Let us put "JOY" in your travel!
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.
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.
The 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
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.
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
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.