Thailand’s national religion is Buddhism (although there are significant numbers of Catholics, Muslims and a minority group of Christians) and it is very important to be respectful as far as the religion is concerned.
Always dress ‘politely’ when entering a temple or religious shrine. As you are on holiday in a tropical country, your perspective of polite dress might be coloured by the situation you are in. However, shorts, bikinis, tops that show your bare arms, very short skirts that show your legs, open-toed sandals and generally dirty or unkempt attire is considered inappropriate.
In some of the larger temples like Wat Prakeaw (The Grand Palace) guards will actually forbid you from entering if you are dressed inappropriately, and you may have to hire sarongs and strips of material to cover yourself up before being permitted to enter. However, at the smaller temples you are own your own.
It is VERY easy to do the right thing but if you think it’s hard….Just DON’T visit Thai Temples!
Buddha images are sacred, whatever size or condition. Never climb on a Buddha image, and be very careful about taking photos – some images are so sacred photographs are forbidden. Abide by this rule or you may even be asked to leave. If you can’t cross your legs, don’t sit on the floor in front of temple’s Buddha image – in doing so you will point your feet at the Buddha which is an act of sacrilege.
Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by a woman or accept anything a woman might offer. If a woman wants to give something to a monk it must first be given to a man, or put on a piece of cloth. The monk will then drag the cloth to him before picking the item up. Likewise a monk will not shake a man’s hand – that type of contact is forbidden. Monks travel on public transport and require the same respect there as they would receive at the temple. If a bus or train, etc. is crowded and a monk is likely to come into contact with people, do not hesitate to give the monk your seat. Often special seats are allocated for monks only – don’t sit in them!
And, if you visit a temple and would love to take picture of monks, especiall while they are prayers or on the ceremony... Better not use flashight!
Do not wear shoes inside a temple where Buddha images are kept.