Pattaya is finally shaking off its ghost city image as the tills ring merrily in the entertainment districts. But what’s missing are the long lines of Chinese tourists following the “flag” and sporting cell phones and sun hats. In pre-pandemic 2019, Chinese visitors amounted to almost a third of the country’s 40 million tourists. Steve Saxon, partner at travel specialists McKinsey and Company, summed up, “China has stopped issuing passports and any returning nationals have to spend up to three weeks in quarantine to try and stamp out the pesky virus.” He added that group travel had been outright banned by Beijing and wasn’t returning any time soon.
The Pattaya businesses still under lock and key are those dependent on the lost market. Thepprasit Road, the Chinese hub which houses hi-tech cabaret extravaganzas such as Kaan, Imagine 79 and the Colosseum, once entertained up to 1,200 tourists nightly crammed into dozens of huge coaches. The car parks were (and are) many times larger than the actual theatres. Now the abandoned area has an eerie silence as the empty spaces have been taken over by feral dogs and the occasional mobile shop selling fruit or second-hand shoes.
Oddly, City Hall has ensured that a Chinese revival is impossible in any case. Thepprasit Road (along with many other Pattaya thoroughfares) is largely dug up as it waits for a massive drainage and underground cable panacea labeled “short term pain for long term gain”. However, work came to a halt last month and is now scheduled for completion sometime next year. Public anger has mounted as the area is now plagued daily by huge traffic jams and single-lane overcrowding which, of course, would make access by coaches impossible.
A spokesperson said there were many reasons for the delays: bad weather, late delivery of tractors, shortage of guest-worker laborers from Myanmar and budgetary issues created by the hiatus as Pattaya is in campaign mode for the election of a new mayor. For the time being, Chinese tourists will have to take selfies in their own land.