For many Western tourists to Thailand, at least part of the trip will be spent trying to get a tan. For those of us who come from colder climates, it’s not unusual to want to spend your holiday or vacation relaxing on the beach or by the swimming pool and taking advantage of the sunshine. For most Thai people though, especially women, the last thing they want is a sun tan. Visiting a beach in Thailand, you are more likely to see a Thai woman fully clothed sitting in the shade rather than lying in the sun wearing a bikini.
Generally speaking, Thai people view lighter skinned women as more attractive than those with darker skin. This is partly due to class and snobbery. One of the reasons is that traditionally in Thailand women with dark skin would be those who worked outside in the rice fields or on farms. In other words they would have been poorer people from the lower classes of Thai society. Class and money remain important to many Thai people and these traditional beliefs and prejudices still hold sway today, although probably not to the extent that they once did. Nevertheless, anybody viewing Thai television commercials can’t help but notice the frequent adverts for various skin-whitening products.
It’s ironic that many female tourists to Thailand would love to have the skin tone of a Thai woman whereas the Thai woman envies the Western woman with pale skin. Thai women from the northern provinces such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lamphun tend to have lighter complexions or ‘sii khao‘ (white colour) and are often envied by those women with darker skin tones who may refer to their skin as ‘sii dam‘ (black colour).