I think it’s safe to say that we all love Thailand. It’s naturally stunning, the food is delicious, the beer is cheap, it’s exciting, luxurious, and you can ride elephants. What’s not to love??
Well, there are always a few side effects that come from booming popularity and with the staggering amount of tourists who visit every year, there are bound to be a few cultural no-no’s committed. So here are a few things to watch out for when travelling to Southeast Asia’s favourite holiday destination.
1. Flip-flops are for a reason
Photo: garycycles [Flickr]
It’s not just because of the boiling heat that everyone wears this convenient footwear. Tradition has it that when you enter a home or business that you take off your shoes, and flip-flops make that act, which can be very common in your daily routine, very easy. We’re not saying you have to buy a pair (although you’ll probably want to), but you should certainly remember to take off your shoes when necessary. Let the big pile of shoes at the front door be your hint for when it’s required.
2. And watch your feet
Photo: Tim Jackson [Flickr]
Since we’re on the topic of feet then you should also know that in Thailand it is thought that feet are the dirtiest part of ones body, which makes sense considering everyone walks around in flip-flops all day. So putting your feet up on a desk or on the opposite chair when you’re on a train or using your foot to close a door is considered very rude. Avoid these acts at all costs.
3. Respect Buddha
Statues of Buddha can be found all across the country – young and old, skinny and fat. He is more than a national treasure, he is God, and Thais don’t take kindly to acts that show disrespect. So be mindful of how you approach his figure when visiting religious sites, temples, palaces, etc.
4. Don’t party TOO hard!
Photo: Roslyn [Flickr]
Thailand is well known as a destination to let your hair down and go absolutely crazy. Unfortunately, too many tourists get far too crazy and end up getting hurt or going to the hospital, even sometimes resulting in death. All night events like the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan are common scenes of excessive debauchery and way too much alcohol. Obviously you want to have a good time on your holiday but three buckets of cheap rum, a litre of Red Bull and a 4am swim aren’t the most intelligent ways to go about it. Just be careful. Holidays are much more fun when you come home in one piece.
5. Think of the animals
This is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with some amazing animals. And although the experience of riding an elephant or cuddling a tiger is one you’ll never forget, there are more than a handful of establishments offering these services who don’t treat the animals in any way you’d appreciate. The famous Tiger Temple just outside of Bangkok was closed down in early 2015 due to lack of permits and there have been numerous speculations throughout the years that the animals were drugged to keep them calm around the tourists. According to the Tiger Temple’s website “All issues with the Tiger Temple have been resolved and is opened 365 Days a year and is Not CLOSED.”, but it’s best to remain cautious and do your research before booking any excursion.
Similarly, many of the places that offer elephant rides carry bad reputations with accusations of abuse being very common. Do your research before booking and make sure you have your experience with an organisation that takes good care of the animals. We like the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where you can spend a day feeding, bathing and petting elephants who have been rescued from severe abuse.
6. Try to say a few words
This one applies to travel in any country. We know Thai isn’t exactly the easiest language to pick up overnight but having a few words/phrases under your belt like “hello”, “goodbye”, “thank you”, “how much is it?” isn’t that hard and knowing a little can go a long way, especially when visiting some of the more rural areas where far less people speak English.
7. Dress appropriately
Yes, it’s hot and sticky and you just want to wear shorts and a vest everyday, and you can do that! Just don’t do it when you’re going to the Royal Palace or one of the temples. It’s considered very disrespectful. Throw a t-shirt or something in your backpack just in case and you’ll be OK.