I had a conversation with a Thai
acquaintance of mine the other day about why it is that many foreign
tourists dress so inappropriately in Chiang Mai.
“Don’t they know they are in a city?” she asked me, and wondered if they
would dress like this at home. We talked about the idea that for many of
these tourists it’s not that they are deliberately trying to offend; they
just either act unthinkingly or out of ignorance of local customs and
A foreign friend of ours suggested that local guesthouses and hotels offer
their guests pamphlets or put up signs offering advice on what to wear and
how to behave. Some think that the only time to wear appropriate clothing is
when they enter a Wat, not realizing that even being near one it is a good
idea to cover up just a bit.
Also simple cultural rules like take your shoes off when entering a temple,
not touching someone’s head, and not putting your feet up on the furniture
or using them to point are basic to Thailand and to those of us who have
made Thailand our home, it is not obvious to tourists. While some tourists
do read up on the country they visit, most skip over those little details in
their tourist guidebooks to read about the best places to stay, eat and
sites to see.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Provincial Government and the
Municipality may want to consider teaming up with the members of the Thai
Hotels Association and not only putting up some basic signs but also issuing
a brochure in several languages that can be put up around town, on planes
and buses as well as at the bus station and train station.
The cost would not be that high and I am sure that the TAT could elicit the
help of local media and foreign residents in coming up with an appropriate
list of Do’s and Don’ts for Chiang Mai in a few languages.
As my friend pointed out, they aren’t on the beach, men should wear shirts
and women should not walk around in bikinis. I had to answer that while some
of these people would do this at home, the majority would not, it’s just
that tourists on holidays don’t always think things through.