Getting Along in Thailand:
Thailand is justly celebrated for its tolerance and hospitality and the average tourist will have no difficulty in adjusting to the local customs. All the same, as when coming into any unfamiliar society, a visitor may find it helpful to be aware of certain do's and don'ts and thus avoid giving accidental offense. Basically, most of these are simply a matter of common sense and good manners - not really all that different from the way one would behave in one's own country - but a few are special enough to be pointed out.
The Thai peole have a deep traditional reverence for their Royal Family and a visitor should also be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children. In a cinema for example, a portrait of the King is shown during the playing of the national anthem and the audience is expected to stand. When attending some public event at which a member of the Royal Family in present, the best guide as to how to behave is probably to watch the crowd and do what it does.
When visiting a religious place
- Dress neatly. Don't go shirtless or in shorts, pants or other unsuitable attire. If you look at the Thais around you, you'll see the way they would prefer you to be dressed which, in fact is probably not very different from the way you'd dress in similar place back home.
- It's acceptable to wear shoes while walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Don't worry about dirt when you have to take them off; the floors of such places are usually clean.
- In a Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women should be well-covered with slacks or a long skirt, a longsleeved blouse buttoned to the neck and a scarf over the hair. All should remove their shoes before entering the mosque and should not be present if there is a religious gathering.
- Buddhist priests are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Or in case of a woman who wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of him and the woman will lay down the material on the robe which is being held at one end by the monk or novice.
- All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred objects. Hence, don't climb up on one to take a photograph or generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.
The do's and don'ts of Thai social behavior are less clearly defined than those concerning the monarchy or relogion - especially in a city like Bangkok where Western customs are better known and more widely accepted. However, what is acceptable in Bangkok may be much less so in the countryside where the old ways are still strong. Here, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Thais don't normally shake hands when they greet one another but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person wais an older, who returns it.
- It's considered rude to point your foot at a person, so try to avoid doing so when sitting opposite anyone and following the concept that the foot is a low limb, don't point your foot to show anything to anyone, but use your finger instead.
- Thais regard the heads as the highest part of the body, both literally and figuratively. As a result they don't approve of patting anyone there, even in a friendly gesture.
- Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
- Don't be surprised if you are addressed by your first name as for instance, Mr. Bob or Miss Mary - instead of by your surname. This is because Thais refer to one another in this manners, usually with the title "Khun" (Mr., Mrs. or Miss) in front.
Advice to Visitors:
1. Visitors are advised to use the Authorized Transportation Service for transfer from airport to town and other areas. Taxis are availble and an air-conditioned bus service costing 70 baht per person has been recently introduced.
2. Those who need help on accommodations, consult the Thai Hotel Association counter located next to the Transportation Service counter.
3. Beware of unauthorized persons who offer to take you around. Contact any reliable travel agents for a guide or Tourism Autherity of Thailand (TAT) counters for all tourist information.
4. Visitors are advised to use hotel taxi service at their hotel if they do not know their way around or can't speak local language.
5. Observe all normal precautions as regard to personal safety, as well as the safety of your belongings. Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended. Be sure that all your valuables - money, jewelry, airline tickets - are properly protected from loss.
6. Travel information is obtainable at Tourism Authority of Thailand counters located within the incoming passenger lounge Tel: 523 8973-3 and at the Main Office, 327 Bamrung Muang Rd. Tel. 226 0060 during working hours.
7. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, security, unethical practices or other matters, please call Tourist Assistance Center immediately at these telephone number: 281 5051, 282 8129 or contact Tourist Police Tel: 652 1721-6 or 1699.
8. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand.
A great variety of souvenirs made from local products are available at fair prices in Thailand. For those who have not got very much time and do not want to bother bargaining, certain items are available at fixed prices in several department store while a bargain can be made at small shops or with street vendors. Some of the preferred items include silk products, leather products, silverware, ceramics and wood products.
Jewellery and gemstones from Thailand are also a favourite item for many visitors to the kingdom. Their beauty, quality craftmanship and reasonable price have earned Thai precious and semi-precious stones a worldwide reputation. Yet occasionally, there have been visitors who complained about the action of few unethical jewellers who persuaded them to purchase jewellely at an unreasonable price.
Through the cooperation of the Thai Gem and Gewellery Trades Association (TGJTA) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Jewel Fest Club has been established so that visitors to Thailand who purchase gems and jewellery in the Kingdom are protected.
It is listed that establishments displaying this Emblem of Standard be patronized.
When you purchase an item of jewellery from a store that is clearly identified as a member of the Jewel Fest Club, your purchase will be duly recorded, and a certificate datailing your purchase will be issued. Not only does this certificate of authenticity clearly state the nature and price of your purchase, it also guarantees a refund less 10% if you return the merchandise to the point of sale within 30 days. A refund less 20% is guaranteed if the items are reeturned after 30 days but within 45 days of purchase.
For information on a regular list of the Jewel Fest Club's members, visitors may look at www.tourismthailand.org or contact the Jewel Fest Club (Tel: 267-5233-7, 235-3039 Fax. 267-5238, 235-3040)
Information from: Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Dos and Don'ts of Thailand