This year, the important Buddhist holiday of Makha Bucha falls on Wednesday, March 4. Government offices including the local immigration bureau, banks and many other businesses will be closed. As usual on the four most important Buddha days, alcohol sales will be banned nationwide.
Makha Bucha Day, one of the four most important holy days in the Thai Buddhist calendar, commemorates the miraculous event when 1,250 disciples of the historic Buddha traveled to meet with the Buddha with no prearranged agreement.
Throughout the day, devout Buddhists will turn out in the thousands at local temples to make merit (tham bun) and take part in religious ceremonies. The spiritual highlight comes after sunset when Thai Buddhists, young and old, gather at their local temples to listen to chants and sermons and join the traditional candlelight procession (wian thian in Thai). Holding flowers, incense and lighted candles, the monks and congregation members will walk clockwise three times around the temple’s ordination hall.
In Pattaya, the best place to witness this ceremony is the Wat Chaimongkol temple on South Pattaya Road (Pattaya Tai), near the intersection with Pattaya Second Road.
While that’s all fine and possibly great for your karma if you’re a Buddhist – there’s a catch: As on the three other main Buddhist holidays, alcohol sales are technically illegal and most bars in Pattaya will be closed for the day. While hotels are exempted from this alcohol ban, restaurants, department stores and supermarkets (including 7-Eleven convenience stores) will not be allowed to sell alcohol either, including to non-Buddhist or atheist tourists. Anyone acting against the law can be fined up to 10,000 Baht and/or receive a prison sentence of up to six months.
Oh my Buddha, eh?
As usual, you may need a bit of luck to find a bar which is halfway open, i.e. without music and the usual fancy lights on, that sells you a beer or your favourite liquor in an alibi coffee mug. If you’re not bothered about your karma but simply wish to maintain your standard level of daily intoxication, you’re advised to stock up on beer and booze and have a private piss-up in your room or join fellow sinners on the beaches which are traditionally busy on these Buddha day nights.
The video below gives you an idea of what most of Pattaya will look like again on Wednesday: