Pattaya’s “new” nightlife begins at 9 pm

Police investigate any late wanderers on Jomtien beach road.

Pattaya, the city which never slept, is safely tucked up in bed long before midnight these days. The nightly curfew which begins promptly at 21.00 hours mostly runs itself, as you would expect in a country which has long experience of staying indoors following a dozen or so successful military coups since the 1930s. Police senior sergeant major Ponchai, on duty in Jomtien beach road, said curfew breakers were rare and often clueless. He quoted the example of a farang who was found recently driving around in his pickup at midnight looking for his lost wife, only to be told by officers with torches that she was asleep on the back seat. Only a warning this time, sir.

The outlook is not good. Even Thanet Supornsahasrungsri, acting president of the local tourism council, said that any Pattaya reopening was likely to be delayed because of the severe vaccine shortage during the third wave. Meanwhile, the London office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand warned that infected numbers in Thailand were increasing rapidly and that all leisure and pleasure facilities in major cities such as Pattaya were out of service. Director Chiravadee Khunsub predicted that Thailand would soon be added to the UK’s red list of banned countries which Brits must not visit for vacations or, if they do, expect expensive quarantine penalties on their return.

Pattaya’s huge advertising screens promote businesses, such as indining restaurants, sadly not able to operate at present.

So it is. Pattaya’s padlocked Walking Street has basically been closed for months and is surely now the most photographed thoroughfare in the entire world, beloved by journalists wanting to prove that absolutely nothing is going on in the pitch-black district. Paradoxically and legally, Pattaya’s huge TV public advertising screens on major roads remain functioning 24/7. They continue to display businesses offering to supply food and booze for fun parties at home and promoting delicious Sunday roast dinners to eat in luxurious restaurant surroundings. Presumably, the advertisers have paid their money and must be shown even though their product is currently a pipe dream.

Secret drinking parties, of course, persist. Under the provincial governor’s edict last month, it is acceptable to consume alcohol only at home and on your own. Unlike the rules in force in April and May 2020, it is presently legal to purchase booze in a superstore, or similar, as long as you consume it domestically whilst conversing only with yourself. Given that solo drinking is usually cited by doctors as a tipping point towards potential alcoholism, the restriction is one of the more surprising aspects of the curfew.

Huge price cuts in hotel rooms are everywhere in a Pattaya without tourists.

Usually acting on informer tip-offs or phone calls to one of several public service numbers, police are more interested in large scale parties or shebeens. Pattaya and Banglamung police say that, to date, the curfew has netted just over 150 arrests, mostly but not all Thais, who have paid fines of up to 40,000 baht for breaking social distancing, or not wearing masks. Typically, only event organizers are charged with more serious offences requiring a sequence of court appearances. However, all those arrested must spend at least one night – two at weekends – in crowded police cells, a huge disincentive to say the least.

Two figures risk breaking the curfew on Pattaya beach. They said they were waiting for their fisherman father whose green lights can be seen in the distance.

Daytime leisure pursuits have also been hit again. In Chonburi, which includes Pattaya, even outside sports venues and in-dining at restaurants have been banned for two weeks now. Not so in neighboring Rayong province where golf courses remained open and in-dining was allowed.  Many Chonburi residents were driving to Rayong to enjoy the facilities, usually without even encountering manned police road blocks. But Sunday August 1 saw a government proclamation adding Rayong province to the most prohibitive category – dark red control – so that flexibility has also disappeared. Pattaya and Rayong same same.

When all this gloom and doom will end is basically in the hands of the pesky virus. As Alcazar cabaret show executive Pawin Phettrakul said, “We have hundreds of high-kicking dancing girls with elaborate feather headdresses and sequined dresses ready to perform once tourism revives.” But nobody dares to predict when that might happen.