists without any prior bureaucracy and application procedures being necessary. The idea is to make them visa exempt like the Brits. Whether the Chinese will get 30 days rather than the current 15 and how they will cope with the dreaded TM30 address bureaucracy should keep everyone busy until Christmas. Next year.