I love a good beer and enjoy cigarettes wherever I go. I especially like when the prices are affordable and there is not a huge amount of social stigma attached to my indulgences. In Bangkok, especially in the Din Daeng neighborhood where I stayed, smoking and drinking is a regular part of daily life for a large majority of the men after a long day of work. I rarely saw women doing either of these activities. This has me believing that women are the smarter of the two genders. Aside from that, sitting down with the local men and sharing a beer while swapping stories and getting a crash course in Thai-speak, was, and will always be for me, one of the highlights of visiting Bangkok.
I usually buy my beer and cigarettes at the neighborhood 7-11. I do this because the prices are always clearly marked and I feel I am paying the same price as everyone else does for the same items. I then bring my bag of goodies to Mr. Poo’s café, where I am quickly greeted with a glass of ice. Beer is always drank here with ice and nobody drinks it straight from the bottle. I am quickly offered something to eat, and regardless if I am hungry or not, food and snacks are brought to the table.
My favorite Thai beer is Singha. I hadn’t paid much attention in the past when I drank it, but aside from the taste, it has a whopping 6.0 alcohol %. Singha beer sold for 50 Baht a bottle. The bottles are about the same size of an American twenty-two ounce bottle. The favorite beer in this neighborhood was Leo. Perhaps it was the lower price (38 Baht) or the lower alcohol content, 5.5 %, either way, this was the local favorite. Heineken was available at 60 Baht a bottle, but was considered by these gentlemen to be “too much money!” Chang beer was 36 Baht a bottle and carried with it a hefty 6.5 % alcohol volume. I suppose in America this would be an ice-beer and only would only have one purpose, to get the drinker drunk. I tried a few one night and experienced my first hangover the next day. I don’t recommend this beer at all.
Thais love their Scotch whisky too. 100 Pipers is the preferred Scotch of most of the gentlemen I met, but Johnny Walker and Chivas Regal are also highly coveted. 100 Pipers sells for about 380 Baht for one half a liter. Because of it’s price it is not drank all the time, but when it is sipped in the neighborhood, you might as well through the cap away, because the sit-down Scotch session is not over until the bottle is empty. Scotch is served here over ice and topped with Singha soda water. Once again, nobody drinks it straight from the bottle
Drinking beer with your meals while out dining in the more established restaurants and fine dining places will cost about twice as much as the regular retail price of the beer, but sometimes places offer beer specials which are comparable. It didn’t seem to matter how nice the place was, most dining places offer beer on their drink menu.
By American standards cigarettes are cheap. Marlboros are only 55 Baht a pack, but like the Heineken, are considered to be “too much money!” The favorite tobacco in this neighborhood was L&M, which sold for 46 Baht. Even the poorest smoker paid the extra few Baht for a tasty American blend. After trying the 40 Baht Krong Thip and the 35 Baht Wonder brand, both Thai tobaccos, I can see why. Thai tobacco is awful. British tobaccos are also available, and after trying a few packs I acquired a taste for the London 555s. But, at 80 Baht a pack, they were not the cheapest but they were the tastiest.
Just a word of good advice; don't throw your cigarette butts on the sidewalk or street. The fine for littering is 2,000 Baht in Bangkok. Also, only police can fine you and the fines are paid at the police station. From my own experience I came close to being a victim of a scam-artist who resembled a police officer and insisted I pay him the fine on the spot. Thank goodness my wife was nearby and I had her assistance in avoiding this scam.
In order to curb the smoker’s habit or to stop future smokers, there are graphic pictures displaying the deadly side effects of smoking printed on every pack. This seemed to have no affect on the locals or myself from my perspective. If you’re a smoker the duty free cigarettes offered on most airlines are twice the price you’ll pay at any 7-11 in Bangkok. For this reason tobacco is a much better deal after you touch down and get settled in, wherever you are in Bangkok. As for alcohol prices they are similar, but I think you will save a few Baht my purchasing at the local 7-11 or small shop in your neighborhood.