As the pollution smothers the city, many people prefer to stay at home, rather than go out to restaurants or bars. Others, who have the chance, travel away from Chiang Mai for a few weeks, thus escaping this annual threat to clean air and to good health.
This year, an additional serious danger to health is provided by the spreading Covid-19 virus. Although there have already been cases of residents here falling ill with it, thankfully – so far, at least – this virus has not affected many thousands of people, as it has already done in other countries.
There are currently many restrictions on travel to Thailand, especially for people from the worst-hit places, and these measures seem to be having the hoped-for effect of limiting the spread of the virus in Thailand, and thereby protecting the health of Thai residents. But the other side of these restrictions is the damage they are doing to the health of the tourism industry in Thailand.
This ‘’Land of Smiles’’ last year received almost forty million tourists, of whom some ten million came from China. Tourist spending contributed roughly 20% to this country’s income. That has all changed now. With these new travel restrictions beginning to bite, normally busy tourist destinations, including Chiang Mai, are mostly noticeably bereft of tourist visitors.
As a consequence, many our local hotels, guest houses, shops and restaurants are feeling the pinch. Many stand empty; others have shut up shop for the duration; some struggle to carry on, when their staff numbers often outnumber the customers; whilst others have been forced permanently out of business.
A veritable Chiang Mai institution, Pern’s restaurant on Huay Kaew Road, has been going for eleven years now, but by the time you read this it will have closed down, unfortunately for ever. It was well-known as something of a community gathering place.
Brian Pern, the owner, did his own chef’s training at London’s exclusive Savoy Hotel, where he went on to train other chefs there. I also used to live in London, and to dine at that top hotel – so I’ve probably eaten his food there, long ago, before coming across him here in Chiang Mai!
A combination of the factors mentioned above have brought about this unfortunate closure. It has been struggling now for some time, the same as many of its competitors have been struggling, so the proprietor Brian Pern has just been forced to make the difficult decision to close down. His won’t be the only local restaurant to go to the wall, during this difficult period.
With their regular Wednesday night specials, plus half-priced wine, Pern’s has long been a regular go-to for the expat community in Chiang Mai. Their range of Mediterranean dishes have long been popular.
As well as being a community dining-out landmark, Pern’s has also contributed to the community by hosting numerous charitable events. It is therefore all the sadder that it has now gone. Brian tells me that he intends to continue with the well-established training/placement programme, ‘’One Chef at a Time.’’ Let us hope that their nice staff can soon find alternative employ.
Unfortunately, this will not be the only local catering firm going out of business, though it will be greatly missed.