Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grand Palace in Bangkok: Dress Code, Chinese Tourists and Buddha is not for Tattoo and Furniture

I admit, it does exasperate me when people remain or just felt like to be naïve when it comes to dress codes and visiting temples, official palaces, churches and formal places.

Proper dressing is the standard when going to these places, and outside the western world this means no showing off of too much skin and no over the top dressing. You do not really have to wear a tent over your body or dress up like a conservative mama. Just keep your breasts, shoulders and upper legs to yourself. That simple.

The Rule is Simple: Cover your Breasts – Shoulders – Upper Legs

Which is why carrying a shawl is always handy if you are in tropical or too warm countries where you need to wear sleeveless shirts as basic attire. The shawl is a fast band aid solution to cover your bosom and shoulders.

When we entered the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the queue to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles was so long, I initially thought the building was an attraction itself!? But rather, it is where you rent clothing to cover your bare shoulders, chest and legs. These people queuing up just lost half an hour to an hour for something they could have avoided in the first place, had they read or research information in advance.

So lesson learned. Keep your bikinis, skimpy shorts and cleavage-rich blouses in your closet. Wear them in Thailand when you are not visiting palaces and temples.

Dress guidelines of the Grand Palace applies not only to women, but also to men.

The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles is where you can loan clothing to cover your body parts. It is right next to the entrance of the main gate.

Chinese Mass Tourism

The second thing we noticed when we entered the Grand Palace were the crowds. Wow, we were not expecting to meet mobs of tourists really. We thought it was insane? I had to collect myself from my astonishment, then I stood in the middle of the street to take pictures. I was in total awe. 14 years ago this kind of crowd madness did not exist here! The Grand Palace looks like a market place now. I have not really seen this scale of mass tourism. Times have indeed changed. Oh, Venice and Rome are runner ups though.

What makes it more interesting is that the amount of group tours present in the palace grounds were just incredible. About 90% of them were Chinese group tours. I heard from the cab driver that they come to the Grand Palace everyday in bus loads.

This old limping man wins the award of the best tourist of the day at the Grand Palace. I do not think I would go travelling around if I had his condition, so respect.

We’ve seen a lot of the viral videos and news articles going around the internet about how badly Chinese tourists behave. We have been the brunt of this as well in the Grand Palace. I had to keep telling a group of ladies not to stand on the tomb pavillion where we were sitting. Many were talking loudly and shouting at each other, whilst some had to elbow their way to get the perfect spot for a selfie.

No one can really blame the Chinese tourists though. This is what happens when a country experiences sudden economic boost. Everyone wants to buy material things they did not have before and they all want to travel, splurge and enjoy life. It’s perfectly normal, it is part of the grand scheme of the social and economic pecking order of success, or progress if you wish. We all evolve... especially when we have the means.

In addition, China has liberally acknowledged the rude behaviours of some of its citizens and has adopted new measures such as introducing new travel guidelines and etiquettes, as well as enacting a law that bans an individual from travelling for a time when a misdemeanour is committed.

But China is not just like any country, it is a huge mass of land with thousands, perhaps millions of new upper middle class citizens who cannot wait to spend. It is the country that produces a lot of millionaires these days.

Here is a video I took:

We took refuge and sat on a tomb pavillion. You can sit on the tomb but not stand on it. The heat, combined with the crowd and noise were too much to bear. This area is also a fave gathering of Chinese tour groups. Once a Chinese tour group leaves, another comes. I wonder if this is an everyday scene at the Grand Palace?

The entrance to the palace.

The parents resting from the heat and the human chaos.

Mass tourism at its finest.

Buddha is for Respecting – Not Tattoo – Not Furniture

By law, it is forbidden to take Buddha images with you out of Thailand. If caught by customs, you face paying a fine and the confiscation of the object. Even if this law in enforced, the reality is that a huge number of tourists bring home with them a Buddha image. Well, this could have something to do with very relaxed Thai customs.

Inside the Grand Palace, we saw these texts: Buddha is for respecting. Not tattoo. Not furniture.

I actually have the face of Buddha here at home. It is outside hanging from a wall. Am I disrespecting Buddha this way? I am a bit confused and I am sure many of you are, what with all the proliferation of Buddha images in furniture shops as home decorations.

The message is very clear!

I guess what we can take away from this are the following:

  • Do not tattoo Buddha on your body and show it off in Thailand. If you do have a Buddha tattoo, cover it up when in the country, otherwise you might get a hefty fine. Worse, maybe go to jail? 
  • Do not buy Buddha stuff for home use. I read that you need a license to export any Buddha image but because the customs in Thailand are so relaxed, many people just come and go bringing with them Buddha images. Buy and bring home at your own risk then. 
  • So as not to gain the disapproval of the locals, do not come to Thailand with the face of Buddha printed on your bag, shirt or whatever. This is supposed to be disrespectful.

TIP: Respect local customs and traditions by looking around you. Get out of your own bubble. Observe and try to be discerning. Ask if in doubt.

So let’s not be an idiot and add up to the clutter of internet headlines. Foolish tourists being jailed for disrespecting a statue or mountain.You do not want your name attached and cached to that.

Go here for more pictures: Photo Essay of the Grand Palace

Flowers for the buddha.

Buddha is for respecting. Not tattoo. Not furniture.

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Rattanakosin (Historic District) - Bangkok, Thailand

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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