Topless in Thailand

Mar 18th, 2008, 10:49 AM
  #1  
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Topless in Thailand

Just wonder how other travellers feel about the clear disregard to local culture on many Thai beaches concerning ladies being topless. I'm no prude, and certainly have no personal objection to topless ladies!!!!
HOWEVER, as I understand it, Thai people find this offensive and are uncomfortable with it.
Yet year after year I have to tolerate bare boosoms on the beach. Life can be a real trial sometimes!!

What happened to the old 'When in Rome'etc,etc.

On a serious note,why do people have such disregard for local customs?
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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Maybe they are following after the local custom as expressed on Patpong Road and elsewhere throughout Thailand. They may like to claim prudiness, but the government has apparently turned a blind eye to the fact that numerous poor, young girls are forced to work in brothers. The Thais don't have the moral highground to complain about topless foreigners.

I generally agree with the "When in Rome" sentiment, but I have a hard time meshing that with the Thai hypocrisy.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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"brothels" not "brothers" (strange typo)
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:06 AM
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I agree with you, Leigh about the need to respect local customs. I think many people are simply clueless. I've heard some agrue that "just beacuse they're uptight about it, I don't have to be," thereby exposing their total lack of understanding about the culture (or even the idea that culture should be respected).

I remember someone posting here recently who saw the dress code for wats (or for Catholic churches in Italy) as "just ridiculous." One doeosn't reason with people like that.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:11 AM
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thit cho, our posts crossed in cyberspace.

I think you are missing the point of Leigh's post. And I don't think Thais "claim prudiness."
Kathie is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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Kathie, I agree with the idea of "When in Rome," but I don't see how Thais can object to topless foreigners on the beach, when a block away, young, poor girls are dancing topless and having sex for money with old foreign men.

I generally abide by the "when in Rome" mantra, but I would find it laughable if a Thai commented on a topless foreign woman while remaining silent at the disgusting debasement of their youth.

I guess so long as the brothels and massage parlors bring in money, the King, the government and the public will look the other way.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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I would make a CLEAR distinction between the government and the people (much like life in the US for some of us). Just because the government dictates it, doesn't mean the people sanction it.

The government may administrate over prostitution, but most of the people I met in Thailand were fairly socially conservative, and deeply religious. Seeing fake breasts bouncing all over Phang Nga Bay, while appealing to some tourists, is generally considered offensive to the lay Thai person and the principles of their religion.

I think that was Kathie's (and Leigh's original) point.
filmwill is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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I understood the original point, and assumed the question was rhetorical as none of us are able to answer why foreigners ignore local customs.

My answer then, to the question on why people have such disregard for local customs, was to point out that nudity, prostitition, exploitation, degradation, etc. are part of local custom, whether the Thais want to admit it or not. I have never visited a nation with such a nationwide display of prostitution -- its common in all of the Thai cities, towns and villages I visited.

Topless foreigners would rank very, very low, I should think, on their list of social issues.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 12:39 PM
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thit cho, the question is certainly not rhetorical. Wherever I have travelled throughout the world, local customs, for me, are 'not up for debate'. As a visitor in a foreign country I will always do my best to comply with cultural requirements.....regardless of the ethics of that countries government. (don't we all do the research before we go?) My point was that it appears to be clear to me that female topless behaviour is offensive to Thai people....yet so many westerners couldn't care less and for some reason are, well, sticking two fingers up.
Surely as visitors to a foreign country we should be actively trying to comply with the ways of the land.

Whilst I understand your points about the sex industry in Thailand,
I think you miss my point completely.
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 12:55 PM
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No, I understood your question, and the answer to your question, which is obvious, is because some travelers are ignorant idiots. They either intentionally disregard local customs, which is offensive, or fail to educate themselves, which is idiotic.

I don't think anyone on this forum, which likely attracts the well traveled, will disagree with the need to conform with cultural norms.

The point I was making is that cultural norms may not be so obvious, especially in Thailand, with its enormous (and enormously profitable) sex industry, and it may not seem obvious to some, after having walked by sex clubs, massage parlors and strip clubs, that topless bathing offends Thai culture.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 01:02 PM
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Leigh, one other question -- what book do you read to learn about Thai customs.

To a large extent, we learn about local customs through observation, and it would not be unreasonable for a foreigner, having observed the rampant sex industry in Thailand, to conclude that topless bathing is permissible -- it would not be unreasonable to conclude that its more offensive than the sight of a young, Thai girl, have dressed, gyrating on a stripper's pole or accompanying an overweight, elderly Westerner as their date, both of which I have seen during my trips to Thailand.

So, its not always possible to divine with certainty what it, and what is not, culturally permissible, especially in Thailand, which may send mixed messages.

If you were an alien descending from space and visiting Bangkok and Paris, which country would you think would look more favorably on topless bathing?
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 01:42 PM
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Might I suggest that our feelings as travellers about the behaviour of other travellers is irrelevant. It's probably inappropriate for any of us to sit in judgement on the behaviour of fellow travellers. Similarly, we are not particularly well-situated to sit in judgement of the sexual mores/practices of our hosts. We are guests. The best we can do is to behave and hope we get invited back. Last I looked, I was not given a badge nor even judicial robes. Probably for the best.
Gpanda is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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Gpanda, well said.

