If you are coming to Thailand to visit the amazing temples and monasteries that you see on the television. There are some things that the documentaries don’t always mention. There are various ways to act and rules that everyone is expected to follow when visiting a Thai Buddhist temple. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:
Question: Is there a dress code?
Answer: Absolutely. Before entering any Buddhist temple it is important to remember to have on the correct clothing. Spaghetti straps, tank tops, and shorts are frowned upon and not permitted. When visiting the temple it is also customary to remove your hat and shoes before entering.
Question: Are foreigners allowed to pray too, or is that a Thai thing only?
Answer: If you feel the urge to pray at a temple and can figure out what you are doing nobody will frown upon a foreigner joining the service. It is recommended that if you wish to choose that path that you find a Thai to teach you the proper things to do and proper way to conduct yourself before you attempt it alone.
Question: Is it okay to take photos with the monks?
Answer: There is a time and a place for everything. During a ceremony or while the monk is praying is not the time to try and be taking a selfie. If you should catch a monk alone walking around the complex however, most are very friendly and will not mind taking a photo with you. However, it should be noted that monks are forbidden to touch females that are not their immediate family members. At no time should you attempt to touch a monk, if the situation calls for it he will reach for you (Offerings are also passed to the monks on an offering tray to avoid contact).
Question: Can foreign males become monks?
Answer: Absolutely! If you feel drawn to don the robes and lifestyle of a monk several temples will accept foreigners. Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand will accept you even if you do not have any knowledge of Thai culture. Some people feel called to do it as there are quite a few foreigner monks in Thailand.
Question: Why only males? Can females become Monks?
Answer: Women cannot be ordained as a monk in Thailand. Some Buddhist nuns are often seen wearing white robes instead of the traditional Orange/Yellow of the Thai monk. These women also serve different roles than the male monks within the temple.
Question: Can I take photos of the monastery area?
Answer: Yes! Nobody will stop you from taking some beautiful photos of the temple. That being said, however, never try to climb on any of the statues or decorations to try to get better shots and stay on the marked paths. In Thailand it is best to avoid putting your feet on anything whenever you possibly can and putting your foot on a statue of Buddha may well be fighting worthy even if you do not know it. Feet are the lowest part of your body and the most looked down upon appendage that you have, with your head being the opposite.
It is really easy to make Thai friends. A little bit of appreciation for their country and respect for their culture will take you a long way. It is always recommended that you look at the correct attire and etiquette for the places that you intend to visit while abroad in this beautiful and welcoming country. Have more questions? Ask away!