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Don’t Offend the Natives

Thai Temple in Phuket

The temples that are dotted around Thailand are known the world over for their beauty yet many people are put off entering them as they fear that they may do something inappropriate, offend the monks that live and worship there or basically show themselves up.  To walk by a temple without entering is indeed a real shame as you are missing out on a wonderful and enlightening experience.  Referred to as ‘wats’ they are often more than simply beautiful they also carry a great cultural or historical significance.  There are of course some simple rules to follow, but once you are aware of them your visit to a temple should go without a hitch.

Temple Ambience

Forget everything you have ever seen on TV or in the movies about what goes on inside a Buddhist temple.  You will find that the monks are very friendly and welcoming to visitors and will be more than happy to brush up on their English with you.  Enjoy the conversation and relax, though remember to show them respect at all times.  Don’t be surprised if you see a monk eating meat as this is permitted in Thailand, you could even find them on their mobile phones.  Remember to both greet and say goodbye to the monks with a ‘Wai’ the slight bow with your hands together as though in prayer.  Should you have the opportunity to get involved in some ‘monk chat’ with the English speaking monks make sure that wherever you sit you are never higher than the monk himself.

Entering the Area of Worship

Most Thai temples follow a similar plan; you will find a courtyard with some small houses and smaller areas of worship dotted around.  There will be statues of Buddha in sheltered areas which are referred to as ‘bots’, these areas are regarded as being more sacred than some of the other places within the temple and there are a few rules of visitor etiquette that need to be followed.

  • Before entering, remove your shoes.
  • Local people will be attending for their regular worship, try not to get in their way.
  • Try not to turn your back on a statue of Buddha, instead back away from it.
  • Resist the urge to touch any items that you find in the area set aside for worship.
  • Never raise yourself to a height that is greater than that of the Buddha’s image.

Thai Temple and MonksThe accepted way to sit in the area of the ‘bot’ is to sit as the worshippers do, with your legs tucked away beneath you.  You should not seat yourself as the monks do as you are not equal to them in this place.  Never sit with your feet pointing at the Buddha’s image or anyone else in the temple as it is considered very rude in Thai culture; this is why legs are generally tucked under the body.  Should a monk enter the ‘bot’ where you are, stand up and wait patiently until they have completed their prayers.

Things to Remember

  • Whenever you enter into an area of worship you need to remove your shoes, headwear and sunglasses.
  • Ensure that you have switched off your mobile phone, removed any earphones you may be wearing and dropped your voice so that you speak in hushed tones.
  • Show respect for your surroundings at all times.
  • When you reach the threshold of the temple, step over it rather than onto it.
  • If a monk should enter the area you are sitting in, remember to stand.
  • When giving anything or receiving anything from a monk remember to only use your right hand.

Dress Appropriately

Remember that you are entering a sacred space and need to dress appropriately for the occasion.  Although some temples have relaxed their attitude to the dress of some of their visitors, you will be showing them respect by dressing modestly; arms should be covered by sleeves and skirts or shorts should cover your knees, this applies to both women and men.Beautiful Thai Wat

Do Not…

  • Never point, either with your fingers or with your feet at anything: statue, image or monk.
  • Never turn and show your back to an image of the Buddha.
  • Never eat, chew gum, spit or smoke inside the temple.
  • Never photograph or interrupt monks or local worshippers when they are at prayer.

Special Rules for Female Visitors

A woman should never touch the robes of a monk under any circumstances, this rule even applies to the monks own mother.  Even if a woman were to come into contact with them accidently the monk will be required to ensure a rigorous cleansing and washing process.  Women should also ensure that both their shoulders and their knees are covered when visiting a temple.  Should a

Rebecca Receiving Blessing Thailand

JOY’s Rebecca Huber receiving the blessing of Sak Yant at Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Pathom

woman have something to give to a monk they should pass it over to a male to hand to the monk, or place it on the ground for the monk to pick up.

Thailand is filled with amazing temples, which visitors are sometimes afraid to enter for fear of insulting or disrespecting the monks who worship there.  Follow some simple rules of etiquette and your Thailand 2013 adventure will be better than ever and you will get even deeper into the culture of this incredible country.

About joytourandtravel

JOY TOUR and TRAVEL has been in operation since 1985. We are fully bonded and insured. We are specialists in many areas of travel. Our staff has traveled extensively to bring you first-hand knowledge of the world. It is our goal to provide quality travel experiences that are of exceptional value to our clients. We are an active member and Co-Owner of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP). This is your assurance that this agency meets the highest standards of financial stability. We have to meet certain criteria to be a member of TAP. TAP is 29 of North America's premier tour operators. We are also a member of (which allows us to get special discounts); the Greater Cincinnati BBB, Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN), which allows us to book international, as well as domestic airline itineraries

One comment on “Don’t Offend the Natives

  1. Chiropractor Seattle
    July 23, 2017

    Those are great pictures. That temple appears very soothing.

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