Last updated: 10:00 PM ET, Thu May 12 2016

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  • A Cruising Couple | May 12, 2016 10:00 PM ET

    9 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Buddhist Temples

    9 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Buddhist Temples

    In anticipation of our upcoming trip to Thailand, we’re counting down the days until we get to visit intricate temples and sacred spaces such as the famed Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok and Wat Suan Dok in Chang Mai. We loved experiencing the mesmerizing atmosphere of temples during our last visit to Asia; we also believe visiting sacred spots is one of the best ways to get an insider look at the ancient traditions of a destination.

    Unfortunately, all too often when we visit a temple, we see fellow tourists disrespecting the local culture through their attire and dress. We know we’ve also made mistakes on our travels, often when we don’t do the proper research prior to our trip.

    Before you get ready to visit a temple or holy site, it’s crucial to know a few dos and don’ts. Many temples have a strict dress code, and you may even be denied access if you don't meet the requirements. After all, it would be a shame to go halfway across the world only to be turned down at the door.

    This list is specific to Buddhist temples, but many of the tips apply to sacred sites around the world, especially temples for various religions in Asia.

    No Short Pants and No Sleeveless Shirts

    Sarong Ladies

    Photo by Shenghung Lin via Flickr

    Even in the blistering heat of Southeast Asia, it is typically mandatory to have your legs and shoulders covered. One of the best ways to do this is by covering up with a sarong. The thin fabric keeps you cool while covering your legs and arms. Some of the more visited temples even have sarongs at the entrance gates for rent.

    Take Off Your Hat and Sunglasses

    Show respect when entering temples and places of worship by removing your hat and sunglasses before you go inside.

    Be Respectful When Photographing

    Sri Vidhyashankar Temple.

    Photo by Prabhu B Doss via Flickr

    While some temples allow photography, make sure that the one you are visiting is OK with it. If they do allow photography, do everyone else a favor and make certain the flash doesn't fire. Also, be mindful that the monks and worshipers are there to pay homage; use your best judgment before snapping a photo of someone having an intimate moment of worship or respect.

    Turn Off Your Phone

    Nobody needs to hear your hotline bling ringtone blasting through the sacred silence. Switch your phone to silent or, better yet, turn it off completely and enjoy the moment.

    Back Away From The Buddha Statue

    Giant in the trees

    Photo by Carla Cometto via Flickr

    It can sometimes be considered rude to turn your back on Buddha. After walking up and admiring a Buddha statue, do your best to take a few steps and then back away slowly instead of immediately turning your back to it.

    Be Mindful Of Worshipers

    While you are staring up in wonder, keep in mind that you may be in a prime prayer spot for locals coming to worship. Be aware of your surroundings and try to blend in without getting in the way.

    Remove Your Shoes

    North Korea - Shoes

    Photo by Roman Harak via Flickr?

    Though not a requirement for all temples, some may ask you to remove your shoes in exchange for slippers or going barefoot.

    Don't Raise Yourself Higher Than Buddha

    Buddha Statue

    Photo by Greg Walters via Flickr

    As in many cultures, the most honorable gets the highest position. Don't raise yourself higher than the Buddha statue. Also, if you get the chance to sit down with some monks, make sure that they are on a higher level than you.

    Step Over the Wooden Threshold to the Temple

    The wooden threshold isn't meant to be a step, so walk over it when you are entering the temple. Some temple doorways will also have short entrances which require you to duck or bow to enter, another way of showing respect.

    These are the primary dos and don’ts we always keep in mind before visiting temples. Have you visited sacred places in a foreign country? Did you come across any rules that aren't mentioned here?


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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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