Thai Smiles – A Guide To What NOT To Do in Thailand

Thailand is a land of respect and “non-confrontational culture” where losing your cool is frowned upon and everything revolves around keeping a smile on your face.  This is a list of what NOT to do in Thailand!  Follow it if if you want to keep those Thai Smiles on the local’s faces.  Mistakes happen, but trying goes a long way in keeping the locals on your side!

What NOT To Do in Thailand – A Guide to Thai Smiles

1 – Disrespect The Royal Family:

A Guide to Thai Smiles - What NOT To Do in Thailand

The Thai Monarchy is all-powerful in Thailand.  As a foreigner, you shouldn’t voice any opinions about the King unless they are very positive.  You should always give the Royal family your utmost respect.  This includes not staring at posters of the King, standing up in the theater when the pre-movie film about the King is played, and standing still at 8am and 6pm when the national anthem is played over every speaker in Thaialnd.

2 – Get Upset:

Getting visibly angry or annoyed is considered bad form in Thailand.  Keeping that Thai smile on your face is the best way to get the most out of a bad situation.  Thai culture is based on respect and it goes both ways.  It isn’t always easy, especially when you come from a place like the United States where you get upset with people every day.  Test it out the next time you are about to lose your cool; a little respect goes a long way.

3 – Leave Your Shoes On:

what not to do in thailand

Going into someone’s house or business usually requires you to take off your shoes.  Thai people (and most Asian countries) think that shoes are super gross.  If you see shoes at the front door, leave yours there too.  It’s handy to wear sandals everywhere, making the removal process a lot easier.

4 – Ride the Elephants:

thai smiles - don't ride elephants

Elephants belong in nature, not cooped up as vehicles for your enjoyment.  Most of the elephants that are ridden were taken from their mothers as babies, broken of their animal spirit and destined to miserable lives in cages.  DO NOT RIDE elephants, EVER.  Also, many of the elephant “sanctuaries” are just zoos where the animals are treated very poorly for the enjoyment of uneducated tourists.  There are several places in Thailand that have more ethical sanctuaries, however these are a small majority and in general you must question the reason that any elephant is not in the wild.

5 – Eat Shark Fin:

no shark fin soup - thai smiles

Many places in Bangkok, especially Chinatown, serve shark fin.  When the sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and the rest of the fish is thrown back into the sea.  This is a very wasteful and unethical practice.  Sharks are one of the most important parts of the ocean ecosystem and when their population declines it reeks havoc on all aspects of sea life.  World fish populations are in drastic decline throughout the world, reduced by more than 50% since 1970.  Keeping the top predators alive and thriving is the best way to support healthy marine environments.

6 – Touch the Monks:

what not to do in bangkok thai smiles dont touch monks

Monks should be treated with the utmost respect.  Never should you touch a monk, and always give them space in a crowded situation.  Most transportation systems have special seats for monks so they can avoid contact with others.  This is especially important for women.  A woman touching a monk can bring the monk great shame and hurt his standing among the other monks.  Women should also never hand anything directly to a monk, but instaed hand it to a man first who then hands it to the monk.  Your best bet is to giv them as much space as you can to avoid awkward situations.

7 – Dress Inappropriately in the Temple:

A Guide to Thai Smiles - What NOT To Do in Thailand

Temples throughout Thailand and Asia in general are places of modesty and should be treated with respect.  Men and women should wear pants below the knees, while women should always cover their shoulders and chest.  Ignoring these rules is extremely disrespectful and puts a bad face on tourists.  Also, the images of the Buddha should never be used in appropriate ways.  The Buddha should never be displayed in a bar, or put on your body in the form of a tattoo.  If you have a Buddha tattoo and it is visible when entering Thailand, Thai customs agents can deny your entry into the country and permanently ban you from entering the Kingdom.

8 – Display Affection in Public:

no kissing in thailand - thai smiles - what not to do in thailand

Thai people are very modest in public and couples should avoid displaying affection on the streets.  Holding hands is frowned upon, while kissing with tongue in public is illegal.  Keep your hands to yourself and save the smooching for your hotel room.

9 – Shake Hands:

thai smiles from mcdonalds

Shaking hands is a very western thing.  Asians are very clean people and dislike spreading germs through touch.  Opt instead for the classic Thai wai.  Many Thai people will wai you and this should generally be returned.  Do this by placing your hands like a prayer at your chest and bowing your head until your nose touches your finger tips.  Don’t wai people of lower social status than you, as this is embarrassing to everyone around you.  This includes waiters, service people, and anyone who is obviously younger than you.   Don’t forget those Thai smiles with your wai!!!

10 – Point at People:

Pointing at things or especially people should is considered extremely rude in Thailand.  This is especially true when pointing with your feet. Use your head to direct attention in a certain direction.

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There are more things that could have been added to this list.  For instance, it’s bad luck to whistle at night, don’t dress sloppy, and don’t push too hard for the best deal.  The most important thing is to always keep those Thai smiles on your face and things will work out just fine!

