Today is April 19 in Pattaya, traditionally known as Wan Lai in the area and is in normal years the culmination of a week long ever escalating and growing celebration to commemorate the Thai New Year, known as Songkran.
In regular years today brings out estimates of hundreds of thousands in one of the world’s truly unique festivals. The final day usually features dozens of concerts, parties, events, water throwing, special vendors, shows, celebrating, drinking, family gatherings and an overall feeling of positivity and energy for those who participate. It’s so big that it is impossible to travel in the city and taxis stop running as the streets fill with revelers celebrating in the back of pickup trucks and vehicles for miles. Even most of those who dislike the Songkran festival (and there are plenty, including those who leave the country for it) generally agree the final day is one wild party and can be a lot of fun.
Songkran Day in Pattaya is, even more than New Year’s Eve in December, the biggest party of the year.
Due to the Covid19 Coronavirus situation in Thailand all mass gatherings have been cancelled, especially one as massive as Songkran Day in Pattaya. An estimated eighty percent of businesses remain closed and most of the city is out of work. Times are hard and charity lines stretch for up to several Kilometers at some locations. Alcohol sales are banned and socializing over drinks is prohibited. Beaches are closed along with every possible place people could gather and socialize.
However, many have come together in this difficult time and shown true community support, helping those less fortunate. Dozens of businesses across Pattaya, too many to cover in individual articles for every one, have helped the tens of thousands out of work, many of who live day by day and were in support fields of the entertainment industry, such as maids, cooks, food vendors, DJ’s, service staff, etc. This shows that even in tough times Pattaya is able to come together and support those who need it.
The Thai Government has stated that they still plan to have a Songkran celebration later in the year and promised the Thai people they would still get their festival this year, although it will likely be dramatically different and depends on the improvement of the situation. It is unlikely even if there is a postponed Songkran in the late summer or fall that the usual millions of tourists will be able to arrive for it.
For now, the city is quiet, deeply unusual for a city known around the world for it’s tourism, entertainment and nightlife. However, seeing the amount of people helping to support the community gives many hope that Pattaya will overcome this challenge, like many before. It is also worth noting that many lives have been saved this year without the festival, as hundreds die yearly in the “seven deadly days of Songkran” driven primarily by drunken road accidents.