Smoking Tobacco, and Drinking Alcohol in Bangkok and Thailand
Smoking Cigarettes, Cigars and Pipes
If you arrive as a tourist in Bangkok, you may initially be puzzled as to where to find cigarettes or tobacco. The reason is that tobacco wares are not allowed to be displayed in public and no advertising is allowed. Smaller shops will usually sell cigarettes (which are not expensive, even the imported ones). Most convenient places to buy tobacco are the 7-Eleven convenience stores scattered around Bangkok. The cigarettes are located just behind the counter, but as I mentioned, you will not actually see them displayed and must aks for them.
Not quite sure why anyone would want to smoke cigarettes, but for the more serious smokers you will find tobacco wares (cigars, pipe tobacco) at Siam Paragon and Emporium. The shops that sell tobacco are called Bangkok Wine Cellar (they mostly sell wine and spirits). There is one located on the 5th floor (next to the Gourmet Market) at Emporium Shopping Center, and another one (a bit larger, maybe somewhat more choice) in the corridor left of Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon (located at the basement level floor). The pipe tobacco and cigars are not openly visible, so you have to ask to see the wares.
Most five star hotels will have a small shop where you can buy tobacco wares. I noticed that these shops are allowed to display tobacco for sale.
Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public places in Bangkok. Smoking is allowed outside buildings. For example, if you are a smoker and visit a Starbucks for your morning coffee, you may want to select one that has an outdoors section.
When you visit bars, well you will see the reason why smoking has been banned in most places, and gets such a bad press. The bars are filled with smoke, and any visit may have you coughing for the next few days. In our opinion, if smokers would have been more self-restraining, things would not have developed as far as they have now, with smokers being treated almost as bad as plain criminals.
Update : As of February 2008, there is a smoking ban in airconditioned bars and night clubs. Up to then, bars and nightlife entertainment venues had been exempted. A grace period has been granted, and full implementation of the new law will probably occur around May 2008.
Drinking and Buying Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is still allowed in Thailand. However, you can not buy alcohol at all times of day. Shops like supermarkets and 7-Elevens are not allowed to sell alcohol between 2.00-5.00 P.M. and after midnight. Sometime in the morning (the time escapes me) sales are permitted again. As far as we know, you can drink alcohol all day though in restaurants and bars.
On some days (religious and national holidays, election days) alcohol sales are banned altogether, and drinks can not be served even in restaurants and bars (which usually close on these days anyway).
Wines are invariably priced high. Even table wines that would be sold at less than 100 baht a bottle in Europe, cost 400 baht and upwards.
Stronger drinks like whisk(e)y, gin, vodka are quite cheap altogether. A bottle of good whisky such as Grant's or Ballantines can be had at around 550 baht a bottle (about 15 US $).
Most supermarkets will sell wines and spirits. Beers and mostly local brand alcohol is available at 7-Elevens (prices are about 20% higher than at supermarkets though). By the way, Thai brandy (sometimes called whisky or rum) is actually quite tasty and very cheap.
Drunk driving is a major problem in Thailand, and thousands of people are killed each year because of it. Most victims (and perpetrators) are 'low-class' motorcycle drivers, and little is done to enforce existing laws, and/or to improve drivers' conduct. Invariably, each year around New Year and with Songkran (the Thai New Year) there will be temporary campaigns to limit the number of road deaths. Unfortunately, the value of life in Thailand is rather low, and therefore little is done to preserve it.