Places of significance to those practising or even appreciating the Buddhist religion should always be treated with respect. This means always behaving in a way which does not offend or disturb Thai people.
There is a very big difference between a commercial tourist attraction and a place of religious worship. You can visit but always be respectful.
An example of this need applies to a very special place from a Buddhist perspective just north of Cha-Am we recently visited, colloquially known as the ‘Boat Temple’ although its real name is Wat Tanodluang. There are 18 resident monks at the temple apart from a novice or two. However you’ll always find some other Thai people about paying their respects. Tourists are not really in evidence. The complex is more likely to be busy when there are Buddhist celebrations such as the ordination of new monks.
The temple was built in the Ayutthaya Period and some ruins remain from the original structures. Abbots dating back to 1869 to the present day are listed although there are no records of the founders.
The protocol for visiting this superb example of Thai Buddhist culture is really quite simple. These ‘Rules’ should apply to any temple visits:
Check with someone of authority (a Monk?) first before entering. Communication may need gestures to show your request to enter buildings or taking photographs if there is a language issue. The ‘guardians’ of the temple will soon let you know what is OK. Behave in a respectful manner and you will find your hosts most affable and welcoming.
Don’t smoke inside or nearby or take food/drinks into buildings.
The chances are you will need to remove your footwear. Just look for where others have left their shoes and follow suit. If in doubt – take them off.
Dress in a conservative way. Ladies no revealing clothing and gents always wear a shirt!
Be quiet and don’t hurry. Be as inconspicuous as you can.
Don’t touch objects of worship, including statues or other artefacts.
Treat monks with the greatest respect; this includes not touching or being too forward in your approach.
Don’t take photos of religious observance by others, it’s private.
All this shouldn’t be too hard; it’s a bit like entering a Christian cathedral. Enjoy your visit but remember where you are!
About The Boat Temple
The main feature of this place is the appearance of the main building called the Mahusot or ordination hall.
This building is clearly in the shape of a VERY large boat hull with a more traditional Thai temple as the ‘superstructure’. This may best be seen from the main road and the best photographic opportunity. The inspiration for this structure is the importance of the local fishing villages nearby, though the design was based on a temple a long way from the ocean. We’re not sure why that temple also looked like a boat?
There are gates protecting the entrance to the building with colourful gilded circular plates leading to stairs onto the ‘deck’. Entering the inside of the building from the ‘deck’ of the boat will probably need an escort from a Monk who is assigned as the day’s guardian. On our visit we were invited to enter without our request by a Monk who proved to be a very hospitable ‘tour guide’. He pointed out the magnificent marble base of the shrine and mentioned that the cost of this alone was said to be in the vicinity of 100 million THB. At the rear of the building is a huge mural based on drawings made by His Majesty the King of Thailand.
Where is it?
Take the road from Cha-Am North past the Cha-Am Hospital and follow the signs towards Phuktien Beach. About 5 kilometres on and you will see the temple on the left hand side of this road. Very easy to see and find!
Because this is a real working Buddhist precinct, off the tourist map and a true example of Thai culture.