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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


Tourists in Chiang Mai

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 culture.

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.

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Tourists in Chiang Mai