Thailand, Modesty & Bikinis: Bikini Ban in National Parks

The Thai Department of National Parks has urged tourists to cover up. Yes, tourists are encouraged to wear respectful clothing when swimming and visiting National Parks. The  newspaper article containing the announcement is titled “Bikini Ban in National Park”, please see below for a copy of the article.

This announcement reminded me I have never written anything regarding Thai’s wearing bikini’s, going to beaches in Thailand and general attire.

A misconception many foreigners seem to have- Thai women walk around on beaches clad in skimpy bikini’s. There are two things that have shown to be incorrect about this: Thai women spend very little time on the beach while the sun is out, and generally Thai women are much more modest in their attire than Western women. The result is that you see very few, if any, Thai women in bikinis or even on the beach.

Thailand is not Miami, the locals don’t parade around on the beaches.

Disclaimer- I am not passing judgement on a woman wearing a bikini at the beach or the appropriateness of a bikini, this is simply an observation regarding the lack of Thai women wearing bikinis. And it is a flawed observation- most of the western women at Thai beaches are on a beach holiday- of course they want to soak up some sun, and are wearing something that allows them to soak up the most possible sun. Many Thai women avoid the sun at all times, light skin is desired (note- just walk into any cosmetic shop and see all the skin whitening products), this results in female Thai beach-goers huddled under beach umbrellas while foreigners lounge about in the sun.

In my experience and in looking at a large sample of people (large, meaning not just those heading out to clubs and the nightlife scene), Thai women dress modestly. The skirts are shorter than would be found in many other cultures (ie, where I’m from), that is the most noticeable difference and can be seen day or night.

But, a little secret, many Thai women wear short shorts under a short skirt to ensure what is underneath stays, well, underneath and this is certainly an issue if they are getting in an out of a taxi or riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi. So, the skirts are shorter, but I rarely see many Thai women in low cut tops or tops that show their midriff.

Back to the bikini- the article mentions the ban on bikinis is due to some cultural aspects, showing that the national parks had no problems with people wearing bikinis for years and years- until us heathen foreigners arrived with a different culture. One interesting note about the ‘no bikini’ rule- they can be worn for swimming in the national parks, just not for walking and lounging around. Ah, so this shows the general view- function, okay, fashion, not okay.

Come to Thailand, bring your bikini for the *beach*, but don’t expect to see many Thais in bikinis, or lying on the beach next to you.

The Article (also found here):

Bikini ban in national park

October 22, 2012 by Wanwisa Ngamsangchaikit   

KANCHANABURI, 22 October 2012: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation is urging international tourists to keep their clothes on when they travel to Erawan National Park. 

The department’s office director, Wittaya Hongwiaengjan, said in order to improve tourist safety and a respect for local culture, female tourists should not strip down to bikini swimwear when visiting Erawan National Park.

The park is a “test venue” to promote “appropriate dress.” It is the second most popular venue after Khao Yai National Park, also a venue where foreigners sport bikinis or scanty swimwear at popular waterfalls.

“Walking around the park in beach wear is a failure to recognise cultural aspects as well as being a health risk,” he said.

The risks are from nature as there are plenty of crawling and flying insects that will bite  exposed parts of the body, particularly the regions used for sitting. There are also other dangers such as sun burn or even sun stroke and during the rainy seasons there is an abundance of leeches.

But it is more to do with cultural shock for the park’s director who said foreign women parading in their bikinis could be viewed as a kind of “sexual harassment.”

“There are monks and children who visit the sites so foreigners should respect this fact.”

Erawan National Park head, Kamol Nuanyai, said tourists however can wear bikinis at spots where they can swim,  but they needed to act appropriately on the way to and from waterfalls.

“Women should wear a vest and use a towel from waist down, while men should wear loose pants over their swimming trunks before they arrive at waterfalls.”

Earlier this month, the national park erected signs to inform tourists to dress according to the regulations.

Nudity is frowned on in Thailand outside the confines of Bangkok’s night life zones where the police turn a blind eye to a failure to uphold national cultural standards.Beaches and hotel pool areas are open territory for bikinis, but that does not extend to national parks.

 Around 400,000 tourists visit Erawan National Park annually. Of that, 250,000 are Thais and 150,000 foreigners particularly Russian tourists.Erawan National Park is a 550-sqm park in western Thailand located in the Tenasserim Hills, Tha Kradan sub-district, Si Sawat district in Kanchanaburi. Founded in 1975, it is Thailand’s 12th national park.

The major attraction of the park is Erawan Falls, a waterfall named after the erawan, the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. The seven-tiered falls are said to resemble the erawan. There are also four caves in the park: Mi, Rua, Wang Bahdan, and Phartat.


About faranginbangkok

I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally, I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region. I moved to Singapore in 2016...fallen behind on this blog since.
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1 Response to Thailand, Modesty & Bikinis: Bikini Ban in National Parks

  1. e says:

    Do you wear a bikini on the beach?

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