Thailand entertainment industry slowly returning to normal
These are undoubtedly unusual times, as Thailand mourns the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared a one-year mourning period and urged people to refrain from organising entertainment events for 30 days from the 13 Oct when His Majesty passed away. That said, he has also made it clear that life must go on, and urged businesses to remain open to ensure the nation does not lose its credibility as a desirable destination for the 30+ million tourists who visit Thailand every year. Thailand’s tourist industry accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s revenue and remains one of the few bright spots in an economy that has slumped since the army ousted a democratically elected government in 2014. In a statement late last Friday, the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed that tourist attractions will remain open with the exception of Bangkok's Grand Palace, because it will be the venue of the royal funeral rites.
Thailand’s entertainment industry which is well know for being raucous, hedonistic and over indulgent did close down few a days after the initial announcement of His Majesty’s passing but things are slowly returning to normal despite the fact that the music remains at a lower volume than usual and the neon signs have been switch off - for now anyway. The bar girls in Bangkok's Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza red light districts may be wearing black clothing but they’re not leaving their high heels and bunny ear headbands at home - even on relatively quiet evenings. “It's become deserted since the late King's death,” lamented one hostess in a recent article by the Bangkok Post. The 23 year old hostess was making her way, perched on towering black boots, between the empty tables and benches. Bars and nightclubs were closed for four days following the late monarch's death on Oct 13. Most venues reopened for business the following week, under the watchful eye of the authorities, who have given them strict instructions that the neon must remain switched off, the fun behind closed doors and that businesses must close by midnight, an hour earlier than usual.
In her interview with the Bangkok Post, the unnamed bar hostess, continued, “bar income and hostesses' wages are likely to plummet as a result of the restrictions but most people are reluctant to speak about it, as they fear further restrictions will be imposed. “If business is bad here on Soi Cowboy, I can't imagine what it's like in other red-light areas of Bangkok and Pattaya,” the hostess said. The woman continued “Customers usually come to my nightclub at 11pm and now that we have to close early, our staff only have one hour during which they can make their money.”
The scene at Soi Cowboy these days is much tamer, almost empty on some nights, even after 9pm. It is a huge contrast to the packed Sanam Luang across town where countless people have gone to pay respects to the late King each day. “It's a stressful situation,” said another hostess, sitting outside her workplace. “But we have to adapt, no matter what.” She waved to her colleague and complimented her on her choice of a black, sequinned bra and hot pants for her evening’s work. While she is accustomed to wearing colourful clothes while working, she has had to purchase a large quantity of black outfits like any other Thai. The petite hostess said she felt terrible sadness when she heard of the King's death. “During my entire life, I have only known one King,” she said. “Nonetheless, the mourning period and accompanying restrictions have brought more pressure on me and my family, she continued. “The news left me heartbroken. But it's not like I could stay home and cry,” she added wistfully. “I have to do my job. Like anyone else in this country, I have to earn an income.”
Most venues across Thailand have now reopened for business as usual but we would still suggest that you check their websites, official social media pages or give them a ring before you head out as there are still restrictions in place on opening hours which could affect your plans for your night out.