Foreign Visitors to Buddhist Temples in Thailand (Please take note)

Yesterday and since tourist season started I’ve been seeing something disturbing.

People coming to Thailand on vacation that don’t think to read up on proper behavior not only in Krabi town, but at Krabi Buddhist temples before coming on vacation.

People, let me explain… Thailand is NOT Germany. This is NOT Italy. This is NOT France, America or the UK.

The following behavior is not only uncool, but totally shocking to the traditional Thai people that live in areas outside Pattaya, and Patong beach…

Walking around Krabi town with your shirt off. Guys and girls. Anywhere except AT the beach, standing on the sand, it is completely inappropriate to have your shirt off.

I saw at least 4 idiots (men) at the Wat Tum Sua temple without shirts on yesterday. Walking around shirtless at a Buddhist temple in front of the monks and nuns!

Unbelievable the idiocy that abounds. People, you cannot take your shirt off at a temple. At most temples you SHOULDN”T have uncovered legs or even bare arms… Wat Tum Sua is a bit of an odd temple because there are 1,237 steps to climb to the top of the temple. So, yes, it’s a workout. But, at no point is it OK to take off your shirt. If you’re hot and sweaty drink some water. Pour it over yourself even.

If you’ll notice, most Thai men have pants and shirts on as they walk up the steps. It’s not because they don’t understand that shorts and no shirt would be cooler… it’s that it DOESN’T MATTER. There is a code of conduct to be followed when you’re at a Buddhist temple. They understand what they can and can’t do at a temple.

Most tourists

1.) Don’t give it a thought.

2.) Don’t bother to find out.

3.) Do as they do in their own country.


4.) Do as they do all over Thailand the same as they do in Pattaya and Patong beach.

Would you take your shirt off at the Vatican? I’ve not been there – but I couldn’t imagine it being standard operating procedure.

It’s not OK to drive your motorbike away from Ao Nang beach with your shirt off.

It’s not OK to walk down Chao Fa road without a shirt.

It’s not OK for women to go topless at Nopparat Thara beach or ANY beach in Thailand that isn’t well secluded from people.

It is not OK for you to touch Buddhist objects with your hands…

Yesterday I saw something more outrageous than even what I mentioned already…

I saw a woman at the top of the mountain at Wat Tum Sua put her bare foot up against a Buddhist statue so she could lean in further to get a better photo! Really!

I didn’t have time to pull my camera out and get the shot – but from now on I’ll have it ready everytime I go up. It’s nuts what tourists are doing all over Thailand.

Visitors to Thailand – have some respect and find out what is OK behavior and what is not. Thais’ don’t go to your country and piss on your crucifixes you know?

Krabi is full of things to do from adventure to getting comatose on a beach bar stool. Up to you.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

8 thoughts on “Foreign Visitors to Buddhist Temples in Thailand (Please take note)”

  1. A very thoughtful guide you’ve posted here! I think it’s irresponsible to visit another country without reading up on their traditions and social customs beforehand.

  2. Sawatdee krop khun Vern
    First time I see your blog here..very good. I’m American, engineer, living in Rayong for six months on work permit for a project with a large biochemical firm at their facilities here. I’m 57, caucasian, single, father/grandfather. I love Thailand and am grateful for this assignment. Like you described, I’ve been pretty shocked by fareng who obviously do not have enough respect for this culture to respect even the most rudimentary cultural mores. I was born/raised Catholic, but I highly respect the Buddhist traditions and practices by the Thai’s. So far I’ve seen a pretty wide spectrum of Thai behavior; made close friends with several, had one pick my wallet out of my back pocket while i was casually strolling down Walking Street in Pattaya. Crime is here, too, just like America. But vast majority of Thai’s I have found to be very ready to show kindness and mutual respect: If you have a little in your heart to start with, they will quickly sense that and reflect it back tenfold. If you are a jerk, you will also get that reflected back to you..mostly in subtle ways that you may not even notice. I hate that some Americans, Europeans, Russians, Indians, and other ethnic groups visiting here seem to be aggressively rude toward Thai’s. I’m grateful that most or all of my Thai friends do not see me in the same light as the jerks with their shirts off on the streets or around the temples; I’m not special or being arrogant. I just show respect and kindness; that is the ‘language’ they understand and ‘speak’. You do not have to speak much Thai. A smile a simple wei, kup will earn you rapid acceptance. Of course, a lot of them want your money..what else do you expect from a nation only recently emerging from third world status?

    I have made friends with a very nice Thai lady who is my Thai teacher and I am her english teacher. Very simple Thai and english words, but fun to learn. There is something very charming, simple, and magical about the relationship with her. This is the Thailand I will chose to remember..and not the sin city chaos that is Pattaya.

    This is a great country. I will not change my mind about them, even though the thief in Pattaya took over 2000 baht, my Amex and ATM and Visa cards, pics of my grandkids, other personal items that were in that wallet and it’s screwed me over pretty well in the meantime…I will chose to remember my Thai lady friend asking me how to pronounce “delicious” in english as she said “pho cha cha..” (speak slowly) in Thai to me.

    korp kun kup,
    “Snake Teacher”

    1. Yes – I think she was saying “poodt cha cha” – speak slowly… thais don’t pronounce the last syllable much. Specifically, they don’t aspirate it like Americans do.

      I think you’re spot on with your assessment. Show them respect and you get it. Yep, there is crime everywhere. I’ve had hondas and acuras broken into back in the usa – and had my home broken into here – twice. So, not a big problem, just roll with the punches.

      It’s fun to learn Thai when you have a good teacher. Seems like you found the right one.

      Good luck to you – and thanks for reading the blog. Cheers… Vern

  3. Honestly this seems a little pig headed…I understand it may offend you or it perhaps does not follow some code of conduct that to me is probably baseless. Simply tell them or inform them of there misgiving. Do not simply assume them as dumb blokes. I bet if you came to America or any other country you would do something abnormal or strange. Also… why does one need to wear a shirt? Any actual legit reason? (do not reply “it is disrespectful…” ) Why is it disrespectful? I have high respect for buddhism not that i can say that for any other religion but… really? do not have baseless practices or beliefs.

  4. I’m a American monk in Thailand.. I don’t understand these people’s behaviour either. Even when you see Thai men and women come into a Temple in shorts, it’s still not a good policy. These people who do this are just lax in their behavior. Don’t follow their actions. Dress appropriately. Be respectful. Putting your hands and/or feet on a Buddha image is not respectful. Drinking alcohol on the temple grounds is not respectful. Taking your shirt off on temple grounds is idiotic. Come on… use what little brains you have and show some respect.

  5. Yeah, too bad no one enforces the restrictions. Maybe it will be necessary to put up BIG signs at the entrance of the wats explaining people the do’s and don’ts. Or maybe the authorities should hand them out in the airport(s) when people arrive.
    As if that’ll ever happen.

    It’s shocking and outrageous!

  6. What is it with a lot of these guys, do they think they are sexy or what?
    I guess some of them with their stinky armpits and hairy chests actually believe the local girls get turned on when they see them!
    Sometimes, i really wish the cops would enforce the law and arrest those who are in a habit of walking in town topless. The fine would be 500baht!
    Now, fook me, the cop station would be raking it in down Pattaya way!

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