I have never seen Pattaya so quiet and I think for the local expats the crowds we used to witness on the streets have quickly become a distant memory.
Take Songkran holiday just gone, for example, the streets of Pattaya were gridlocked with the weekend Bangkokians who were out in force due to the extended weekend. Social media was awash with local Expats moaning about the traffic, but this is what it was once like. Many don’t like to mention the term ‘new normal’ but such instances prove that it’s very real. We are living in a different world.
I spend much of my working week from my desk in my condo in Pattaya now and visit my office only for meetings once or twice a week, this behaviour change a direct result of the lockdown we experienced earlier in the year. It turns out I am far more productive and effective when working in isolation, so it’s very much a positive new behaviour.
When I drive to my office now I tend to take my motorbike rather than a car, and with the roads far emptier it feels safer to swap four wheels for two. For those not in Pattaya at the moment, you would be startled as to how it now is. It’s a breeze to drive from A to B as there is no traffic. It is actually very pleasant and oddly has an air of Hua Hin about it. I lived in Hua Hin for a year and the lack of people does create a vibe for a region. Pattaya now has such a vibe, Pattaya is not the Pattaya we all once knew.
Being on a bike rather than a car I feel much more connected with my surroundings and get a feel for things. You cannot escape seeing shop shutters pulled down and ‘Shop for Rent’ signs appearing all across the town. The town is struggling big time.
Central Pattaya like a ghost town
Central Pattaya, the tourist heartland, is still and there is no atmosphere like before. It feels empty whilst calm. Even Expat locations like Jomtien and East Pattaya are feeling the pinch. A once-popular pub in Jomtien now closes around 9 pm each day, yet its mainstay of the customer is expat. Times are changing.
There has been a visual changing of the guard on street corners, with orange taxi bibs swapped for the green jackets of Grab. Food delivery is riding high, whist transporting people has slumped. Same Same, but different.
Talking with business, both big and small, they report to be just holding on and say if things don’t improve within the coming weeks that they will be forced to close. But, things are not going to change in weeks and not even in months. These are indeed defining moments on the Pattaya landscape.
The city is built on International tourism and that lifeline has been cut for many months now, and there is no timeline going forward that indicates when the blood flow will return.
I wrote a similar article a couple of months ago and some readers pointed out I was telling them nothing new, point taken. But, it is so disheartening to see the years of development Pattaya has gone through just come to a standstill that I just had to write something. We know the Western party goer scene has been on a decline for many years before Covid-19, so I have no idea how this will rebuild full stop, let alone when. This Covid ‘reset button’ has been firmly pressed and the future direction this town takes when we get any form of normality is anyone’s guess.
Pattaya will re-emerge, but could look very different
But when the rebuild happens, perhaps we can be somewhat buoyed by the number of quality hotels in the city. There is no way their marketing budgets will allow for empty rooms, so we can expect millions to be spent from these hotels to pull customers back in to Pattaya.
Then you have the 20 or so golf courses in the area, at least 5 are world class. Businesses involved in this sector from booking agents to tour guides will be full steam ahead promoting golfing holidays in the area. There must be thousands of International golfers chomping at the bit to fly back into Thailand.
The big question is how will Pattaya be different when it finally reemerges, to coin the ‘new normal’ tag, I very much think we will see a ‘New Pattaya’. Let us all hope for a recovery sooner rather than later.