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When I was traveling through Thailand with my best friend, we learned a lot from locals. Many people just start talking to you, even if they don’t speak a word of English. The Thai people are friendly, and we got randomly invited many times in people their homes. There was even a celebration at a temple where we could join the celebration.
Below I will write down some things I learned from the locals. I don’t know if the information is true or not it’s just what we heard from the locals. Here it goes.
The temples in Thailand
A temple in Thailand is called “Wat”. Only boys can become monks. Monks may only eat what they are given. They live off alms that people donate to the monastery. A woman doesn’t become a monk, but she becomes a nun.
No shoes are allowed in a temple or house. The feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest parts of the body. Certainly, never point with your feet to a shrine. The head on the other hand is the highest part and is not to be touched. The head is considered the most sacred, the purest.
In the temples you should be dressed decently i.e., no bare shoulders or knees.
Tip: buy a sarong. It’s a skirt like a scarf that you can bind around your waist. You can buy this at a market. Never buy it near the temples because those are more expensive and less beautiful.
You should never use Buddha as a decoration or as a tattoo!
Thai rituals that you must know
There are many rituals in Thailand. Below I will give the rituals I learned from locals:
- Bells outside a Wat (temple) must be rung three times to scare away evil spirits.
- The Thai kneel in front of a Buddha statue while shaking a quiver filled with wooden sticks that are labeled with a number. They believe that while praying, good luck and prosperity flow into the sticks. After the prayer, they take the stick that is sticking out or has fallen out. After the shaking they look for the number on a stand full of printed sheets. The bills predict what the future holds for the reader.
- When a monk blesses you with a kind of reed and water, it protects you from anger and illness. You get a bracelet afterwards which stands for protection.
- After praying, when leaving the temple, you must shake your hands (against each other) three times forward. This means respect for Buddha.
- The yellow-green undeveloped lotus flowers placed on the altar in a temple is of great value to the Thai. The lotus represents the path one must take to reach the state of enlightenment. The lotus develops from the mud: the unclean, dark period of suffering. In the pure, open air, the flower unfolds, symbolizing the stage where the human spirit reaches the state of enlightenment through the acquisition of insight.
- If you see two red logs shaped in a half moon, this is called Jiaobei or moon blocks. They are made of wood or bamboo and each block is round on one side, yin side, and flat on the other side, the yang side. They use the logs to guide themselves in the form of a yes or no question. First you purify the blocks by spinning them three times around the incense burner. The two half blocks should then be held against each other in the palms of your hands. The querent kneels and says their name, birth, residence, and the question. After asking the question to the gods, the blocks are dropped to the floor. When one flat side is facing upwards and the other downwards it means that your answer is ‘yes’. If round sides are facing up, this means ‘no’. If both flat sides are up this meaning the gods are laughing at the question. It can mean a ‘no’ answer, the answer to the question is too obvious or the question was unclear. If it’s on the side, it means the question is unclear and the procedure must be repeated. When the blocks are being used alone you must throw the blocks three times to maintain accuracy of the deity’s answer. The moon blocks can be used separately for an answer or accompanied by fortune sticks to clear an oracle.
- The Thai rub wafer-thin precious metal on a Buddha statue or other sacred object to appease spirits or in the hope that a wish will come true.
- Phrakhrueang are Thai Buddha amulets. They are small effigies of Buddha worn by Thai boys. The Thai believe that the amulets protect them from physical harm, misfortune, and disaster. A monk will give an amulet to a Buddhists when they donate money or offers to the temple. The amulet is a sort of “gift”. They help to enhance luck in life.
- “San Phra Phum” or Thai spirit house (small houses you see everywhere in Thailand) are intended as replacement living quarters for the spirits of the plot who might feel driven away by the construction of a house or office. It’s to worship the spirit. By placating the spirits with gifts, townspeople hope to prevent them from exerting an evil influence on passersby and causing traffic accidents.
We learned much more from the locals, but I would suggest you talk with them and learn from them. It’s the most amazing thing about traveling to listen and learn from the locals. If you want to learn more about Thailand read my blog What to know about Thailand. Are you curious what you should visit read the blog Ultimate backpacking guide in Thailand.