After a rather drab festive season, it was announced that Walking Street would not be bulldozed after all but that many changes were in the offing. The word “neo” (new) was officially dropped from Pattaya’s name. Test and Go was restarted which meant that visitors to Pattaya had to be quarantined in a local hotel to be Covid-tested and await the result up to 24 hours later. All restaurants were instructed to test their customers for infection and warned they mustn’t cheat by pretending to push a stick up the noses of those wanting to dine.
A nasty oil spill of 400,000 gallons appeared on the horizon but, to general relief, was then amended to 40,000 gallons after a calculator check. An angry drunk was arrested after smashing his truck into a beachside restaurant but said it wasn’t his fault as his wife had switched water for whiskey in his hip flask. Immigration warned expats that foreigners living on one year extensions with their wife would be visited to check that the marital bond was still firmly in place.
Discontent grew about the 11 pm closing time for bars and gin palaces as customers claimed the police did not allow drinking up time and insisted imbibers take the remains home in a plastic bag. City authorities announced that the mega-project to bury all overhead wires underground throughout the city might take longer than originally thought. Boyztown shook off its ghost image with street drag shows and gay marriage was promised before Christmas.
To near-universal disappointment, it was decided that water-throwing would be banned once again in Pattaya for Songkran festival even though the whole idea was to get people wet. Labour shortages were reported at condominium projects and construction sites as Thais were reluctant to volunteer. A working party was dispatched to Myanmar to encourage more nationals to arrive, hopefully by legal means but just turning up was also ok.
The election of the new local mayor was temporarily in doubt after some missing ballot papers were discovered. The proposed 300 baht tourist tax on all visitors to Thailand was finally dropped after it was pointed out that the queues would be enormous at land frontiers and that giving change in foreign currencies might be a problem. The building of a new Pattaya sewage plants was again delayed after it was realized a further public meeting was necessary under law.
Pattaya held its annual gay parade to promote equality and commercialism at one and the same time: a hamburger joint announced two for the price of one if in drag attire. City authorities announced that there were now enough road repairs going on and that no more new diggings would be started unless they were really necessary. Police stepped up patrols along the railway road after condoms were discovered in storage areas and notorious blind spots.
The British ambassador visited Pattaya and heard fellow-countrymen complain that it took too long to get a new passport and that nobody answered the phones anymore. He said he would look into the matter. There were renewed rumors of a casino being built in Pattaya, but some said there were several already here. After a spate of cases of Indian tourists wearing expensive jewelry at 3 a.m. and being robbed by ladyboy gangs on the beach, police said they were aware of the problem.
A debate started about extending booze hours till 4 a.m. in the Walking Street. This was opposed by the bars in the streets adjoining the Walking Street as they would miss out. There was much interest in a proposal for a new 10 year visa as this might include the right to buy land to build a house. Thai nationalists vowed to oppose the scheme as it would lead to foreigners gobbling up the country.
Sandbags were distributed to low-lying areas even though the rains hadn’t started yet. Same day visa runs to the Cambodian border started again after an absence of three years owing to Covid. The important thing was to go with a group tour in a minibus and not try on your own as pre-registration by a company was necessary. A foreigner arrested for burglary said he couldn’t think of any other way to solve his problems.
The vegetarian festival returned for the first time since 2019 but made less of an impact because of the high price of legumes. Extra flights began at U-tapao airport but critics said the transport ministry and the Royal Thai Navy, who control it, needed to liaise more about improvements. Visa free tourists, as opposed to visa on arrival, were now given 45 days on entry with the right to extend one further month.
Electronic visas were now available at 36 Thai embassies throughout the world. This meant that no visa was stamped into the passport but that an email approval had to be carried to show immigration. Unexpectedly, the pound-to-the-baht did not fall after much trouble in UK, but remained at levels similar to pre-Brexit days. The government cancelled the idea that any visa gave foreigners the right to buy freehold land.
The Russians are coming and in considerable numbers, swamping the local immigration with address confirmation and enthusiasm to open Thai bank accounts. The government announced a crackdown on naughty language schools which allow foreigners to pay and register but then turn a blind eye to massive absenteeism. Under the new rules, the wannabe students will be tested to check if their knowledge of Thai has improved every three months. Happy New Year to all.