Live and uninterrupted: Even among non-Antipodeans the Australia Network channel is quite popular. I’m often surprised by the number of people who tell me they enjoy watching the Australian winter sports of aerial ping-pong (officially called Australian Rules Football) and rugby league. Sadly, the Australia Network management are not interested in catering to the multitude of Australian expats living in a variety of countries around the world. They have decided these expat Aussies are not their target audience. Instead, Australia Network wants to promote programs about special-needs macramé in outback Queensland and opera in the zoo in Sydney to subsistence farmers in Wajiristan, so the National Rugby League (NRL) 2011 season has been shelved.
To fill this gap in the sporting agenda the management of the Boxing Roo beer and sporting boozer (Third Road, opposite Soi Lengkee) has subscribed to the NRL and will be showing all matches live on their new big-screen TVs. There is a schedule for the games listed out the front of the Boxing Roo.
Where have all the expats gone? As you are now reading this in May, there will be many business owners breathing a sigh of relief that Songkran is over for yet another year. Over the past few years it has become fairly clear that, (a) the water throwing begins in Pattaya even earlier than elsewhere, (b) there are fewer foreign visitors coming to participate in the water fight and (c) a huge number of expat residents either decamp from the city or take refuge inside their compounds.
The end result is that a large number of night entertainment places and nosheries suffer a significant downturn in revenue for a period of up to three weeks. Admittedly, the fact a large number of expat residents make themselves scarce during Songkran is not a new phenomenon. Many turn up in places like Angeles City in the Philippines, contributing significant chunks of cash to their economy while Thailand misses out. What has changed, apparently, is the relative paucity of foreign holidaymakers coming into Fun Town to participate in the water throwing revelry. These once or twice a year tourists would at least take up some of the slack caused by the regulars disappearing, but now this no longer appears to be the case.
This writer can certainly attest to a large number of friends and acquaintances who either removed themselves from Pattaya and its environs, or ventured out into the bars a lot less than they do during the rest of the year. One quite well known and long-running establishment which would usually play host to 50 or 60 people on a late-night evening was probably looking at half that number during Songkran.
It seems the only people who benefit financially from the week to 10 days of Songkran are car washes, panel beaters, hospitals, doctors, crematoriums (temples), travel agents, airlines, and neighbouring countries.
Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy a day or two of roaming about armed with a water pistol and having some ‘clean’ fun. Like most expats though, I would prefer the experience to be limited to a couple of days only or, if that proves just too much like hard work, corral the areas for water tossing and make it an offence outside those areas until the official Songkran day. Of course, I really should just talk to the dog next door about it all, because nothing I, or anyone else, writes is going to change anything.
And they still keep coming: For a few years now the go-go count in Pattaya has remained above 70, a figure that seemed almost impossible to contemplate when the twentieth century ended. Just over 50 of these are on or about Walking Street, and even though this is the centre of most tourist action, it still amazes me that so many places are able to remain open and, presumably, economically viable.
Yes, quite a few joints have closed their doors and remain tightly shut (for example: Atlantis, formerly known as Paris; Mirage, which was supposedly going to re-open but never did; Cosy, Powers, and Club Boesche are three others that come to mind), but the closures have been more than offset by new starters. These include Alcatraz and Fahrenheit and the re-opening of places like Utopia, Sakura Club 69 (now renamed Climax) and Polo. So, the evidence of continued high numbers shows the go-go scene remains a vibrant and relevant part of the nightlife scene in Fun Town, despite the inexorable move towards turning Pattaya into a family-oriented resort.