Whether you’re a temple nut or not, a trip to Thailand is never complete without visiting some of the country’s most sacred and historic Buddhist temples.
Historically and still today, the temple is the center of public life, used as a place of worship, community, and celebration. These holy sites are still a central part of Thai culture. Thais visit the temple to turn boon, or make merit, by donating money, food and flowers, and often travel to holy sites around Thailand.
Temples On Backpacking Thailand
On our 21-day backpacking Thailand tour, you will visit several temples! This includes:
- Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) | Day 2
- Wat Arun Temple | Day 2
- Pikul Thong Temple | Day 3
- Tiger Cave Temple | Day 18
You’re welcome to explore the grounds and enter the main buildings and shrines – however, you should be aware of basic etiquette such as; what to wear, and how to act in a temple to show respect.
What to wear
Thai society is very modest when it comes to clothing, especially while visiting a temple. For women, shoulders and knees must be covered, as well as cleavage. A light scarf usually works wonders here and is easy to carry. For men, it’s okay to wear shorts in most temples though some places, like the Grand Palace, will require you to wear long pants.
For both genders, it is better to wear shirts with sleeves as opposed to vests/tank tops, though not as important for men as for women. There is a slight double standard here but it is a show of respect to follow these cultural norms.
How to act
While it’s perfectly fine for you to observe the buildings, take pictures and check out what’s going on, simply remember to be quiet and respectful. And remember, shoes off before entering - always!
After entering a temple building
- Lower your body when walking past those older than you or who are wai-ing (bowing to) the Buddha
- Have your phone and camera set to ‘silent’
- Kneel and sit back on your heels when you’re close to the main Buddha statue. (You don’t need to bow)
What not to do
- Do not touch any religious images, like Buddha statues, or monks
- Do not point your feet, especially the soles of your feet, at Buddha images, monks, or really anyone for that matter. The bottom of the foot is considered the dirtiest, least holy part of the body
- Never stand higher than a Buddha image or monk
- Don’t go overboard with the picture taking, posing
- It’s completely fine to take photos, but just try to be discreet and allow locals to continue their religious practices in peace. Also, only take people’s photos with their permission, especially monks
- Showing respect while visiting another country is something we take very seriously and try to impart to all our group members. This can be confusing for first-time visitors but that’s what we’re here for!! With this, you will be visiting Thai temples like a local and can help let others know just what to expect.
If you have any questions about what to expect from the culture or about our three-week tour of Thailand in general, drop us a line, anytime.
Guest Contributor: Alana Morgan