With the official booze sales ban still beginning two in the morning, most of Pattaya’s nightery districts are in darkness by three. But the city’s famous Walking Street has found an unexpected new future as dawn approaches: pleasure without alcohol. The area is still quite busy with buskers, Thai food carts, burger stalls, mobile clothes stores, hawkers and informal street gatherings where no intoxicating liquor is being consumed. Openly that is.
The Old Weed Man cafeteria is open for legitimate purchases and there’s even a queue at the 7/11 convenience store, mostly for coffee. A foreign exchange bureau is still attracting customers at pre-dawn four o’clock, whilst motorbike taxi men wait patiently to ferry fulfilled vacationers back to their hotels. “The period up to dawn is our busiest time,” said 50 year old Porn, “as many tourists like to linger even after the night clubs close.” On nearby beach road, there’s even a massage shop still open with a handwritten sign stating no monkey business. It’s a shrewd marketing strategy and attracts attention.
Of course, you can still buy alcohol, if you insist, in some of Walking Street’s side sois after 2 a.m. Mama Koo, who heads up a shebeen or illegal drinking club, said, “You won’t see any police around here in the middle of the night. There’s a feeling that Walking Street is special and can break a few rules. Yet most of our customers are Thais with the foreign tourists often preferring the open-air gatherings which are increasingly popular.” She claimed that street crime in the area was virtually unknown.
Whilst Walking Street has acquired a reputation in 2022 for naïve tourists, mostly Indians, being divested of their jewelry and wallets in the wee hours by lurking transvestite thieves, locals say they don’t believe most of the tales. “The area is quite busy up to dawn and well-lit,” said security officer Prateep, “and the press reports of gangs of ladyboys are so much exaggeration.” He suspected that many of the tales were attempted insurance scams.
Pattaya Mail sent an email to Reliance General Insurance, a popular company in India, and asked what their typical travel insurance covered. Their reply emphasized lost passports and baggage, hijack trauma, holiday illnesses and “home” burglaries whilst the insured was on vacation. There was no automatic cover for getting robbed or mugged abroad although the company would “consider” some cash help if the victim was destitute. Such claims could not be submitted once the insured person had returned to the home country.
So, if fraudulent claims are being made, it is unlikely that the strategy will actually result in compensation being paid. Pattaya has always suffered internationally from a bad press, sometimes reasonably and sometimes not. The jewelry thefts by gangs of transvestites could well fall into that category. As Mama Koo puts it, “If you want to steal a necklace, Walking Street right now is certainly not the place to carry out the crime. Even at 4 o’clock in the morning, there are too many people around.”