Pattaya’s Little Britain is the liveliest center of night life
Soi Buakhao, or White Lotus Street, is booming post-covid as the cheaper version of the more famous Walking Street. Daytime beers can cost as little as 55 baht, or just over one pound sterling. There’s an echo of knees-up Blackpool with some of Soi Buakhao’s bars and restaurants having English-sounding names: Hungry Hippo, Butcher’s Arms, Churchill’s Munchies (now seemingly closed), Nicky’s, Stag’s Head, Cheeky Monkey, Crazy Dave’s and Witherspoons to name but a few. Not that the comparison should be pressed too far: Pattaya doesn’t have a tower circus and Blackpool lacks cannabis cafes.
British expats have long dominated the Pattaya bar scene in south Pattaya. Phil Gardner, a Soi Buakhao retiree for 15 years, explained, “The beer is cold and the women beautiful, so there’s nothing more to be said.” He points out that the district’s visa shops, which can simplify obtaining extensions from immigration for a fee, are especially popular with budget-minded expat Brits. New nighteries, especially go go clubs such as Lips Lounge in nearby Soi Honey, are still being launched. Nearby, Soi L.K.Metro and Tree Town are still expanding their venues specializing in female eye candy. Several are managed by Brits.
So successful has Soi Buakhao become in attracting revelers that some businesses have moved out. British born Dave Collier, who runs the popular second-hand book depository Canterbury Tales with his Thai wife, moved from Soi Pothole (adjoining Buakhao) last year to a less noisy and far less hectic district a couple of miles away. Another Brit, Shaun Sharples, who started a very successful fish and chips business in Tree Town, is currently awaiting the total renovation of brand new premises some distance away. “Our business isn’t dependent on loud music blaring out from nearby clubs,” he explained. “Many of our customers want to eat in peace.”
Unlike Walking Street, Soi Buakhao has a daytime life of its own. There are two bustling markets where you can buy everything from fruit and veg, microphones and flashlights to second-hand clothes, pots of glue and hair dryers. You can change currencies, visit pharmacies, massage parlors and barbershops, or watch the world go by sipping beer in open bars facing dense traffic and a lack of pavements. There are several English-sounding cafes provoking intense rivalry on Pattaya social media about which one serves the best English breakfast. Or the worst. One candidate, Cheap Charlie’s, is so successful that another branch was opened up in the Jomtien immigration street.
There are some cannabis outlets in the Soi Buakhao neighborhood, though fewer than expected after decriminalization of the weed last summer. Phil Gardner said, “Many of the regulars are over 60 and often retired. They want to spend a few relaxing hours drinking with their mates or being merry with the ladies. The trouble with pot is that you smoke it for a few minutes and that’s your evening’s entertainment gone.” He also points out that gay opportunities in Soi Buakhao are limited. “You’ll find ladyboys and transvestites in some bars, but the real gay scene is centered elsewhere in Boyztown and at the Jomtien Complex.” He adds that the gender of some cross-dressers is hard to determine. “I always tell new guys to look for the Adam’s apple which means there’ll be a banana too.” That’s education Pattaya style.