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Tea Leaves

How the pandemic transformed a Thai beach resort

Lockdowns and art help Pattaya shed its 'sexy' image

Pattaya was the birthplace of mass tourism to Thailand, but it has fallen out favor in recent years. (All photos by George Styllis)

Thailand launched its big reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, allowing visitors from dozens of countries to fly into Bangkok and other provinces with few restrictions apart from wrestling with onerous online visa applications.

The relaunch lasted barely six weeks, before fears of a new wave of infections were triggered by the spread of the omicron strain. For all its rhetoric about living with the virus months earlier, Thailand reapplied the brakes on tourism by again imposing travel restrictions -- only to lift them again from Feb. 1, with sage official pronouncements that the country could "live with" the virus.

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