Pattaya, Bang Saen vendors pray for tourists
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Pattaya, Bang Saen vendors pray for tourists

2-month shutdown leaves many reeling

Visitors stroll along a stretch of Bang Saen beach which opened on Monday after being closed for two months. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Visitors stroll along a stretch of Bang Saen beach which opened on Monday after being closed for two months. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

After having had to close their businesses for two months due to Covid-19, vendors along Pattaya and Bang Saen beaches in Chon Buri province are now praying tourists will return after the government initiated its Phase-2 easing of lockdown measures.

The beach in Pattaya was once packed with tourists but has been deserted since the government imposed the emergency decree on March 9, effectively reducing the number of jet skis, banana boats and people.

Many vendors were not getting their hopes up on Monday, when Phase 2 began and when the beaches were allowed to reopen and water sports could resume, after only two visitors rented boats.

"Foreign tourists -- my main clients -- will not return in the near future," Nantika Mesnukul, 53, the owner of a massage parlour at the southern end of Pattaya beach, told the Bangkok Post.

Ms Nantika said vendors relying on domestic tourists, who make up 45% of all Pattaya's visitors are.also not getting their hopes up and keeping expectations realistic.

"The problem is that despite the easing of the lockdown, the city of Pattaya is still keeping the [nearby] Walking Street that attracts many tourists and visitors closed," she said.

"The government and local administration must reopen Pattaya's Walking Street if they want to see tourists return," the businesswoman said.

"But officials cannot just open the street, they need to implement measures to maintain hygiene and educate people on how to protect themselves and prevent Covid-19 transmission," Ms Nantika added.

She said massage parlours have suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the government's handout have hardly helped.

She said she has had to mortgage her home to prevent her business from going under.

The lockdown has hit vendors on Pattaya beach very hard with some having been left penniless.

Saichon Muanghong, 45, who rented out beach mats and sold ornaments made out of seashells, has been living in the area for seven years and used to earn at least 200 baht per day before the lockdown now relies on free food to survive.

Meanwhile, Edo Valjevac, 64, a Croatian national and a Fifa-registered football coach who moved to Pattaya just over a year ago, said there is a bright side to the lockdown.

"I enjoy social distancing and the beach having been closed has meant nature and the sea have had time to recover [from human activity]," Mr Valjevac said.

"The lockdown has allowed Pattaya to regenerate itself," he said.

"Now the town can reopen in a better environmental condition," he added.

At Bang Saen beach, vendors are more hopeful than their Pattaya counterparts. Here, families flocked to eat seafood and pray at local temples.

Kanchana Chitpattanakul, 55, a fish seller, said that despite the lockdown, she could still sell fish to visitors who made trips despite not being able to go on the beach.

Oranuch Yimlamai, 56, a fruit vendor at the Khao Sam Muk mountain near the Bang Saen beach said visitors came to buy fruit for the monkeys nearby.

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