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Visiting the majestic temples in the Land of Smiles is usually one of the must-do things on tourists’ itinerary. Many visitors do not realize, however, when their actions or behaviors are considered inappropriate on these sacred grounds. To save yourself from raising a few eyebrows, or even worse, not being allowed to enter a temple altogether, read this etiquette guide to exploring the temples of Thailand.
From Isaan to southern Thailand, the Kingdom, while it is only about the size of Texas, has thousands of Buddhist temples across its diverse landscape. From the capital, with temples nestled in between skyscrapers and red light districts, to the most forgotten countrysides, there are more than a handful of these ancient wonders worth exploring.
Many of these temples, regardless of where they find themselves, have strict dress codes. For example, at the Grand Palace, where Wat Phra Kaew is located, hopeful visitors showing too much skin will be denied entrance. The best thing to do is to simply dress modestly, making sure that shoulders are covered and that short or skirts go down to at least the knees. Some temples prohibit photography as well, including Wat Phra Kaew, so be sure to ask before snapping a photo or two.
Once inside the grounds, there are certain areas which are dedicated to worship. While these are tourist attractions, visitors must respect the fact that many people frequent these temples to pray and practice their religion, as most of the country is Buddhist. Those hoping to see these areas up close and personal must remove their shoes before doing so. It is also important to remember that the feet are considered the most disrespectful part of a person’s body in Thailand, so do not point them at other people or any surrounding shrines. Try not to disturb those who are worshipping as well.
The Buddha is considered sacred in Thailand, so any disregard for even an image of a Buddha is considered disrespectful. Visitors should not touch, point, or sit higher than any of the Buddha images found in temples throughout Thailand. Monks are highly revered in Thailand as well, and oftentimes temples will hold monk chats for visitors to learn what it takes to become a monk, how they live out their lives, and more. While monks are certainly friendly and willing to explain their lifestyle to many, it is important to know that monks are not allowed to come in contact with women. Try to avoid touching them in any way.