If the Thais object to topless sunbathing, they can certainly either say so, put up signs advising that its inappropriate, fine the offender, etc., but silence is acceptance.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Yes, because we all know how much the government smiles on protest in Thailand.

If they're going to raise their voice, it's not going to be about topless sunbathing, of all things. That's just a silly thing to say.

I don't think the point was even about this originally--the hypothetical question of 'why don't some tourists respect peoples' culture?' was posed.

If you want to pay to go to a titty bar in Bangkok, by all means, help yourself. But showing your unmentionables for all the world to see certainly imparts a crude mentality of 'it's my vacation and I'm going to do whatever I damn well want'.

Forget offending the Thais, some Westerners find it inappropriate too. Believe it or not, the last thing I wanna see during the 2 weeks I get to zone the world out ever year is someone's bare, flabby ass flapping in the wind (other, of course, than my dear spouse's)

And, thit_cho, BTW, I don't know if you've vacationed anywhere near a Thai beach, but there are signs EVERYWHERE asking people to please respect their culture and not go topless. So, what more are they supposed to do?
filmwill is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 03:56 PM
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"silence is acceptance"

thit cho - you are absolutely wrong!

In the Buddhist world, silence is non-confrontational, that is their way...
Craig is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 03:58 PM
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'why don't some tourists respect peoples' culture?' was posed.


As I said, the answer is obvious -- first, many tourists are ignorant or don't care. But, in some places, it may be hard to tell, especially in Thailand, where in certain towns, you walk by strip bars near the beach.

And, I've vacationed on some small Thai islands, but not the more popular ones, but that's because I had friends who were able to direct me to some off-the-beaten-path places.

And, if the sign doesn't work, how about a comment from a local, or a fine from an official. If they didn't get away with it, tourists wouldn't do it.

But, the Thais are the last people to complain about public nudity.

Now, if you told me that you saw a topless tourist in Bhutan, I'd find that shocking, but the Bhutanese have not developed a culture where its commonplace for youngsters to become strippers and prostitutes.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 04:01 PM
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<<In the Buddhist world, silence is non-confrontational, that is their way...>>

Maybe that's why teen prostitutes are so common -- because silent, non-confrontational encounters work wonders. And, I'm sure they don't deal with other problems by ignoring it -- walking silently by a mugger, looking away while someone robs a store.

Why then do they have police -- do the police operate on the theory of non-confrontation?

I certainly appreciate that certain cultures are less confrontational than others, but they need not look away at everything offensive or criminal.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 08:47 PM
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thit cho,

ho ho ho! yes we're all bad and we get our culture from all the sleazy joints on patpong road. we have no moral either and our police and society encourage crime...

what a rude and uniform thing to say about the people of Thailand! Where are you from that is so perfect?
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 09:22 PM
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thit cho, you ask 'what book do I read to learn about Thai customs'.

Let me say that I am unable to recall accurately the number of times I have visited Thailand, but it is certainly in the high teens and maybe more. So my understanding of local customs is based on first-hand experience and not from reading a book.
On my most recent visit to a Thai beach resort, it was clear that this practice is now more prevalent than ever before. I don't think pleading ignorance to the Thai point of view is the reason, I feel it's more a case of arrogance and discourtesy. Even a cursory attempt to find out about local customs will reveal the issue I have raised. I find it hard to believe that anyone visiting a Thai beach resort will not be aware of this custom. As Filmwill points out there are signs everywhere and certainly guidance in most hotel info-packs.
As for Paris or Bangkok, mmmmmm, knowing both cities quite well, I don't think an alien would see much difference between the two,in many ways, but it would be crystal clear that the French have a much more relaxed attitude to the naked body, so actually, it would be quite logical for 'our alien' to deduce that topless bathing might be acceptable in Paris.
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 09:29 PM
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thit_cho,

I'm an American who frequently travels to Thailand, and my wife is Thai. I find it reprehensible that you would include the King of Thailand in your rant against Thailand and its government/people.

It would appear that you have an agenda or are specifically biased against Thailand and it's people. Prostitution exists everywhere. I've seen just as many overt displays of sex in Las Vegas as Thailand.

I've been to Cambodia where the sex trade makes Thailand look tame by comparison. The same can be said for Manilla. This doesn't make the Cambodian or Filipino people any less human/good than wherever it is you come from.

Perhaps your long winded rants, and defense of them, would be better served if you attacked the people that are going to these countries to abuse and violate there young women (and men). Perhaps if the US military hadn't put seven bases in a sleepy backwater like Thailand in the sixties and loose GI's with money on the local populace we wouldn't be seeing these problems.

I see prostition and the like in Southeast Asia and the Phillipines as a legacy of military involvement in those countries during there early development more so than a tacit acceptance by the local populace.

In summation, two things. One, if you dislike these things so much, why are you so knowledgeable; and two, regardless of what we all think, it's there country, there rules, and we are all just visitors with money, attitudes and beliefs that often run counter to our hosts.

Bottom line, don't go topless.
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