pavement (US, sidewalk) n. strip of paved land beside the road; (in most countries) for use by pedestrians, wheelchairs, buggies etc; (in Thailand) place to put telegraph poles, electricity pylons, road signs, traffic lights, lamp posts, post boxes, phone boxes, police boxes, trees, planters, flower pots, spirit houses, shrines, offerings, scooters, advertising signs, restaurant menus, rubbish dumpsters, bins and bags, shop extensions, extrusions and other incursions, motorbike taxi businesses, noodle soup stalls and drains both covered and uncovered.
As a description of a Pattaya pavement, that’s being generous. The dictionary I quoted from didn’t mention the see-saw paving stones, broken or missing drain covers, random holes, unfinished utility installations and unnecessarily high curbs.
Let us imagine the public officials of Pattaya, particularly those responsible for planning and transport matters. These fellows naturally occupy positions of elevated esteem, so much so that surely they rarely if ever need to set foot on the street. Instead we imagine them conveyed about the city in a fleet of chauffeur-driven limousines. When they are occasionally obliged to leave their cars a short distance from their destinations, let us picture them carried aloft in brightly-painted sedan chairs, glimpsing the struggling multitudes below contemptuously through gauzy curtains. How else can we explain our civil servants’ indifference to the difficulties experienced by ordinary pedestrians in Funtown? Worse than indifference, it often seems as if our city’s planners actually design pavements deliberately for maximum inconvenience.
Some time ago, the stretch of thoroughfare at the southern end of Beach Road was pedestrianised and named, unimaginatively perhaps but certainly uncontroversially, Walking Street. A lot later, they put an arch over the road which now declares that the area between there and Bali Hai pier is a ‘Passion of Colourful Paradise’ which looks like a product of Google Translate if ever I saw one. You may have heard of this place. Within earshot of the gently lapping wavelets of the Gulf of Thailand, Walking Street is a haven of tranquillity, a peaceful retreat from the bustle of the city’s frantic traffic. In the evening time, should you be in want of quiet reflection or calm contemplation, my advice would be to take a stroll along Walking Street. On this understated boulevard, you will find establishments that cater for your every spiritual and educational need and others that offer wholesome refreshments of various kinds and the possibility of invigorating exercise.
Whoever coined the name ‘Walking Street’ was perhaps smarter than they realised as it surely has a double meaning. The name tells us that this is the Pattaya street on which you may only walk, but also that this is the only Pattaya street on which you can walk. On Walking Street, you may get accosted by the occasional sudsy-massage tout or lady of dubious chromosomal identity, but at least you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to walk to the other end without twisting your ankle in a pot-hole or getting nutted by a road sign installed by a team of disgruntled midgets.
You think this is an exaggeration? Kuhn Pobaan never stoops to embellish his observations with hyperbole. For evidence, come with me now to the Thappraya Road, in particular that bit of it between the end of Thepprasit Road and Jomtien that was ‘finished’ last year after being unfinished for so long that three versions of the iPhone have been conceived, manufactured and released since the diggers first arrived to make it into a dusty wasteland. On the principle that, in the old days we didn’t do things very well but we’re now much better at getting them right (that’s the principal of human progress by the way), it would be reasonable to expect a new road completed in the 21st Century to come with a pair of pavements fit for people to walk on. But no. The pavements on Thappraya Road had inconvenience built in at the design stage. Being useless was clearly a requirement that the council imposed on the architects and engineers and these people fulfilled the brief with spectacular success. The pavements here are supremely inconvenient. No effort has been spared to make them as difficult as possible to walk along, from day one.
Take the sign that directs traffic right to the Sukhumvit Road. This has been cunningly positioned right across the pavement, obliging pedestrians to pass under it. No doubt in response to instructions from the Pattaya council’s inconvenience officer, the sign was installed by the team of disgruntled midgets at a height of exactly 170cm (see picture 1) which, to be fair, probably looked quite high to the midgets.
In Thailand, the average height for men is 168cm and for women 157cm. Thus, the average man ought to be able to get under this sign, so long as he’s not wearing a hat; the average woman should be able to glide beneath, though not if she’s wearing the sort of high heels they favour in the Iron Bar. But not everyone is below average height. Anyone who ate their greens as a child—and that probably includes the whole of the Thailand basketball team—is going to get brained by this sign. All men above average height, particularly the blind, geeks texting their friends as they walk, or people in a dreamy or inattentive state, are going to get a flat forehead as a minimum or, if proceeding with any speed, an appointment at a nearby A&E (see picture 2). Unless they’re limbo dancers of course.
You shouldn’t really have to be an Olympic hurdling medallist to be able to perambulate Pattaya’s pavements without taking a purler. Our sidewalks should be cleared of clutter and remodelled as smooth, level, human highways. This would encourage people to walk instead of drive, reduce traffic, promote fitness, empower wheelchair and buggy users and lure walkers from the middle of the road and back to the place of safety and convenience that every pavement surely ought to be.
I trust I can count on your vote.