Gentrification in Pattaya, Thailand

See if you can spot the home owned by an ex-pat

For the last two weeks I have been in Thailand and although this post is not about Los Angeles it still has the west invasion of the east flavor. Yesterday I was taken to Pattaya, a major beach resort and sex holiday destination for many Europeans and Americans but we were there to have tea with a friend. Our Pattaya colleague suggested we take a quick walk down the street to a gallery.

Walked in and was introduced to a retired British ex-patriot watercolor artist who had been in Thailand for six years and opened a gallery. The last two weeks I have been living in Bang Saen in a faculty condominum at Burapha University so i haven’t had much interaction with westerners and certainly not the stereotypical ex-pat. Whizzed through the gallery and headed outside.

After snapping the above photo I thought it might be a good opportunity to ask the British fellow some questions.

who own\'s this

(In case you didn’t spot the ‘upgraded townhouse in the long shot here is a close up – wonder who owns this)

I asked him what was the population of Pattaya and what portion of the population was ex-pats. His reply was Thais don’t buy art, aahh ok. I told him I was not interested in art sales but some statistics as I had just finished reading a call for art which he was one of the judges with a theme of globalization and referencing ex-pat issues. He said he did not know the numbers but it was a big city with it’s own mayor. A look through the Lonely Planet guide listed the population of Pattaya as 80,000 pretty small by Los Angeles standards. So all of this seems like no big deal but what really blew me away was his comment that there are lots of ex-pat living in Pattaya from all over the world. He said lots of Laotians and Cambodians come to the city for the sex trade or as day laborers. Hardly the same as an old, white British dude retiring from his gaming career and opening up a gallery. Didn’t quite convey the thought in that way but did tell him I would not consider them ex-patriots. This put a bit of a damper on the social component of the visit.

We left and as we walked out a very large truck full of what could only be ex-pat construction workers drove by – too fast for me to snap a photo. We headed to the beach through the ‘red light district”. Lots of young men and women calling out to my male counterparts as to how handsome they were. Most of the bars were filled with old white dudes chatting it up with young Cambodian and Laotian “ex-pats.”

Turning the corner I spotted this sign…

west invasion of the east

7 thoughts on “Gentrification in Pattaya, Thailand

  1. It was here in Pattaya that I came to realize that the worst possible death would be to be run down by a moped wielding, drunk-as-fuck, sunburnt to all hell, Euro sex tourist with a teenage “(s)ex-pat worker)” on the back of his rented ride. That’s it, the most humiliating and pointless death of all.

  2. The LP Guide lists the official population figures for cities and provinces; this is typically people who own property and are officially registered there; That’d be a tiny percentage of the overall population figure when you include migrants.

    You will notice that actually very few people in Pattaya are actually from Pattaya or the immediate area; Personally I believe Pattaya is on the way to become a top-10 city in Thailand by size/population, if it isn’t already. This due to an ever increasing tourist industry that now very much includes ‘new’ markets like Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China and so on, as well as its proximity to THailand’s main deep water port (Laem Chabang) and many industrial estates in the area. The new Bangkok International airport is also a lot closer than the old airport was; you can get to Pattaya from the airport in around an hour if you step on it..

    BTW, it’s ‘expatriate’ not ‘ex-patriot’. 😉 In the broadest definition this would indeed include Burmese, Laotian and Cambodian migrant workers ( ) though typicaly the term expatriate / expat is used to mean ‘a Westerner living/working in a non-Western country’.

    Most migrants to Pattaya however are Thai from other provinces, particularly the North-East. I.e. the people you’d find working in bars, as motorcycle taxi drivers, waitresses, hotel staff and construction workers.

  3. By the way, if you’re still in the area, there ARE some very nice beaches very close to Pattaya. You will have noticed that Pattaya Bay itself isn’t very attractive, and Jomtien is not much better. Wong Amat beach is already quite a bit better though still touristy, but once you get to the beaches in between Jomtien and Sattahip chances are you won’t see another tourist there.. many of those beaches are inside Naval bases however many you can visit; just register at the gate. Also the beach on teh back-side of Ko Larn island is nice, and the boat trip enjoyable and cheap. (This would be Samae Beach)

  4. Forgive me I believe you might be applying the word “gentrification” a bit too liberally. One polished up shack in a row of shacks does not gentrification make. Mow down an entire city block of shacks and put up some pricey condos: now THAT is gentrification. Replace all modestly priced businesses in an area with overpriced boutique shops, that is gentrification.

    To extend the “ex-pat” label to others who are likely only migrant (sex) labor further stretches the limits of “gentrification” as many migrant sex workers aren’t likely to stay and in many cases live in sub-standard conditions in comparison to local’s. A closer definition of “ex-pat” would someone from one country taking their life savings and possibly renouncing their birth citizenship to reside (most often, comfortably) in another country, often setting up a business in order to act as some de facto retirement. Or as Chanchao defined above…

  5. Ah, the gentrification was a bit tongue-in-cheek, I assumed. As was the ex-pat condition.

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