I was in Thailand some time ago, so I thought I would write about footwear in Thailand. Just like many other countries in the Southeast Asian region, it is the custom to take off your shoes before entering a Thai home. Also, most people in Thailand (about 95% of the population) are Buddhist, so be prepared to remove your shoes when visiting a Buddhist temple.
Being a predominantly Buddhist country, it is a common sight in Thailand to see Buddhist monks in their saffron robes. It is desirable for Thai men to spend time being a monk at some point in their life. Temporary ordination as a monk is common in Thailand, so men can be ordained as a monk for a few weeks or a few months before returning to secular life.
In the past, Buddhist monks did not wear shoes at all. These days, monks commonly wear slippers or sandals, but will go barefoot when they go out to collect alms. This happens early in the morning when monks go out carrying their alms bowl and receive alms from the general public. Alms are usually offerings of food and this may be the only food the monks have to eat that day. People also take off their shoes when offering alms to monks. This is because they believe that when they remove their shoes while offering food, their ancestors will be able to receive the food offered.
In Thai culture, the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. It is considered rude to point your feet at someone or show the soles of your feet. So, especially in a Thai home when sitting on the floor, you should angle your feet away from people. When sitting on the floor, it is the norm to fold your feet sideways at odd angles to be polite. This can be uncomfortable for people who are not used to sitting in this manner.
Just because the feet are deemed to be dirty in Thai culture, that doesn’t mean Thai people go about with ugly shoes. I came across some of the most beautiful shoes in Thailand. One Thai shoe label is Madame Flamingo. This label was started in 2008 by shoe designer Janet Pantila Promfang. She studied shoemaking and shoe design in Florence, Italy. Madame Flamingo has a shop on the ground floor of Central World, a major shopping mall in the centre of Bangkok. All her shoes are handmade, and they have a quirky, vintage feel to them.
I can’t wait to go back to Thailand and see more beautiful shoes there.