Enjoy this post about what NOT to do in Thailand – a guide to Thai smiles? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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Ayutthaya Temples- The Second Capital of Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand rests just north of Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River.  Founded around 1350, the city eventually became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai.  Because of it’s central location with easy access to the rest of Asia, Ayutthaya became one of the must important trading centers in the world.  By 1700 the Siamese capital was the world’s largest city with over 1 million inhabitants. Today the Ayutthaya temples and temple ruins are some of the most impressive in all of Asia, drawing huge crowds to the small city.

Ayutthaya successfully held off many western invaders and Thailand was never colonized.  However, the Burmese successfully sacked the city in 1767, riding on elephants and knocking the heads off of every Buddha statue they could find.  The occupation was short lived, as the Chinese had seized the opportunity to move their armies into Burma.  The Burmese forces retreated to their homeland with a majority of the Thai gold, burning the Ayutthaya temples in their retreat.  The following years were plagued by civil war in Siam until control was taken by King Rama I.  The founding member of the Chakri dynasty, which still reigns in Thailand to this day, Rama I relocated the Thai capital from the ruins of Ayutthaya to present day Bangkok.

Today Ayuthhaya is home to some of Asia’s greatest temples, and the history of the place is intruiguing.  The Ayutthaya tempes are an easy day trip from Bangkok by bus or train, taking less than two hours to travel by either.

Renovations at our first temple stop
An ornamental bull

We booked a room at Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe just outside the old city.  They had bikes for rent which we took advantage of and soon found ourselves among the temples.  I purchased a large rainbow bag of corn puffs which I though would be funny to cruise around with in my bike basket.  They tasted terrible and I was a bit disappointed until I was told that the puffs were actually fish food for children to throw into the river.  We went to the river and threw some in as giant catfish swarmed all around.  We laughed about this for a little while, then biked across the river to the more famous Ayutthaya temples.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

There are temples all over the city, but the best area for biking is inside the old city’s moat where the temples are more numerous.

Wat’s Up?

One of the most popular temples for tourists is Wat Mahathat which contains the famous Buddha Head in a Bodhi tree, where one of the knocked-down Buddha heads became entangled in the roots of a giant old fig tree.

Another of our favorites was Wat Ratchaburana which you could climb inside of.  After heading down a very steep set of stairs you reach the crypt which has some ancient paintings on the walls and bats in the ceiling.

Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
The view from Wat Ratchaburana.
It’s always yoga time for this aspiring yoga teacher
Headstands anyone?

Enjoy this post about Ayutthaya temples? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Here is a good website to book your transportation from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

 

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Chiang Mai : Asia’s Home for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai has long been on our list of must dos.  A hub for expats and digital nomads in Southeast Asia, we imagined it as a place we could settle down for awhile.  After a few weeks of Bangkok, we needed to get out of the big city so we purchased a cheap flight to Thailand’s north.  You can also take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but for a minimal amount more you can trade the 12 hour ride for a 1 hour flight.  On arrival around midnight we took a cheap taxi pickup truck, called a songthaew to our hostel.

The hostel, to our dismay, had forgotten our booking, which we found out right as it started to downpour.  Fortunately we found a private room right around the corner at Nomadic Guesthouse for only 200 baht per night and got ourselves some rest, ready to explore the town in the morning.

Chiang Mai roteeWe instantly loved Chiang Mai.  The vibe was so much more relaxed than our previous weeks in Bangkok, and the friendly people made us feel very welcome.  Read more

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The King of Thailand’s Funeral | Thailand Mourns

The King of Thailand's Funeral

We unknowingly arrived in Bangkok, Thailand at a strange time.  Unbeknownst to us, it was the month of the King of Thailand’s funeral.  The much loved King Rama IX had passed away a year before and the entire month of October was proclaimed to be a month of mourning, leading up to the five-day-long funeral starting on the 25th.  For the past year the most socially appropriate color to wear was black, and October was the “month of black” where that’s all most people wore.  Many entertainment events had been canceled, the clubs and bars were supposed to close early, and all celebrations were postponed including the world famous Ko Phangan Full Moon Party.  Foreigners were still arriving in droves, disappointed at the lack of activities upon showing up.The King of Thailand's FuneralSo we spent the month at work.  Zach trying to find a job and Carrie helping out Yim Yam Hostel & Garden with marketing and events.  Things were slow, but it was nice to have time to implement the volunteer program and the daily activities.  We checked out a few temples and it was fun riding around on tuk tuks, motorized rickshaws that zip though traffic as the wind blows through your hair.  We used an app called Tuk Tuk Hop (Check out our post about it) which is kinda like Uber for tuk tuks but you get unlimited rides for the day.  The temples were very crowded and it was hot and humid so by afternoon we were completely exhausted.  The Grand Palace was closed to foreigners with thousands of Thai people waiting in line to pay their last respects to their King.  A giant Royal Crematorium had been built nearby, and was to be the site of much of the funeral proceedings.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
The Crematorium at night
The King of Thailand's Funeral
Lightning over the Thai Temples

