Since Koh Phangan generally caters to tourists, the people here kindly tolerate Western-style behavior and dress. However within Khao Tham we are part of traditional Thai culture, which is much more conservative than you might expect if most of your Thailand experience is as a tourist. In addition, the Khao Tham grounds are adjacent to a traditional Thai Buddhist monastery, and the monks must follow strict precepts in their practice — many more than the mere eight that we follow during retreat.
Out of our sincere respect for our Thai hosts, the honoured monks, and also for our own practice when we are on retreat here, we must at all times:
- Dress properly — this means that body should be covered from neck to knees, including shoulders and upper arms. Details on the Dress Code page.
- Remove your shoes when entering a temple anywhere, or any building on the grounds (including the meeting/dining hall).
- The feet are considered a very low and dirty part of the body. Never point your feet towards Buddha’s image, or towards a teacher. It is rude to point your feet towards anyone.
- Behave mindfully and quietly when anywhere on the grounds. This includes loud talking. hugging/kissing, and other physical demonstrations.
- Teachers and older persons are to be respected in Thai culture. We do not argue with them or interrupt them. Don’t worry, there are ways to share our ideas with them, without abruptness and confrontation.
- You may take photos of a temple and buddha statues, but do not sit next to or stand next to a statue, or place anything on it.
Here is a nice article about how to behave at Thai temples, at TripSavvy.
Other good sources for learning about Thai culture are: