One of the famous two country trip itineraries has Thailand and Laos combined. Thailand is the famous neighbor who gets international visits for their beach, food, culture and religious purposes. Laos on the other hand, is the silent but interesting destination of a tranquil country-side gem. The countries have their own charm but none is inferior to another. What’s similar to them is having the same religion and belief. There may be other religions present in their country but Buddhism takes the place. Here below are the lists of things you should know before visiting the countries!
Learn basic greetings such as wai
Wai is a Thailand greeting by putting your hands together in a prayer-like fashion with a slight bow. Not only does it serve as a greeting, it is also used when thanking, apologizing or saying goodbye to another. Thais also use it in temples, spirit houses, the king’s portrait or in shrines. They are also expected to make wai with the passing monks but monks are not expected to return the greeting.
Wai has its distinctive forms. When greeting someone older, you place the tip of your hands in your nose and bow. When greeting the king, the monks and Buddha – anyone of the highest standing, place the tip of your hands into your forehead and make a bow. If one is unsure if the other party is older or not, simply putting the hands together and bowing is enough.
Don’t talk about the King
Thailand, like the UK has its monarch and royal family. It is prohibited to insult, threaten, and defame the royalty – the king, the queen, the heir apparent and or the regent. This is according to the Thai Criminal Code, Section 7. No one is allowed to talk about the royalty or one might end up behind bars for three to fifteen years instead of having a one-week vacation.
Dress appropriately when visiting temples
Religious sites such as temples, monasteries and churches often require visitors to dress appropriately by covering the shoulders and knees. This is also required when visiting Thailand’s Buddhist temples. One might as well dress appropriately at all times so that visitors can go to the nearby beautiful temples anytime.
Observe the others if they take off their shoes or not when they enter the temple and one should follow suit.
Photo by Ivan Nedelchev
Be mindful of Animal Tourism
If one of your biggest goals to travel in Thailand is to ride the elephants, you might have to think twice. Animal tourism was the craze years ago but it changed when the truth of such activities came to light. The elephants with their calves are often abused to break their ‘spirit’ so that they will not harm anyone who rides on their backs. Tigers are heavily drugged so that visitors can take photos beside them.
Avoid making rude gestures
Pointing at something or someone with your finger is rude. When pointing, point with your palm instead. Raising your feet or putting it in tables and chairs is also considered rude as it is the dirtiest part of the body. Pointing your feet at Buddha’s is also incredibly rude; you must face your feet away directly from the statue. Avoid patting anyone’s head as it is the most sacred part of the body. The general gist is that if you are not familiar, you might as well observe people around you and learn from them.
Lao people aren’t tourist-ready
By not tourist-ready, Laos is not heavily visited by international tourists unlike its neighboring countries and that communication with English is a little difficult. If you greet them with English, they respond to it with which is equivalent with their language. Learning a few of Laos’s phrases and greetings such as Sa Bai Dee instead of ‘hello’ or Khob Chai instead of ‘thank you’ will help.
Laos is mainly Buddhist
The countries Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are all mainly Buddhist. The belief was transported in the region through missionary work, marriage and trade. Like Thailand, visitors who opt to go to the temples are also required to dress appropriately by covering the knees and shoulders. Women are also not allowed to touch monks.
Photo by Poswiecie
Watch your feet
Buddhism has definitely brought the culture of watching your feet. Like Thailand, raising your feet and stepping over people in parks and temples are considered rude. Crouching instead of stepping over people who are sitting down in an area is a lot better. It is also highly discouraged to point your feet at the Buddha statues.
Transportation is cheap but slow
Laos currently doesn’t have any railways. Tuk-tuks and buses are the main transportation which is cheap but when traveling to another city, it takes several hours. Traveling from Luang Prabang to Vientiane takes 10 hours alone by bus. If you are not in a hurry and you like to travel with the surrounding views, taking the bus is just right and only costs 22 usd for each trip.
Animal Tourism is also not recommended
While there is responsible animal tourism such as sanctuaries and conservatories, it is good to bear in mind what wildlife tourism should you visit in Laos. Recently Laos has invested more into the support of rescued animals to conserve the species. Elephant Parks have introduced outdoor activities to support the local communities with the priority of protecting the elephants.
Photo by Irene Grace Tolentino
What do you think of the list? Which of these in particular do you have any unique experience with the locals? Share it with us in the comment!
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