Photo Essay: Homeless foreigners living down and out in Pattaya

White sands, radiant sun and warm seas. These are the pictorial associations most of the world holds of Thailand. However the prostitution, organized crime and unreliable justice run in a deep, close parallel. The conflux of these things draws many male foreigners to Pattaya, Thailand’s Sin City, from retirees to sexpats. With enough time, behavior that would be unacceptable in their homes can seem a strange kind of norm here. The less savory aspects of their character unbounded by social convention.

While most visit Pattaya as a vacation escape, others go a step further and make it their home, perhaps hoping to nurse the dream indefinitely. That doesn’t always work out so well. Some, like Steven and Tony, have ended up homeless and alone, cut off from any relationships with family or friends back home. They don’t have the money to pay overstay fines if they actually wanted to leave, and live off their own wits and the kindness of others.

Here in their own words are their stories, as told to Coconuts Bangkok.



Steve, 59, from England

I’m 59. I’ll be turning 60 in March. I’m from Manchester, where I used to be a post driver. I have been homeless in Thailand for two years already. Last September it has been one year that I am illegal here.

Pattaya is Disneyland for old men

I have so much to say about it! My friends tell me to write a book. I don’t know if I’ll do it someday, but I already have a title: The Bright Side and the Dark Side of an Englishman Living on the Beach – Surviving the Hard Way.

Before living in Thailand I came eight times over seven years for holidays. I heard about Pattaya from a friend, and it sounded just like a big Disneyland for old men. It was the perfect place for me, as I am a big spender, a sexaholic and an alcoholic. In the beginning, I felt like a movie star. I could get all the women I wanted for just 600 baht each. Once I had sex with 34 women in 21 days. Every go-go bar knew me.

I have been married twice, and I’m still married. It has been 33 years, but I haven’t heard from my wife in three years. She’s a good lady, I screwed up everything for sex. The first time I went to Thailand I just lied to her, telling her I was going there to buy furniture. It was half true actually. In England I always behaved well. I would go out with friends for one hour, and that’s it. But here? Here you go out all day long.


So the eighth time I went to Thailand, I decided to stay longer. I was going back and forth to Cambodia to get a visa exemption. At that time it was for 30 days. I always extended my stays in Pattaya, I always wanted a bit more of what I was enjoying. This is when I met this lady. We were pretty serious. I fell in love, after nine stays in Thailand I should know better, but I let myself go. We had a good situation and started a small business. But my employees became lazier each day, doing nothing and stealing from me. Slowly, slowly money became a big issue, and for weeks I was surviving with only tea, coffee and tomato soup. Then I ended up in the streets.


I never beg

When I arrived on the beach, everyone stole from me. The police even threw my bags away. I didn’t have any food for 12 days. I was 94 kilos before but after two years in the streets I just weight 65. But I am a strong man my own way.

Now I’m pretty popular here on Jomtien beach. They even call me “the beach boy from Manchester.” I have many friends, they take care of me, they like my personality. I never beg, but when I need it they give me money. Once I was arrested, and I needed 5000 baht to pay the bail, and my friends gave it to me. So I survive because I’m me.



The embassy doesn’t care

The first seven months on the beach, I was going to the British consulate every day, Monday to Friday. But they don’t care. They just tell you to ask for help from your family, and if you don’t have a family from your friends. I was so depressed I went to a bar, got drunk enough and smashed my head with a bottle of whiskey then I tried to cut my wrists. I never thought I would end up in the streets like this. I have my pride.

They saw me on TV because of a documentary about homeless farangs, and suddenly they remembered me. But now I don’t want their help anymore. It’s too late. My head’s already gone. They offered to pay my fight back to England and to help me find a job. But what will I do there ? I have nothing in England. No family, no friends, no money. I have a 41-year-old daughter, Tracy, from my first wife, and a 32-year-old son, Christopher, from my second wife, but I don’t talk to them anymore. I also stopped talking to my friends in England. They wouldn’t even send me 10 pounds when I was starving.

At least here, I have the sun and the beach.

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I’m ready for death now

My days are boring and depressing. I just sit on the beach, drink beers and smoke cigarettes. I tried to quit alcohol and went to the Alcoholic Anonymous, but it’s not for me, not in this situation.

I’m always scared. It’s dangerous here. I only stay in Jomtien. I’m a gentleman, that’s why I survive. I’m proud to say I’m still normal even after two years in the streets.

Also I have eye infection and leg infection because of sleeping on the sand, but I can’t complain about my situation because I’m an overstayer. But I’m tired, I don’t want to go back to England because they let me down, and I can’t keep on living like this forever. I’m ready for death now.


Tony, 44, from the Netherlands

I have been homeless for three years. In Holland I used to be an engineer. I put all my money here in Thailand. My first time in Thailand was 20 years ago. I just came for holidays, but then I got stuck into it. Alcohol, sex. But I met my wife here. So it wasn’t all bad. I used to be quite wealthy. I have two factories and lands. I have my own property that still exists. I was very high, and I hit the bottom.

My wife kicked me out after 13 years. I have two children, 10- and 8-years-old. I always have their photographs with me. I had the wrong friends, I guess. And the wrong life, too much bars and ladies. She got fed up.

I created my own street business to survive

Now I have my own business in the street. I help people, mainly tourists. A lot of them get robbed, or they have troubles with ladyboys. I help them get their money back, or their passport. I have connections with the police. So then I get commission from helping them out. I’m quite known here, by hotels, tuk-tuks, and so on.

I make money in Pattaya, and I go to Jomtien to relax.


The church helps me

Hopefully I have a valid visa. I get a lot of help and support from the church. Faith is very important in my life. They’ve been taking care of me for a long time. They give me guidance and support. They push me.

Also this association is helping me to see my kids. Step by step. I went to Bangkok three weeks ago to meet them after almost three years without seeing them.

I don’t ask for help from my family because they don’t know about how my life is. I have my pride. And my parents are old; I don’t want to worry them. My brother knows my situation though, but he’s not very helpful. Now my family is the church.

The consulate doesn’t help either. They tell you “call your family,” and if family doesn’t answer they say “call your friends.”


I’m a survivor

I adapted to street life quite well. But I don’t want to get used to it. It’s a hard life, I don’t live; I survive.

The most difficult thing is to find a decent place to sleep. I sleep everywhere I can, most of the time in empty buildings. I never stay in the same place; it’s too dangerous. Food is not a problem because Thai people are very generous. They help me a lot.

I always have to watch out for thieves, especially Thai mafia. They’re really not happy with my business. That’s why I always change places, so they can’t find me. I live a dangerous life. I have many friends, but I also have a lot of enemies. The tattoo on my face is to scare them. Like in the USA, people who have killed tattoo a tear. It means I don’t run away.

I got stabbed several times, even hit in the head. I run for my life. That’s why I never sit. I’m scared, but it’s a good thing. Being scared gets your head back together. I’m an optimistic person because I’m still alive even though I had to face very dangerous situations. Once I got a gun on my head. I’m a survivor.


I have to get back on my feet now

Now I’m trying to get back to my old life. I want my wife to take me back, I hope in four months everything will be fixed and that I will get my properties back. It’s a hard thing to do because of corruption. But I’m working on it. And I still love Thailand.


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