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Beware Of Elephant Pickpockets: Tips for Thailand and Laos

Beware of Elephant Pick Pockets: Advice for your first visit to Thailand.

I got this email from blog reader Marianna, who lives in the Ukraine and is getting ready to visit Thailand and Laos for the first time.

Hi Jen,

I am reading your blog frequently. Thank you for sharing your travel experience with your readers!

On the Travel tab of the blog I noticed that Thailand and Laos are among the countries you’ve visited and couldn’t stop but wonder if you can possibly share your experience of traveling through these two countries.

My friends and myself plan to visit Thailand and Laos in October this Fall and it is a first experience for all of us. Travel Itinerary is available on this site (it is in Russian, I used Google Translate service to have an English copy).

Among the places, we plan to visit, are Grand Palace in Bangkok, the historical park Phimay, the festival of Naga fireball at Laos, The Golden pagoda and Buddha Park at Vientiane, White Temple, Koh Chang and many others.

We have so many questions related to the trip and would appreciate any advices you may have for us. What to take to the trip? What to wear in Thailand and Laos, are there any limitations for clothes dictated by a religion? What and where to eat? What to buy there in Thailand? I should stop now!

Thanks a million for any advices!

Dear Marianna-

I am so excited for you! Thailand and Laos are two of my favorite countries and I adore Southeast Asia.

My advice starts with Beware Elephant Pickpockets! You’re going to come across an Asian elephant or two and some of them can be very aggressive when it comes to helping themselves to what’s in your purse, especially if it’s a tasty banana.

Learn to Wai — Which is how to respectfully greet someone, especially when you are entering or leaving their homes. The word spoken in greeting is Sawadee ( สวัสดี, pronounced [sàwàtdiː])

What to wear? Both Thailand and Laos are Buddhist countries and as such, are rather tolerant about dress code. However, these are the things you should know when planning your wardrobe. Though you won’t need to be covered head to toe, you should be dressed appropriately to show respect when visiting holy sites such as the Grand Temple. You might want to bring a long sleeved T-shirt or scarf to cover-up bare shoulders. A sundress and scarf would be modest enough attire. Definitely avoid wearing short shorts.

Acceptable sandals for inside the temples

The most important thing to pack is appropriate footwear. It’s going to be hot, so pack sturdy sandals (not flip flops) that have some sort of strap around the back. Some temples will require you to take off your shoes before entering, although if you have sandals such as the ones pictured above, you might be allowed to keep them on inside. If you don’t have appropriate footwear, you might be asked to rent theirs which I would avoid doing. Be aware that the feet are considered the least clean part of the body and it is considered rude to point your feet at people.

Thai only shoes.jpg

Be sure to carry wet wipes of some kind with you. They are lifesavers since  a lot of the roads in Laos and Thailand are dusty and sandy—especially if you take a Tuk-tuk ride, which you should!

When you’re in Laos, wake up early to witness the monks gathering alms. It’s rather moving and stunning to photograph. You should not touch monks, even if you are giving them alms. That also goes for Thailand.

Thailand has some of the best food around. I suggest trying a Thai curry and a local Chang Beer. Curries tend to be on the spicier side, so make sure you can stand the level of heat before placing your order. If you’re into street food, the variety of stalls to try is endless. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even dine on fried bugs but I can’t say I’d advise it. But that’s just me.

Fried Crickets anyone?

Regarding what to buy, Buddha statues are quite lovely and easily found. There are beautiful silks and fabrics in Southeast Asia but I find that many of the colors don’t work well in European light. You might want to stick to decorative items made of fabric, like pillows or tablecloths which are easy to bring home and are wonderful reminders of your time spent in Asia.

Have a great trip and let me know how it goes.