There was no gridlock in Pattaya on April 19, no loud music, cars caked in powder or water-soaked shoppers at 7-Eleven. Hospital emergency rooms spent the day doing Covid-19 tests, not tending to victims of drunken knife flights or random shootings. The streets were quiet, the fun gone. Welcome to Wan Lai Pattaya 2021.
The day when normally the entire town goes crazy for Songkran proved just as gloomy and desolate in Pattaya as it was a year ago. For all that Pattaya have gone through in the past year-plus, little progress has been made. Virtually everything is shut down, again, and again, with no quick end to the pandemic on the horizon in Thailand due to the government’s botched coronavirus vaccination campaign.
Rairatee Songsuwan, 54, normally would have been drowning in baht on wan lai. Her shop sells both water guns and swimsuits. In 2019 she was on her feet the entire day, selling almost 30,000 baht in merchandise and needing three additional employees to keep up. Last year and this, she’s sold nothing.
Somsak Polyium, 40, said Songkran week used to mean non-stop passengers for his motorcycle taxi. It was the busiest time of the year. This year there was no one stopping at his Soi 6 taxi stand.
Songkran 2022 undoubtedly will see a return to some semblance of normal. The question is whether Somsak and Rairatee will be around to see it.