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Your Guide: Thailand Temple Etiquette

A tour through Thailand’s temples is an adventurer’s dream come true! Some of the earliest buildings date back to the 16th century and are as grand as they are intricate. Take in the story-filled art at Bangkok’s Grand Palace, meditate atop a breezy mountain on Phuket Island, and marvel at the gold exterior of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Each temple’s distinct character represents another facet of the rich history of Thailand.

Today, over 94% of Thailand’s population follows the Theravada School of Buddhism. As an eager explorer, you’ll want to know how to respect temple culture to fully immerse yourself in the Thai experience.

 Here are our dos & don’ts to keep in mind before taking your first step onto temple grounds: 

1. Do leave expectations at the door 

Temples in Thailand are as diverse as the people and their designs may surprise you. Close your eyes and you might picture elegant gold and red silhouettes of centuries-old shrines. But did you know temples can be adorned with surprising details? One of the most famous temples in Thailand, Wat Rong Khun, features large murals inspired by science fiction and superhero movies. The references to Star Wars, The Matrix trilogy and Batman are controversial among Thai people. However, architect Chalermchai Kositpipat is revered for his contemporary take on the Buddhist aesthetic.

Kositpipat’s design celebrates Buddha’s spirit in every detail. Pictured to the left, the white exterior was chosen to represent the importance of purity in Buddha’s teachings. Ubosot, the main part of the temple, is embellished with thousands of mirror pieces to symbolize the pure path to enlightenment.  

2. Don’t overlook small details

Take your time to embrace the stories every temple tells. Thai art is a great way to learn more about the history of Buddhism in Thailand. Wat Phra Kaew is a gleaming cluster of towers that light up the Bangkok skyline. It’s also home to one of the largest Buddhist art collections in the country. The Palace’s elaborate Ramakien murals are a must-see! The paintings depict the Hindu story of King Rama. His triumph over evil inspired the early development of Theravada Buddhism. Ramakien’s complex story is still taught in schools and is widely considered a national literary epic.

Pictured to the right is a mural of King Rama’s palace that you can see at Wat Phra Kaew.

3. Do take a moment to reflect

Buddhism is all about mindfulness and self-reflection. When walking up the lush Nakkerd Hills of Phuket Island, it is easy to think the 45-meter-tall Big Buddha is just a statue of a happy man hanging in the sun. But, the serene environment created at temples and shrines is an extension of the Buddhist faith. These are spaces to remember the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

Before making your way to Big Buddha’s plateau, pay respect to the golden shrine with a moment of silence to reflect. If you feel inclined, you can place an offering of candles, flowers or incense. Then look out to the Andaman Sea and reflect on personal enlightenment and the teachings that Buddha statues symbolize.  

Temple rules 

Some temples are stricter than others, but not to worry! Study this checklist so you can be embraced as a courteous visitor:  

Dress modestly, with knees and shoulders covered 

Avoid public displays of affection 

Remove your shoes

Don’t touch or sit next to monks 

Don’t point at objects or fellow patrons 

Don’t use your phone during prayer 

A parting piece of wisdom:

Want to say hello to a monk?

There’s a special way to acknowledge a monk, called a wai. With your elbows tucked into your sides, press your palms together at your chest and lower your head near the top of your fingers. Take note—monks are not required to return the gesture! 


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Authentic Thailand & Phuket

From the picture-perfect landscapes and soft sand beaches to the opulent temples and royal palaces, Thailand is packed full of riches. Dart through the noisy hustle and bustle of modern life in Chiang Mai on a Tuk-Tuk. Peer into the lives of Thai royalty at the Grand Palace and Ayutthaya Historical Park. Splash around in the tranquil waters of a 1,500-metre-long waterfall, in a pond with an elephant, and on the pristine beaches of Phuket. Sample the wide range of traditional Thai flavours, effortlessly blending savoury, spicy and sweet. Run your hands over artisan-made silks and teak carvings. Awaken all your senses at once in this timeless paradise.

October, 2024
February & March 2025

18 days



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