‘Wat’ (Not) to Wear to the Thai Temples

‘Wat’ (Not) to Wear to the Thai Temples

It’s no secret that packing for a holiday is difficult. I often over pack and I never properly think about where I will be visiting beforehand, so I’m normally underprepared for whatever shenanigans I get up to. However, for my trip to Thailand I took my wardrobe into a little more consideration as I knew I would be visiting some of the most famous Thai temples in Bangkok, and I like to be considerate of their dress codes. It’s all part of having respect for a culture and just being a decent tourist in general, which I always try to be. But we can all make mistakes, and I’m sharing mine (as well as my successes), so you know what to wear to a Buddhist temple in Thailand.

Sanctuary of Truth, Thailand, Hannah International

Hanging my head in shame, and covering said shame with a sarong.

In short, and for fear of sounding like your nan, put some more clothes on. Covering up when visiting the temples is essential. Short-shorts, strappy vest tops and cleavage-bearing dresses are big no-nos when visiting the religious sites in Thailand (and most religious attractions across the globe, to be honest) – it’s obvious enough to say that I feel like I shouldn’t have to. But, to be embarrassingly honest, I forgot this simple rule when visiting my first religious site of the trip; Prasat Sut Ja-Tum. I turned up in a modest t-shirt, but paired it with short denim shorts and was refused entry unless I tied a sarong around my waist to cover my bare legs.

If you forget to cover up, you will be made to cover up, or refused entry.

So, in light of my mistake, I amended my wardrobe for the remainder of my trip. I hadn’t been so thoughtless as to not pack some longer trousers for my trips to the temples in Bangkok – I had simply been a little careless when dressing for the Sanctuary of Truth – so I can also give you good examples of what to wear when visiting a Thai temple.

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand, Hannah International

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, Hannah International

~ Think Hippie ~

It can be difficult to choose what to wear when visiting a hot country. If you’re anything like me you sweat buckets when the thermometer reaches even 10C, so the thought of covering up in 30C+ weather is not pleasant. However, think hippie with your summer holiday outfit choices, and get loose and flowy with your clothes. I bought these wide, loose-leg trousers from Homeplus (F&F) for under 10,000W and lived in them for both my trip to Thailand and the summer in Korea. Loose-leg trousers are perfect, especially if, like me, you suffer from a little bit o’ the old chub rubIf you’re not so femurly blessed, long skirts – think mid to maxi-length – are both airy and respectful.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, Hannah International

T-shirts fo’ dayz

To go on top, a loose t-shirt or blouse is ideal. For five days in the Thai capital, I packed three or four different t-shirts to go with my loose trousers. I made sure they weren’t too low-cut, that they covered my shoulders, and that they didn’t stick to my skin (though that was more for my own comfort than anything else). T-shirts are perfect for dressing up in the evening, especially if they’re plain, and they can be worn tucked into both your hippie trousers and your flowy maxi-skirt (as well as the elephant print harem trousers you picked up at Chatuchak Market that you got swindled 500THB for).

I had the extra concern when I was there that Thailand was still in a period of mourning, as well as the King’s birthday coming up. I was a little worried that my bright red t-shirt would be too much, but I wasn’t turned away from anywhere, even on his actual birthday. Just in case, though, I recommend researching the time period that you’re visiting in, especially if it’s around the anniversary of an important death.

TL;DR? Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Cover up. Buddha doesn’t want to see your knees and cleavage and sunburned (hopefully sun-creamed) shoulders. Long trousers, skirts, and modest t-shirts are the way to go.
  2. Think hippie. Loose, flowy clothing is not only modest, but it also helps to not make you suffer in the heat as much as jeans or an extra jacket would.
  3. Dress nicely, but not too flashy. This is to be on the safe side, but you never know if you might be turned away for being to loud or garish on an important day that you didn’t know about.
  4. If all else fails, sarong up! Sarongs are lightweight, cheap, and serve multiple purposes, so if you want to be the most safe, keep one with you at all times that you could throw on as a makeshift skirt or shawl.

Read all the posts in my Bangkok & Pattaya travel series here:

Bangkok & Pattaya | Travel Series
Sanctuary of Truth | Prasat Sut Ja-Tum ปราสาทสัจธรรม
Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha | วัดโพธิ์
Hostel Review: Chao Hostel, Bangkok
‘Wat’ (Not) to Wear to the Thai Temples

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