Poverty marches on
As more and more businesses close, the numbers dependent on food handouts escalate ever higher. At least 15,000 people – mostly Thais but including Myanmar labourers unable or unwilling to return home and a smaller number of westerners – are at rock bottom financially. Here, a long queue awaits chicken, rice and fruit containers donated by local authorities including DOPA or Department of Provincial Administration responsible for licensing and registration issues.
A taste of Norwegian charity
Some foreigner-operated businesses have also been providing food baskets for the poverty-stricken groups, especially those in the informal sector who don’t qualify even for minimal financial support from the state. Here, Hans Grumheten, co-owner of Taste of Norway restaurant in Jomtien, organizes 300 meals a day to be distributed on a rota basis round the district. Partly self-financed and partly funded from overseas donations, Hans has so far overseen the distribution of 7,000 meals in the past few weeks.
One at a time please
Sunbathing on the beach is outlawed by national and provincial decree. Madam Moo cuts a lonely figure on Pattaya Beach as she bakes in temperatures too hot to handle. She says the police don’t touch her as she has a welfare job reminding anyone who dares step onto the sand that they must refrain from following her example. Given that daytime temperatures in August are nearing 40 degrees and the promenade is devoid of any deckchairs or umbrellas, she doesn’t have many miscreants to warn.
Pulling down the blinds
After trying to keep alive the optimistic “open soon” prediction for months, Boyztown appears to have given up the ghost with its main billboard covered with a funereal black sheet. Nobody is predicting now if and when gay clubs and cabaret shows will resume. At its height, perhaps 15 years ago, Boyztown was the center of the biggest gay scene in the whole of Asia. Some said in the world. Even prior to the pandemic, Boyztown had lost ground to the cheaper bars in the Jomtien Complex.
Left foot forward
Pattaya is famous for its confusing public signs all around the city. This one instructs drivers to “turn left waiting light.” Does this mean there’s no need to wait for a green go-ahead, or the very opposite? The Thai translation makes it clear that you must not proceed in any direction without the express approval of the traffic light sequence. In a nearby street, there was another contentious notice recently removed: “It is not permission to be horny in this street as hospital people are sleeping 24 hours.”
Don’t box me in
A rare example of a booming business in these pandemic times is the small unit immediately opposite the main Pattaya post office. It specializes in packaging parcels of all sizes. The current lockdown and the withdrawal of most public transport to other areas mean that the general public is relying more and more on domestic postal services. Incidentally, this lively shophouse, since day one in 1993, has been selling the print edition of Pattaya Mail, the last survivor of so many traditional Pattaya newspapers.
A close shave
Although earlier lockdowns spared the resort’s barber shops and hairdressers, the national proclamation of late July ordered their closure as part of the anti-Covid policy. Hair styling for men and women, face massages and finger nails have long been part of the Pattaya scene with customers in the past still being pampered at 10 o’clock at night. Now it’s all gone. Well not quite. Rumors persist of hairdressers with front door locked but back door open, if you see what we mean. Men with recently cut hair are wearing a hat to avoid detection.
The twilight zone
That’s the period 7-9 pm before the curfew kicks in. But it’s already dark. Jomtien Beach Road is still quite busy with joggers, dog walkers and small masked groups which are permitted as long as they observe social distancing and do not put their feet on the sand. Where borderline activity becomes illegal is when alcohol is consumed. The drinking of booze is restricted to your own home without company. When unenforceable rules are too strict, some people will risk bending them. That’s human nature.