Western Tourists in Thai Temples. Respecting Thai Buddhist traditions.

Recent Facebook picture from a tourist to Thailand that is offending Buddhists

Recent Facebook picture from a tourist to Thailand that is offending Buddhists

It is important for a visitor to Thailand take a little time to learn Thai customs and culture before wandering the countryside and perhaps offending 1000 year old traditions. Tourists can sometimes seem oblivious in doing things, and it is certainly a bad reflection of their homeland

Imagine an Asian tourist visiting Washington D.C. and unknowingly desecrating the American flag or climbing all over the Lincoln Memorial to sit on Abe’s lap, or perhaps making jokes about the Vietnam Memorial. Now, multiply that bit of resentment you may have as an American by about 10 times (the customs and culture of Thailand are about 10 times older than in America). How about if the Asian tourist made fun of people’s reverence towards Jesus Christ? After a few years of seeing that, would Americans start giving these tourists a bit of a bad time?  Maybe a little resentment?

Recently, a video came out of a Russian tourist, a rather plump fellow that walked around a Thai Buddhist temple filming wearing nothing more than a tiny (and too revealing) mens bikini bathing suit. Thais won’t enter a temple with even shoulders bare.

There are sometimes young Western tourists that will hop up on top of Buddha statue for a photo shoot in the Lord Buddha’s lap. At the entrance to most temples that are frequented by tourists there is usually a sign posted in multiple languages (English for sure) about appropriate conduct and behavior in the religious temple. Despite that, a few tourists have often done some very offense things.  If you see other tourists doing something very wrong, you should say something!

Originally posted on Facebook and later circulated through much of the internet and now appearing in the Bangkok Post is a snapshot of a young Western woman that stood behind the Buddha statue in the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya.  She positioned her head and arm in the same spots as the statue’s missing parts before having her picture taken. This shot insulted the Buddhist religion and desecrated an important monument of Thai history. The sacking of Ayutthaya by Burma was done hundreds of years ago, but Thai people are still angry about it as if it happened last year. It is ingrained into the soul of Thailand.  And now there is a lot of talk on the internet about the rudeness of Western tourists.  This young lady unintentionally created a little firestorm of resentment against Western tourists by many Thais.

If you are coming to visit Thailand on a holiday, you are likely to visit some of Thailand’s beautiful Buddhist Temples (Wats). Please take the time to understand what should and should not be done:

• Always Be Respectful about Buddhism. Dress correctly in Thai Temples, which means a shirt with sleeves, not wearing short pants or mini-skirts or indiscreet clothing. No clothing that might be considered unkempt or dirty should be worn.

• Don’t sit on images of Buddha if you want to be photographed. Sit before the image. That is perfectly acceptable.

• Buddha statues are not decoration and should not be treated that way. They are not a doorstop and they are not to be used to decorate a dinner table. If there is a picture of Buddha on the wall in a Thai home, it should always be placed higher than any other pictures.

• Do not sit on the floor of a Temple with your feet pointing at the Buddha image. Feet are considered the lowest part of the body, and you should never point at anything with your foot, but especially anything religious.

• Women must never touch a monk. If she wants to give him something, it should be placed on the floor in front of him — often they have an orange cloth for this purpose — and the monk can pull it towards him. Buddhist monks should be treated with the highest level of respect by men and women, even if they young boys.

• Speak quietly in a Temple and walk with a slightly bowed head. This is showing reverence and respect to the religion.

Any American visiting Thailand must remember that in the eyes of Thai people, they are always representing the whole country of the United States.  It is always in an American’s best interest to be polite and understanding of the differences of other cultures.

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One thought on “Western Tourists in Thai Temples. Respecting Thai Buddhist traditions.

  1. I saw two young women today in the Bangkock train station wearing bikinies with see-through sheer tops hanging off one shoulder. They also wore cut-of jeans very short, short and looked so obviously out of place. Don’t they look around and take clues from everyone else in a city like this? These tourists are definately not doing their cultural sensitivity homework… or maybe any travel homework at all!

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