Moribund Phuket sprung to life Saturday night as 600 bikers pulled into Bangla Road for the the Patong City Never Sleeps festival to boost domestic tourism.

Spearheaded by Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup and Patong Entertainment Business Association President Weerawit Kreuasombat, the street fair that runs through tonight is seen as much-needed boost to struggling bars, restaurants and entertainment-industry workers.

Food, drink and product booths lined Bangla Road while large crowds – all thoroughly checked for fevers and given hand-sanitizer, of course – spilled out of open-air bars and into the street.

Saturday night was Bangla Bike Night where motorcycle enthusiasts were encouraged to bring their big bikes to the nightlife strip to show off and meet other bikers.

The loud crowd and pumping music pushed away, at least for a night, the desperation and depression that has gripped Phuket and especially Patong amid the coronavirus pandemic. For one weekend, the “new normal” looked like the “old normal”, except that nearly all the customers were Thai.

Weerawit said he hoped that the 500-600 bikers and the crowds they drew would spend freely at the weekend festival to aid tourism-industry workers who have been struggling badly. Even though Thailand’s lockdown ended July 1, most of the bars and restaurants have not reopened due to the dearth of tourists. And those that have opened their doors have found few patrons, he said.

Patong City Never Sleeps is the first in a series of events being staged to prompt more visits by Thai tourists while foreign visitors are locked out of Thailand.