This year, the important Buddhist holiday of Visakha Bucha falls on Monday, June 1.
Visakha Bucha is a national holiday, and government offices, the local immigration bureau, banks and many other businesses will be closed for the day.
As mandatory on the four most important Buddha days, alcohol sales will be banned nationwide and most bars and other entertainment venues closed around Pattaya.
Visakha Bucha Day, one of the four most important holy days in the Thai Buddhist calendar, commemorates the day when the historic Buddha was born, reached enlightenment, passed away, and achieved final release from the circle of rebirth, all on the same date.
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). Holding flowers, incense and lighted candles, the monks and congregation members will walk clockwise three times around the temple’s ordination hall.
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 Buddha holidays (and stipulated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act of 2008), alcohol sales are prohibited by law and most bars in Pattaya will be closed for the day (that is from midnight to midnight).
While hotels are exempted from the ban, restaurants, department stores and supermarkets (including 7-Eleven convenience stores) will not be allowed to sell alcohol either.
Anyone violating the law can be fined up to 10,000 Baht and/or receive a prison sentence of up to six months. Bar owners certainly also face the risk of having their venues shut down temporarily if they should be found to ignore the order.
Bar owners around Pattaya have been handed out printed warnings regarding the booze ban and possible fines. So as usual, you may need a bit of luck to find a watering hole which is at least halfway open and defies the law in a low-key manner by selling liquid intoxicants in alibi coffee mugs.
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.