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Pattaya – Big Changes in Pattaya – piss tests and motorbikes
It had been a few years since I last visited Pattaya (2007 to be precise). Despite the town’s notorious reputation as a ‘Sex Tourist’ destination, I had always had a soft spot for Pattaya. In June 1999 I travelled to Thailand to manage a bar in Koh Samet that a couple of my friend’s were planning on leasing. June is low season in Thailand and Koh Samet was like a morgue. Because of this my friends got cold feet in regards to the bar and pulled out of the deal. With our dreams in bits and uncertainty in our minds (especially for me, who had given up a perfectly good job back in Scotland for my new start in Thailand) we left Koh samet and headed for Pattaya.
I was 28 years old and the neon lights of Pattaya drew me in like the proverbial ‘moth to the flame’. It was party-time in Pattaya; everywhere around me people were looking to get high: high on drugs, high on sex, high on adventure; any quick fix that might help nourish the fragile human condition. I was a hardened drinker and drug user and Pattaya was my kind of town.
Fast forward to 2003 and I was living and working in Pattaya (sober) with my Thai partner (now my wife) and daughter.
In 2003 Thaksin Shinawatra was Prime Minister and his no-nonsense drug policies saw the authorities shoot dead almost 3000 Thai people in the first three months of a clampdown on drug traffickers and dealers (mainly those thought to be involved in the distribution and sale of the methamphetamine ‘Ya-baa’).
Back then (in 2003) the police would randomly target Thais in nightclubs and urine test them for traces of drugs in their system; foreigners, on the other hand – protected in many ways due to the fact that tourism contributes significantly to Thai government coffers, didn’t really need to worry about such nuisances as late-night random piss tests.
I am all for equality and don’t believe that farangs should be given preferential treatment over Thai people; I am merely documenting how life was in Pattaya (and Thailand in general, I suppose) back in 2003.
In 2003 I also had a motorbike. I would ride it everyday and not once did I get stopped by the police. As long as you (the driver) wore your helmet in those days and didn’t drive drunk, or like a maniac, you didn’t have to worry about the police pulling you over.
Fast forward again to 2016 and to my dismay, it is not only the Pattaya skyline that has changed over the years. I had only been in the city for a couple of hours or so after checking into the Areca Lodge Hotel and already I had been pulled twice by the police on my hired motorbike. The first time was because my 16-year-old pillion-passenger daughter was helmetless – fair enough; the second time was a random stop targeting farangs (foreigners) on my way to the police station to pay the four hundred Baht fine. I told the policeman that I was already on my way to pay a fine that I’d received minutes before and showed him the ticket; on seeing the ticket he told me that if I got stopped again that day then I was to show the next policeman the ticket (as I had to him), and I wouldn’t get another.
I got the feeling that day that tourists were being treated as ‘cash cows’ by the Pattaya Police. Later on that evening my wife’s brother (who lives in Chonburi, near Pattaya) was stopped whilst driving us back to our hotel and was piss tested in the street for drugs. Gao – my wife’s brother, doesn’t even drink alcohol let alone take drugs, and his test was clear, but he told me that farangs in Pattaya (and Bangkok, and other notable tourist areas probably) had to be careful these days as the police have been piss testing foreigners for a couple of years now.
I still enjoyed Pattaya this time around. It has changed over the years, probably some changes for the better, but it seemed a little less safe to me. And the worrying thing about that is: the threat was coming from ‘the police’, not the so-called ‘bad guys’.
Anyway, my advice to you – if you drive a motorbike or smoke or dabble in anything outside of the law, is ‘beware – there’s been big changes in Pattaya over the years.
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Copyright © 2016 Raymond Carroll