For those that don’t know, a balloon chaser is somebody that goes to a party in a bar, normally uninvited, with the intention of a free feed and hopefully a free drink or two if lucky! As there are thousands of bars in and around Pattaya it’s not hard to find a birthday or other party to crash. The give-away sign is all the balloons at the bar entrance! If you like buffet food and are on a tight budget this could be for you, but does this make you a cheap Charlie? Well yes, it does! Especially if you make a habit of balloon chasing, which is the act of searching out a bar with balloons and diving in, grabbing a paper plate and stuffing your face with cow pad (fried rice with chicken or pork) and other buffet regulars such as potato salad. One good tip, if balloon chasing is for you, is to turn up early. There are two reasons for this, firstly you will get first pick of the food, secondly if the bar is a street bar without air conditioning it is wise to eat early before the tropical bacteria have a go first! Also, you don’t know who prepared the food so every caution adhered to will help you avoid any gastronomical disagreements later! If you turn up too early, you risk being sussed out as a chaser. This happens if the staff and manager and birthday boy or girl are still sober and give you that quizzical look of ‘who the f*** are you?’ A seasoned chaser will case the bar out before entering making sure there is a certain level of inebriation already achieved to avoid any embarrassing moments and quickly find out whose party it is and their name too!
So why do the bars hang out balloons for birthdays and other parties in Thailand? There are a few reasons, firstly it’s a party and balloons take you back to a more innocent time of childhood fun (people tend to spend more money when they are having fun), secondly it makes the bar easy to find if the guests you have invited haven’t visited the venue before and lastly it tells the local police ‘we’re having a private party, please leave us alone tonight!’ The downside is it attracts balloon chasers. From the bars perspective they may also wish to attract new customers, so a few uninvited guests is not a bad thing. Also if the bar is busy, people have more fun, spend loads of money, ring the bell etc and everybody is happy! The kind of balloon chaser that is not wanted is the guy that turns up, speaks to no one, stuffs his face, buys no drinks or just buys one bottle of water, then buggers off.
So if chasing balloons is for you, don’t just take everything for free with no thought of giving anything back. One way is to take up photography and document the party antics by posting photos on Facebook helping to promote the bar, otherwise you will be considered the cheapest of charlies!