To start with the good news: Thai people can look forward to an extra-long weekend this week, lasting as long as from Saturday, July 16, to Wednesday, July 20. The bad news (at least if you’re not averse to the odd drink): The last two days of the five-day break are religious holidays and alcohol sales will be banned nationwide.
Also, if you’re a foreigner and need to visit your local immigration office next week, be advised that immigration will be closed from Monday to Wednesday. So what’s that all about you wonder?
This year, the back-to-back Buddhist holidays of Asarnha Bucha and Khao Pansaa fall on Tuesday, July 19, and Wednesday, July 20.
Asarnha Bucha Day, one of the four most important holy days in the Thai Buddhist calendar, commemorates the historic Buddha’s first public sermon some 2,500 years ago and is considered to be the birth of Buddhism.
Khao Pansaa a.k.a. Buddhist Lent Day marks the beginning of the monks’ annual “rains retreat”, during which they are restricted to their temples for a period of three lunar months so as not to trample crops during the rainy season. Devout Buddhists may also abstain from alcohol for three lunar months.
Both Asarnha Bucha and Khao Pansaa a day later are important public holidays, and government offices, the local immigration bureau, banks and many other businesses will be closed.
While that’s business as usual the Thai Cabinet has also declared Monday, July 18, a bridge holiday this year, giving Thais an extended five-day holiday period from Saturday to Wednesday.
As mandatory on the most important Buddha days, alcohol sales will be banned nationwide on Tuesday and Wednesday and bars around Pattaya required to close for two consecutive days. i.e. 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 who violate the alcohol ban order also face the risk of having their venues shut down temporarily. As usual, you may therefore need a bit of luck to find a quiet dimly-lit watering hole that defies the booze ban to a certain extent and sells you an alcoholic drink in an alibi coffee mug.
On Monday, bars will be open as usual or at least until midnight when the 48-hour booze ban takes effect.