Battered Pattaya returns to ghost town status

Snooker and pool hall, popular with Thai locals, must bite the dust until further notice.

Thailand’s most famous and infamous seaside resort is again in the doldrums after recent government and province-specific orders cancelled most forms of relaxation. Expats and locals can still eat in restaurants up to 9 pm, but without a legal glass of wine even if served in a teacup. Parks, beaches and reservoirs remain open for exercise, but group activities and picnicking are “not recommended”.

Gyms and fitness facilities have survived the crackdown, but the emphasis is on solo self-improvement and not group activities or spectators ogling the proceedings. They have to close at 9 pm so you still have two hours to get that double-cheese pizza or a three-patty burger since take-out food is available until 11 pm.

Initially only soapies were prohibited, but now all massage parlors are out of bounds.

Otherwise, what counts as leisure has taken a huge hit. The detailed no-no list includes virtually anything pleasurable you can think of and some activities you probably can’t. The Chonburi draft writers even remembered to ban stand-alone video machines alongside the exhaustive list of bars, clubs and the like. Cockfighting is also unthinkable, but it was never popular with the elderly retirees who now dominate the Pattaya expat community.

Although snooker halls are out-of-action, boxing matches are not specifically mentioned. But they are doubtless included in the catch-all phrases “and similar activities” and “where people gather”. If in doubt you can always phone the hotline number 1337 for further advice. Best of luck with that. Most churches have already abandoned mass gatherings of their own volition.

A few holdouts are trying to defy gravity by analyzing the wording of the enforcement documents. Although it is illegal to serve alcoholic drinks in restaurants, bars and clubs, one enterprising Thai lady, Madam Clean, is selling beer to customers on a stone bench and table outside her laundry. “I’m not a restaurant or a bar,” she said, “so I’m in the clear.”

To the surprise of some, barbers and hairdressers have escaped the purge so far.

A British guy said he was still going to organize quizzes in a restaurant because they were still open and because you only needed “special permission from the provincial governor” if your group activity was for more than 50 people. This guy would have made an excellent medieval theologian, but his chances of convincing the Pattaya gendarmerie are zero. It’s doubtful if any general knowledge buffs will turn up anyway.

Swimming at public beaches seems to be still tolerated, although police patrols are already discouraging it. Swimming pools, by contrast, are always difficult to control as they are both publicly and privately-owned and are found inside premises and in the open air. But a Pattaya City spokesperson said they were all dubious as the closure orders specifically mention protection for children who are major users. Waterparks are specifically outlawed in the latest orders by the way.

Surprising omissions from the list of banned activities are barbers and hairdressers, although beauty clinics are ordered closed. So you can still get a haircut or a blow wave and might even stretch your luck to a shave or manicure. In the April 2020 lockdown, they were all ordered to close. Even when they were reopened, barbers were initially ordered to put chairs for waiting customers outside their premises to encourage social distancing.

The government-led Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has stated that if current measures are insufficient to contain the virus, then more serious measures will be on the cards. These would likely include a nightly curfew, a ban on inter-provincial travel, abolition of in-dining to be replaced by take-away only and even making it a crime to purchase or consume alcohol. Meanwhile, the recorded infection figures in Thailand are marching inexorably towards 2,000 daily.