As your webmaster was scanning some clips recently posted on YouTube, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s become of Soi 7 and Soi 8 these days?
Until just a few years ago, these two parallel alleys in Central Pattaya, with dozens of open-air beer bars and hundreds of bar girls scrambling for your attention, were literally the heart of Pattaya’s nightlife and busy round-the-clock.
Walking Street had always been a rip-off for tourists. Soi 7 and Soi 8 were for “insiders”, we mean where Pattaya “old hands” would go and get pissed and find some company for the night. More often than not, you would see more farang punters than girls in the bars, and the bars would keep going till the wee hours of the morning and beyond. After all, that’s what Pattaya is famous for, ain’t it?
So what’s left over from this former glory? While Walking Street has developed into some kind of night-time “tourist attraction” for Chinese and Indian tour groups, Soi 7 and Soi 8, let’s face it, are just a shadow of their former selves and, well, unless it’s Songkran (that’s when the image above was taken), somewhat comatose these days.
Don’t get us wrong: There are still bars, girls and everything, and you may well have the time of your life here. But it’s just nowhere near what it used to be, full stop. And unless you’re a Pattaya “newbie” the clips embedded in this post will sadly speak for themselves.
During your webmaster’s first couple of visits to Pattaya in the late 1990s, the bars of Soi 8 were basically his second home. Now I live on the southern outskirts of town and don’t go there much anymore. Two months ago or so, however, and rather by accident I must admit, I once again paid Joy Bar opposite the Sunshine Hotel a visit.
Joy Bar had been my favourite watering hole in 1998 and 99 when it was still located on the other side of the street. Now it’s still open 24/7, but while in the late 1990s Joy Bar would be packed with thirsty (and horny) Farangs from the hotel next-door even at breakfast time, this time the place was completely empty, no decoration on the walls, no music, and with just three or four bored and overweight girls sitting behind the counter. The busiest place seemed to be the massage shop next-door which at one point attracted a gang of Indian tourists staying in the hotel across the road.
While Joy Bar was a mere shadow of its former self, funnily the mamasan was still the same as in the late 1990s and even remembered my name. She conceded business was nowhere near where it used to be in the “good old” days and said the night before they had had just a single customer. Granted, it was only late afternoon. But the rest of Soi 8 didn’t appear to be in much better shape, so unfortunately there was little reason not to believe her.
Your webmaster’s last visit to Soi 7 sometime last October or November was an equal disappointment. Songkran is obviously not all year round. Most of the bars had just a handful of punters, while some were completely empty; that’s aside from two or three lonely girls fighting their ennui with their smartphones.
Looking for an air-conditioned place to cool down, I entered Happiness A-GoGo and found myself between a bunch of Indian or Middle Eastern sex tourists. The mostly chubby girls (including a nude one in a bathtub with mouldy water) were as little interesting as they were interested in your webmaster, so I called it quits after a Sangsom coke and walked on.
So what’s become of Soi 7 and Soi 8? While Walking Street these days has degenerated to some kind of “adult tourist attraction”, and the city’s bar girl industry has obviously been in a crisis for some years now, Soi 7 and Soi 8 seem to illustrate best that Pattaya as we used to know and love it is apparently drawing its last breath.
Sure, there will always be prostitutes and some kind of sex industry in Pattaya. But in the future, that’s our sad prediction, all this will exist to a much lesser extent.
In one the clips embedded on this page, you can see two adjacent empty beer bars that are obviously for rent on the southern (left) side of Soi 7 at this very moment. There’s another one for sale further up in the direction of Second Road. And we know of at least one bar on Soi 8 that currently has a “for rent” sign hanging on its closed door.
This can’t just be explained with a temporary lack of customers or increased competition in the area of Soi Buakhao in recent years (Soi New Plaza, Soi LK Metro etc.) Rising rental prices and “key money” for bars, direct results of ever-increasing property prices in Pattaya, are equally to blame. Bar owners simply can’t afford to keep their businesses running anymore.
On this page, we’ve already analyzed some other problems bar owners and managers are facing these days which help explain why some kind of “doomsday” seems to be approaching for Pattaya’s bar girl industry anyway (lack of new blood due to decreased ferility rates, socio-economic changes etc.)
But what reasons are there specifically from the tourist’s/customer’s point of view? Why are so many bars, not just on Soi 7 and 8, empty even in the “high season” months, or at least don’t get enough customers in to secure the survival of their businesses?
- Has Pattaya and its “adult entertainment industry” become too expensive for the average Joe?
- Are the girls no longer what they used to be (not as attractive or friendly as they used to be) and demand too much money for too little services?
- Are the Thai Baht exchange rates to blame?
- Is there simply too much competition (too many bars)?
- Have the Russians, Indians etc. put the more “traditional” Western sex tourists off and destroyed the illusion this place was their home?
Or are we just being pessimistic scaremongers lamenting days gone by?
What do YOU, dear reader, think about the obvious decline of two of Pattaya’s formerly most popular and busiest nightlife hotspots? Feel free to tell us your opinion in the comments section below.