After two years or so of darkness and despair, Pattaya’s Boyztown alley is making a serious effort to get back on the gay tourist map. The bright lights have returned, the street has been carpeted as a pedestrian-only zone and a new glitzy bar Pikky’s is the talk of the town. Because nightclubs are still banned under the military-backed Thai government’s Covid restrictions, several premises have reassigned themselves as restaurants whilst street-theatre – featuring drag artistes and musclemen – begins promptly at nine in the evening.
Nobody is pretending that the Boyztown revival is a recreation of the gay 1990s when the street was packed nightly and, in the epic words of one retired club owner, “the whole place was a licence to print currency.” In 2022, Pattaya suffers from a lack of international tourists whilst the ageing expat population of mainly European retirees is shrinking because of natural wastage and voluntary repatriation. None the less, there is a trickle of new arrivals under the government’s Test and Go pandemic regulations, whilst the gay Bangkok crowd is much in evidence at weekends. However, the national 11 pm closing time for licensed premises is a huge disincentive.
Pattaya Boyztown has always had an upmarket feel to it. The seating, the environment, the glamour, the shows and the eye candy have always beaten the rival gay areas of Sunee Plaza (now a mostly deserted waste land) and Jomtien Complex (a group of same-same open street bars). Boyztown’s booze prices were always historically higher, although even that issue may now be under review. The new bar Pikky’s boasts all its beer prices are 100 baht.
Thanks largely to gay contact apps and social media in general, the organized gay scene internationally is in steep decline. Around half the world’s gay pubs and clubs have closed in the last five years, a trend encouraged but certainly not started by coronavirus. Those venues that remain offer relaxation and social intercourse with peer groups, features that the internet cannot recreate even if Zoom pretends to. Pattaya is fortunate to add organized and professional entertainment, mostly provided by transvestite cabaret artistes, to the mix.
Glen Scott Campbell, longtime Pattaya investor writing on Facebook, observes that “Boyztown was the original and is still the best.” The jury is still out on the overall future of Pattaya as a seaside resort, but Boyztown’s venues are top candidates for the revival. Full marks for the efforts made so far.