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Dos and Don’ts for Western Visitors in Thailand

If you are planning on a vacation to Thailand then remember that it should be fun.  However, please do not forget to respect the local customs in this country.  Westerners often fall foul of local customers and traditions and can inadvertently make mistakes that can be construed as being disrespectful.  Here are a few hints and tips to help you make sure you can enjoy your Thai vacation and make a good impression with the locals.

The Thai Monarchy

The Thai people retain a very deep reverence for their monarchy.  Therefore it is important to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children at all times.  You will notice that in many Thai cities including the shops and restaurants there will be large pictures of the King.  Never poke fun at this situation, as there have been instances where foreign tourists have been arrested for disrespecting the monarchy.

The Thai Religion

When entering religious sites and shrines in Thailand, a tourist must be correctly dressed at all times, and should appear to be neat and clean.  Failure to do so could result in you being denied entry. In some places, such as the Royal Palace, you can actually hire more suitable clothing if you have come unprepared – however, this will more likely than not be a hot and heavy style sarong.

Therefore, it is best to get it right from the beginning and make sure that you dress in appropriate and comfortable clothing from the outset. Shoulders, waist and knees should be covered, and you should wear neat and clean shoes. In the grounds of a Buddhist temple shoes are acceptable, however please make sure that you remove them before entering the chapel.  This is particularly important when entering a shrine in Thailand where there is a real Buddha statue.

The reason for this is because every Buddha image, whether large or small, ruined or not is sacred to the Thai people. You should therefore never climb up to snap a photo, nor do something that could be considered disrespectful anywhere near the Buddha statue.

When it comes to the Buddhist monks please also note that it is prohibited for them to touch a woman, be touched by a woman, or to receive something from the hand of a woman. If you want to pass something to a monk as a tourist, you must surrender it first to a man to pass over, however archaic and strange that this might sound.

Societal Norms in Thailand

Most Thai people are happy to accept a handshake, although it is done somewhat differently in Thailand.  Their traditional form of greeting is the called the Wai which is prayer-like gesture with the palms are placed together. Generally speaking a younger person must always greet an elder person in this manner and then return the greeting using a similar gesture.

An absolute must is to avoid the head area of Thai people.  Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body (both literally and figuratively), and so any contact with the head should be avoided at all times.  Never pat a Thai person on the head as this is the highest form of insult.

 

Five of the Best Long Distance Trails in the World

Hiking is not for everyone. In fact, not all athletes can survive the tough trails these adventurers have to go through on a daily basis. The combination of breathtaking sights and the uncertainty of traversing through unknown territories bring a sense of excitement and fulfillment that perhaps only hikers will ever learn to love.

If you are one of those who long for great adventure in the outdoors, then we dare you to take on the top 5 most perilous treks that will surely test your wits, patience, and endurance.

Photo courtesy of bixton via flickr.com

1. Tongariro Northern Circuit

North Island, New Zealand

The island of New Zealand is home to some of the world’s most majestic views and is high on the list of the most beautiful and equally dangerous hikes across the globe.

The Tongariro North Circuit is a world heritage site that lies on its northernmost tip. Crossing this great tail involves roughly 2 -3 nights and takes hikers across 35 kilometers of magnificent terrain. Filled with a perfect mix of ashen surroundings, the Tongariro Circuit is like going to another planet.  Set on the grounds of Mt. Ngaurube, doubling for Mt Doom in the famed LOTR movie franchise, a trek around this area will take you through glacial basins, volcanic beds, and smoldering jot craters.

2. Zion Narrows

Utah, United States

Recognized by the National Geographic of America as the 5th best destination for adventures in the country, a trip through Zion Narrows will take you through canyons and streams that abounds with a picturesque sandstone wall that towers over 3,500 feet.

Despite it’s curtain of majestic views, Zion Narrows is not for the faint of heart, as it can instantly turn from calm to treacherous in a matter of minutes. Flash floods are not new to this part of the state and have claimed the lives of some of the most adventurous hikers.

3. Annapurna Circuit

Nepal

Known for its lush landscape, the Annapurna Circuit’s snow capped peaks creates a perfect mantle of land for trekkers who are in search of new and refreshing exploits.

With an elevation of more than 17,740 feet, trailing through this mountain patch takes roughly 3 weeks, wherein you will pass through Buddhist temples, teahouses, and hot springs that have enamored hikers and tourists alike.

4. Inca Trail

Peru

All hikers dream of passing through the world famous Inca trail that offers some of the most captivating sceneries in South America.

Navigating through its elevated alpine terrain, trekkers can take in the sight of Incan ruins and the Peruvian mountains, but this 4 day hike can be full of surprises, which is why hikers only traverse through these lands fully prepared for the journey ahead.

5. Tiger Leaping Gorge

China

Situated along the historical Yangtze River and Jade Dragon mountains lays the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Dubbed one of the world’s deepest river canyons, circumnavigating this curvaceous 14 mile ravine is both challenging and rewarding.

Together, these 5 ultimate hiking destinations make up some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer, and while trekking through these paths present risks and danger, the unique experience and enjoyment they offer makes all the effort worth it.

 

Cruising the Adriatic Sea: Little Known Corner of the Mediterranean

Cruising the Adriatic Sea may just be the best kept secret in the cruise industry. Its not that people don’t regularly cruise there its just that very few cruise lines promote cruising the Adriatic since technically its considered to be part of the Mediterranean Sea and with the popularity of Mediterranean cruises it pays from them to promote it that way. The secret however lies in finding cruises with the major lines that promote the Adriatic itinerary because the savings can be big.

Peaceful Adriatic – Great Cruising photo: tomkellyphoto via flickr.com

The luxury lines also offer Adriatic cruises because their smaller ships are able to enter some of the smaller ports which allows them to offer more unique cruises than the larger ships can. Those make great cruises if you want to go the all inclusive cruise route but if you are looking to save some money check out the 7 night Adriatic cruises this summer offered by Royal Caribbean on the Jewel of the Seas. For less than $800 you can get a balcony on a great ship visiting ports such as Venice, Koper, Ravenna, Bari and Dubrovnik.

Adriatic cruises are a great way to visit countries such as Slovenia and Croatia that you normally wouldn’t think about cruising to. All of the ports on this itinerary are also good walking cities so even if you don’t take excursions you should have plenty of sites to see without spending any additional money.  With that being said you may want to splurge a little in some places like Bari, Italy and Koper, Slovenia. Both cities offer excellent chances to see beautiful sites within a couple hours of the city.

In Bari, Italy you could choose to take a trip to see the cave dwellings of Matera which are considered a World Heritage Site or you could head to Alberobello to see the fairytale like Trulli Huts. Koper may be your best chance however to get out of the city to see the amazing coastal town of Piran, visit caves in Postojna or check out the picturesque Lake Bled. No matter what you choose to do, at under $800 a person, an Adriatic cruise makes a great trip.