A Sailor and Marine’s Guide to Thailand
For many sailors and marines, liberty in Thailand is often the highlight of their military career. With a rich culture, friendly people, and excellent food, it is easy to understand why. Thailand and the United States have enjoyed good diplomatic relations ever since the 19th century when King Rama IV offered President James Buchanan domesticated elephants. The armed forces of the two nations have been strategically aligned ever since the Cold War. The Thai people are very welcoming to foreigners who visit their country, and they are especially welcoming to US military forces.
The Dos and Dont’s
Here are some recommended Dos and Do Not Dos to help enjoy your visit to the Kingdom of Thailand
- Smile, relax, and have a good time. They don't call it the "Land of Smiles" for no reason
- Attempt to learn a few words in Thai (hello and good-bye is sa-wat-dee-khrap for men and sa-wat-dee-ka for women). Even if you say it completely wrong, the Thais will appreciate your efforts.
- Try some local Thai food, it's actually quite different than Thai food in America. If your not a big fan of spicy food just say may-pet (or not spicy)
- Be careful when walking around on roads. Cars running through red lights and motorcycles zipping by on the sidewalk is all pretty much the standard in Thailand
- Learn more about Thailand by taking part in COMRELS and going on visits arranged by MWR. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a must-see for any sailor visiting Thailand for the first time
- If you go to a movie theater, show respect for the Thai Royal Family by standing up when prompted right before the movie starts
- If a Thai woman catches your eye, make sure you carry her bags for her, compliment her, and be extremely nice to her if you would like to be romantic. Western women tend to value a man's self-confidence, but Thai women place more value on a man's "good heart"
- Thailand is a Buddhist country and has some spectacular temples that are open to the public. Show respect for local custom and tradition by dressing conservatively (no shorts/tank tops/revealing clothing) and taking off your shoes prior to entering the temple.
- Take some condoms with you if you are a single sailor
The Do Not Dos:
- Talk loudly in public (Thai people will stare at you disapprovingly)
- Use a credit card (exchange dollars for Thai Baht at any bank in town)
- Throw cigarette butts on the ground (tourists often get fined 1,000-2,000 Baht or $30-$60 by the police for doing this)
- Regarding prostitution in Thailand, it is illegal by Thai Law and also not allowed by the US Navy. However, if your shipmates find themselves in this situation, the "bars" generally charge what is called a "Bar Fine" of between 500-1,000 Baht (about $15 - $30) for someone to take the woman out of the bar that night. This is followed by direct payment to the woman after the night ends of typically 2,000 - 3,000 Baht. Neglecting to pay during either of these two transactions can lead to problems for your shipmates.
- Ride a motorcycle in Thailand
- Use drugs. The Navy has obviously made it clear that drug use is not tolerated, but you really do not want to use drugs in Thailand. It is not unheard of for foreigners to go to Thai jail for up to 1 month for possessing a small amount of marijuana. There are foreigners currently sentenced to Thai prison for periods of over 10 years due to drug possession.
- Disrespect the Royal Family of Thailand—This is a very serious offense
- Voice an opinion on the political turmoil in Thailand to a Thai. This is a very sensitive issue in Thailand, and does not in any way concern foreigners. Like America, political discussions can often turn a fun situation into an ugly one. If you are interested in current events in Thailand, please ask one of your friendly Navy League hosts.