Thailand - Tourist Do's and Taboo's

Trip Start Oct 15, 2009
Trip End Dec 15, 2013

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Friday, November 1, 2013

'I am at the lovely Sukhothai Heritage Resort tonight on my way to visit Katherine, her family and her rescued elephants aat BLES. I have to pinch my self that I will really be at this close to heaven place once agin tonorrow. This will be my 4th visit to Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary  Kat's passion for her cause and her determination to succeed in the face of many obstacles to her work both amazes and inspires me. A visit to BLES is a special a treat that will be with you for years. Do plan to visit  f you can! 

The detour to Sukhothai in central Thailand that you will make to get to BLES, will also enable a visit to the exquisite Sukhothai Heritage Park and museum complex. The larges Buddha in all of Thailand is in the park, Wat Si Chum, and all of the 8th - 12th Century Sukhothai era temples are better  preserved than the temples in Cambodia at Angkor Wat. The lovely Sukhothai Buddhas pare complate; i.e., they still have their heads  and unlike Angkor, the parks are uncrowded. Trust me, the sights here in Sukhothai both BLES and the historical parks are off the beaten path and both are a big traveler's treat. 

I have stayed here before and the Sukhothai Heritage Resort does not disappoint. Tonight, browsing through the information in the room, I found a really good write-up on the Thai Religion and Culture, and also on some Visitor's Do's and Dont's. Oh how I wish I had my scanner here.. I have re-typed and paraphrased some below, and added some tips of my own.

Back to the Title subject: Tourist “Do’s and Taboo’s"

Religion and Culture
Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country. The local Temple (called a Wat) is a very important part of each community and is cared for by the community. Early every morning you will see Monks walking around with large Alms Bowls. It is at this time that the community members offer food and other living essentials that provide for the Monks day to day needs.

The “Wai" is a sign of greeting or mutual recognition and respect. It is probably one of the most beautiful greeting gestures (and I think it is more hygenic than a handshake also.:) The Wai is made by raising both hands, palms joined, to a position lightly touching the body, somewhere netyween the chest and the forehead. There are complicated rules for the giving and receiving of a Wai and Thai people may be terribly offended if foreign guests do not properly return a Wai. This is especially true of Thai’s outside of the cities who might be unfamiliar with foreign culture. “A little try and a smile goes a long way.”

There are basic rules or etiquette which foreign visitors should observe in order to avoid cultural “faux pas” which may offend local sensibilities.

1. Most Monks don’t mind being photographed but it is polite to ask first and respect their choice. Please be discreet when photographing people praying or performing religious ritual. I love to phtograph Monks, Temples and Shrines, and spirit houses. I'll add my favorites to this Entry so it will change. If you enjoy this type of photo do check back from time to time.

2. Also some Thai’s and especially Hill Tribe folks in the north, do not like to be photographed because of their belief about the photo image taking part of their soul along with it. Most Thai people love to have their photo taken and to see it on the digital camera screen. Please ask them first. If someone wants a little money for a photo then use your judgment & if you want to pay or if you think that the few coins will buy rice that day, by all means pay them. Or don’t take the photo. It is kind and appreciated to ask first and you will usually be rewarded with the interaction.

3. Overt displays of physical affection are deemed immodest, inappropriate, and not within the Thai culture. Nudity should be avoided in public places & topless sunbathing deeply offends even if Thai’s don’t tell you this.

4. Anger will get you nowhere in Thailand. If you are soft spoken and deferential you will earn great respect. Losing one’s temper causes Thai’s great distress. A patient dialogue and a smileto even the most frustrating problem is the best approach. Take it easy and do not ruin your day.

5. The head is the most important part of the body.  You should avoid touching the head and hair of Thai people. The feet are the lowest and are considered unclean. Avoid putting your feet on the table and also try not to point with them.

6. Women should avoid touching, even accidentally, a Monk. This is strictly taboo.

7. Pointing with fingers is acceptable only for objects or animals, but not for people.

8. “Please do not crook your finger, clap, snap yor fingers. hiss or whistle to attract attention of waiters or other people.” The acceptable gesture in Thailand is to extend one arm in front of you with your palm down; beckon with your fingers pointing down.

9. Always remove your shoes when entering a Temple or private home.

10. When visiting Temples, please dress respectfully. No shorts, sleeveless shirts, short skirts or swimwear. In Bangkok, women without sleeves will be turned away or given the opportunity to rent a shirt.:)

11. Buddha images are sacred and should be treated with the greatest respect.

12. The Royal Family is held ibn very high esteem. Thais will not tolerate any disrespect towards or about members of the Royal Family. Actually, criticism of them is against the law in Thailand and offenses are subject to strict penalties.

I find that Thai people are peace loving, fun loving' riendly and often interested in meeting foreigners. They will forgive many unintentional indiscretions. They really appreciate any effort you make to understand their culture. Smal efforts along these lines will enhance your travel experience.

I'm off to BLES - Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary in the morning for what promises to be a wonderful adventure!



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