All of the shops were selling colorful elephant pants (Carrie’s favorite) but we bought more black outfits.  We wanted to blend in and be respectful.  In Thai culture, respect is everything. From the warm smiles, to the wai (hands placed together at the heart), to the use of krup and ka (males and females respectively say these words at the end of every sentence to be polite) no confrontation is the key to success.  Every morning and evening the National Anthem of Thailand plays throughout the streets over invisible speakers and everyone hurrying to or from work stops and waits respectfully until the song finishes.  The Anthem also plays before movies in the cinema, so everyone stands, not wanting to be the one out of line.  The younger generations seemed to care a little less about the funeral but for the older Thai people, who had spent their entire lives under his reign, the King of Thailand’s funeral signified an enormous change.  For better or worse, change is always scary, and the apprehension was thick in the air.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
Mourners wait to pay their final respects to their King.

The farang (foreigners) were still coming, and were surprised when they arrived.  They wore their elephant pants and walked down the street drinking Chang beer.  They asked which club was best for late night, not understanding the midnight liquor cutoff.  Of course some places were still open late, but they payed steeply for this luxury whenever the local police force came through for their nightly kickbacks.  Many people showed up at Ko Phangan, ready to rage all night for the Full Moon Party and many holidays were ruined or relocated to Cambodia.  We tried to explain to our hostel guests about the local customs such as not staring at the King’s photos and never putting your foot on money if you drop it on the ground (because his face is on all the currency).  We suggested to travelers to wear black and at least try to be respectful.

The King of Thailand's FuneralThe King of Thailand’s Funeral took over the television for nearly a month.  First they played a documentary on repeat showcasing the King’s successes, then the entire five day funeral was broadcast all day on every station.  Besides the black clothes and decorations, the city of Bangkok was covered in marigold flowers, because the color yellow was the official color of the King’s birthday.  The marigolds filled up empty spaces like seas of yellow, contrasting with the masses of black.  Life would return to normal, but only after the King could be laid to rest. The funeral involved dancing, marching, orchestras, and dignitaries from across the world attended. All businesses closed, even 7 Eleven which never closes, for the day of the cremation. Restaurants gave away free food to passers by and all the Thai people came together in a show of community that was extremely humbling.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
Yellow flowers fill the streets.

I remember a farmer in Chiang Mai who had invited us into his home to share some fruit.  After cutting the delicious passionfruit, he cleared us a spot on the table.  He moved his photo of the King to the other end, making sure it was straight and centered.  “We are sad our King is gone,” he said in Thai with a tear in his eye.  After the King of Thailand’s funeral it was socially appropriate to mourn for one more week.  Soon the clubs started to reopen, red dresses were pulled out of storage, and the giant billboard LCD screens changed from a picture of King Rama IX to 7-Eleven advertisements.  The shopping malls changed to upbeat music, and the Kings symphony, which had played on the metro and restarted at every stop, was also replaced with advertising.  The general mood of depression started to subside and laughter crept back into the streets.   The King of Thailand’s funeral was a long and tedious process, but we were glad to have witnessed it.  We saw real sadness in the people, and it really changed my opinion of the King.  He accomplished great things in his reign and the programs he started were well liked by many.  Thailand will miss King Rama, but life must go on.

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Malacca, Malaysia – Bring On The Street Food!

Our first stop in Malaysia was Malacca.  Conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, the town was one of the first sultanates and had already been a center of trade for hundreds of years.  After the Portuguese the city had many other rulers including the Dutch, British, and the Japanese during  WWII .  The city is full of different architecture styles melting together the different cultures and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Malacca

The city was quiet during the day but Friday-Sunday nights everything went out for the Jonker Walk Night Market.  Everyone piled into the street for amazing food and lots of random stuff to buy.  We tasted so many things and enjoyed ourselves a lot at the market.

Malacca
We made it to Malaysia!!!
Jonker Street, Malacca
Jonker Street Night Market – Malacca, Malaysia
Malacca
Of course there’s karaoke!
Malacca, Malaysia
Anyone need a ride? We’re suckers for bright lights.
Malacca, Malaysia
Laksa – It’s the best!  Noddles with a fishy, coconut, lemongrass, and red pepper broth.  Usually there are some fried fish pieces and a hard boiled egg!

Malacca also had a nice river where you could take boat cruises.  It was either too hot or raining whenever we wanted to do it but we can’t do everything.

Malacca river, Malaysia
Malacca River

There were temples and churches and mosques all on the same streets, everyone living together in harmony.  I know some other people in the world who could learn a think or two from that.

Malacca, Malaysia templesMalacca, Malaysia templesMalacca, Malaysia temples

Malacca, Malaysia temples
There are always tigers and dragons guarding the temple doors.

Malacca, Malaysia

Here is a giant statue dedicated to Mr Malaysia, the pride of Malaysian bodybuilding.

Malacca, Mr Malaysia
Mr Malaysia

We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this city.  It felt like a small town really.  The food was fantastic and made us super excited to explore more of the country!  Stay tuned for our trip to the big city, Kuala Lumpur!!!!

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