Thais return to temples in traditional garb – and masks


AYUTTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters) – Thais are starting to visit temples again as the mostly Buddhist country emerges from a coronavirus lockdown, although visitors are taking precautions such as wearing masks and getting temperature checks before entering the grounds.

The Southeast Asian country has seen just over 3,000 COVID-19 infections and 58 deaths, but has reported no local transmission in the past week, helping accelerate moves to ease restrictions.

On Monday, visitors flocked to the Chaiwatthanaram temple in the ancient capital Ayutthaya with some making it more of an occasion by wearing traditional outfits.

“I’ve been longing to get out (of the house), I wanted to come and take pictures, wanted to pay homage to the temple and make merit,” said Arisara Khaosa-ard, who had come from the nearby capital Bangkok.

“But I understand that during this time we have to stay vigilant for others and ourselves as well,” said Arisara, 23, who was wearing a mask.

In recent years, Thais have been taking selfies at the temple wearing traditional pants and silk sarongs, inspired by a historical television soap opera “Love Destiny”.

Among the popular costumes are those worn during the reign of former King Chulalongkorn, known as Rama V, who ruled from 1868 to 1910 and is credited with saving Thailand from Western colonialism.

Thai authorities had not directly ordered the closure of the country’s roughly 40,000 temples due to the pandemic, but many chose to shut or bring in tight restrictions.

The Chaiwatthanaram temple reopened on May 22, but is only now starting to see an increase in visitors as people feel more comfortable leaving home.

Partially shielded by an umbrella, Namthip Chicha, 16, admitted the protective mask she wore at the temple didn’t match her stylish red silk sarong.

“Well, the mask doesn’t really go with the costume, but if it’s for the common interest and can help health workers, we will do our best,” said Namthip.

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan