Around Town


The Sukhumvit underpass has been a quite a story.  Whether it will alleviate the traffic woes in the centre of the city or merely delay them for a couple of kilometers down the road remains to be seen, especially in the high season.  What nobody seems to have told us is why an underpass was anyway preferable to a presumably cheaper and elevated overpass.


The ring of toll booths on the Pattaya to Chonburi motorway look impressive in their brown and blue colours.  But no cash has yet been taken for a variety of bureaucratic reasons.  Once the booths are truly operational, drivers will need to stop four times on a single journey from Pattaya to Suvarnabhumi.  Estimated cost for a car is 180-200 baht.


The latest suggestion to make Pattaya safer for tourists is the introduction of drones which will keep an eye on disorder below and enable the authorities to react more quickly to bag snatching and muggings.  It’s strange that so much attention has been paid to Walking Street in this context as it is generally a “bubble” area with most clubs hiring their own security staff.


In case you didn’t know, tourists crossing into Thailand by land are now limited to two arrivals (30 days each time) per calendar year unless they hold a visa given by a Thai embassy or re-entry permit issued by Thai Immigration.  There is no such restriction if arriving by air, although a visitor having six such entries in a year may well be questioned by the airport immigration why he or she comes so frequently.


Fish and chip shops in Pattaya have had a checkered history, mostly closing after a year or two.  A major exception to the rule is Simon’s, situated in a popular restaurant area near the Hanuman statue and near Jomtien beach.  Devout followers from the UK say the taste is as good as you’d find anywhere in the world.  There’s a Thai menu too for those who want local dishes.


A recent survey found that the average tourist stays for five nights in Phnom Penh but only three nights in Siem Reap. Why the difference?  Some say that Siem Reap’s tourist attractions are largely limited to the Angkor temple complex whereas Phnom Penh has much more.  Cynics say that the real reason is that the capital city has a booming night life whereas Siem Reap doesn’t have much outside of the famous Pub Street.


Malaysian tourist authorities say their retirement visa programme is doing really well.  A 10 year visa is available and both part-time working and ownership of property are permitted in return for a 37,000 US dollar deposit in a Malaysian bank.  The problem with the Thai retirement visa is that it confers no such benefits.


Third Road and Thappraya Road now boast official notices from City Hall stating that roadside parking is allowed for tourists coaches and vans.  They tend to gather in large numbers in the early evening but then disappear around 9 p.m.  Nobody has managed to work out where they have all gone.


While on the subject of transport, Pattaya must be the biggest city in the world where there are so many public bus stops, advertized and highlighted as such, but without any buses ever in sight.  Many of the so-called bus stops have in fact been taken over by local taxi drivers who regard them as a parking spot.  But that’s not why they were introduced.


The controversial elite card, first announced 11 years ago, has now become diversified to cater for a more varied market.  Basically you pay between 500,000 and 2 million baht for a long-stay visa and some other perks.  However, ownership of property (except a condo) is not allowed.  Full details in our next issue.

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