Top 10 Ideas to Keep in Mind…. as a Christian Travelling to Thailand
We ended up living in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s certainly not the main reason why we came here, but I’m not complaining about living close to the beach and being stuck in my favorite season.
Friends always ask what to do if they’re here for just a couple of days. I’ve noticed that most of the top ten lists usually include visiting a series of temples and other overcrowded tourist attractions.
Thailand has so much more to offer and I would like to share a few suggestions of my own to make the most of your time here.
1. Visit a local church instead of a temple.
In a country where only 0.7% of the population call themselves “Christians”, wouldn’t it make sense to encourage and support the few local Christians who are here? Christians in Thailand may not suffer from physical persecution like in many other countries, but it is very common for local Christians to be pushed away or rejected by family members or communities who are Buddhist.
Keep your eyes open for a banner or a cross. Search online. Most churches meet throughout the week as well as on Sunday mornings. Members may also share lunch together after the Sunday service and welcome visitors to join in food and fellowship. Many of the local churches even have some kind of translation service (or someone who would be able to translate for you). Don’t be surprised if you get invited to join in their activities. Accepting is the most culturally appropriate thing you can do. There are plenty of ways to thank them through encouragement or other support.
2. Swim upstream
If everyone goes left, go right. Don’t be afraid to explore or go for a very long walk. The best (and cheapest) way is to hire a bicycle or motorcycle. Visit the local markets and beaches. Be sure to pack some comfortable shoes and walk the short trails in nature reserves – if you love nature this is a fee worth paying. One way to save is by going prepared and packing your own water and snacks.
3. Be curious
Have you noticed the spirit houses on the corner of each home or the layers of colored scarves wrapped around the longtail boat bows? Why do most beauty products have “whitening” properties and why do women use umbrellas when rain is not likely??
Almost everything has a story behind it and there is something interesting to learn. Curiosity keeps awe and wonder alive.
4. Ask questions
This is a way to understand the local culture. One thing I’ve learned to love about Thailand is that it’s perfectly okay to ask some questions we would not consider appropriate in the west, from “how old are you?” to “how much is your monthly income or rent?”. Locals may not return your greeting with the usual “hello” or “how are you?”. Instead, they may ask “have you eaten yet?”
Showing interest in other people’s stories, history, and culture shows that we value them. It can also do wonders to expand our world view.
If the language barrier gets in the way, Google or ask yourself questions….How are your belief systems similar or different? What do your idols look like? Why do you think it’s such a great idea to lie in the sun for hours to get ‘the perfect tan’ in a country where people go to the opposite extreme? Are you simply a product of your culture? Or have you decided what you really believe?
Thailand is known for its feast of flavors. Not only is the food delicious, but I love the way people approach meal times. Meals are meant to be shared, even when ordering at restaurants. Instead of individual meal orders, each person in the group may order their favorite dish to be shared “family-style” with a pot of rice.
Some of my favorites dishes (if you also don’t like spicy food that much) include:
Khai Yad Sai – A Thai omelet stuffed with a filling of vegetables and ground pork or chicken
Pad See-iew – Thai stir fried noodles with sweet, black soy sauce
Pad Thai – Stir- fried rice noodles with prawns, tofu, peanuts, and beansprouts
Gai Med Ma-muang – Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts
Tom Kha Gai – Coconut ginger chicken soup
Some dishes I also like that can be a little more spicy are:
Khao Soi – Northern-style curry noodle soup
Masaman – A sweet peanut and potato curry with chicken or beef, eaten over rice
But the fruit is really the best treat of all! If it’s in season, don’t miss out on mango and sticky rice. Two other favorites are mangosteens and rambutan which are not found outside of Asia
6. … and see that God is good
Most of Thailand’s beauty (in my opinion) is not hand-made, but carefully crafted by the Creator of the Universe. Consider the birds, the trees, the blue skies, flowers and butterflies.
Unfortunately pollution is a reality and many of the beaches are filled with the garbage people have fed to the ocean.
Are there at least some small ways we can help take better care of creation?
If you can afford a snorkeling trip or to visit a nearby island, don’t take a second for granted. Many locals (and other people across the globe) only dream of visiting some of these places ‘one day’.
Take it all in!!
It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to pick up that there is very real spiritual battle going on here. It is a battle that is on-going and non-stop even during your holiday. The quote “You may be the only Bible someone gets to read” is a reality here (refer to #1 above). So rest, yes, but remember the only place you can truly find rest is not a location on a map.
8. Be mindful (not open-minded)
Yoga and meditation is the new craze – even in the west. I believe we do not have to be afraid of other spirits but we would be ignorant to deny that they exist. Pray for discernment. Meditate on Scripture and always test if what you do is in line with your core Christian values and not a religious practice deeply rooted in another belief-system.
9. Have fun, but stay clear of evil
I know it’s tempting to ‘let it all go” especially amongst strangers. Just keep in mind that as a tourist you help create a market for whatever you choose to consume or partake of. You are also a target as a foreigner for criminals who hope to make money from you through deception.
10. Unless you are willing to make a long-term commitment, stay clear of orphanages and shelters.
Unfortunately, sacrificing a day of your holiday to volunteer to play with “less fortunate” children may make you feel better about yourself, but it’s not going to make a lasting difference for kids who never see you again. You will just be another person who deserts them.
Bonus tip: Read through Romans
This would be my first pick for a fascinating Bible study in the THAI Buddhist context of idols and “high places” of worship. Remember that this book was written to the Christian church in Rome, so it’s not to be used as a measure to judge others but for self-reflection.
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” – Romans 2:1
Don’t just take pictures on your trip. Also find time to journal or take notes because you might be surprised how much God has to teach you on your journey.
Have you ever been to Thailand? I would love to hear about your experience.
Image credit: Unsplash
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