The last day for air horn blowing in Pattaya bars is Wednesday March 15. City Hall has issued instructions, backed by police, to end the practice of making cacophonous dins every time a customer wants to buy the staff a free drink. The practice usually occurs late in the evening as alcohol content rises steadily amongst those with a handy bank card or a wad of unwanted cash.
But it appears there is more to the issue than loud noise which has been preventing neighbors from sleeping soundly or encouraging patrons to leave the premises for a quieter venue. Thai social media quotes staff from Walking Street claiming arguments and even fist fights have ensued after foreign customers thought they were buying a drink for bar serving staff, only to discover at pay-up time that 25 gogo dancers had also received a salary bonus for the evening. Apparently, a financial compromise is the preferred solution in such misunderstandings as no drinks are actually poured.
The ambiguities surrounding “ringing the bell” to buy a round of drink appear to originate in the UK. The term can apply to customers wishing to appear generous to a group of friends or wanting to impress strangers. The extreme form is to purchase a beer or a spirit or a glass of wine for everyone present in the bar or club. The cash-happy record is held internationally by Jason Derulo who spent US$112,000 on strangers in a Los Angeles bar after learning that his song Single Savage was number one in a 2020 hit parade.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, Pattaya expats see a symbolic significance in the end of Pattaya indoor klaxons. “Air horns are part of reggae music and hip hop music,” writes one. Another bewails the fact that Pattaya isn’t what it used to be. “I remember when the best times were after midnight when the police had all gone home.” A third grumbles that he is disturbed by neighbors holding parties, mowing the lawn in the middle of the night or repairing motorbikes before dawn.
Alan McCammon, an expert on bar etiquette, says that the best way to buy a round of drinks is to scream at the top of your voice or to speak quietly to the barman what exactly you want to purchase. But he reminds us that only drunk people really appreciate being bought a drink by a stranger. The sober always assume the worst such as you are trying to pick them up for nefarious purposes, or have gone bonkers. Next time you get a hole in one at the golf club, remember that.