Yes it can be hot in Thailand. Yes it can be humid. But that doesn’t mean that men should walk around Thai cities shirtless. If you want to bare your torsos lads, wait until you get to the beach. Trust me, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a six-pack or a beer-belly; walking around a Thai city with your shirt off makes you look foolish and uncouth in the eyes of the local population. This is a pet peeve of mine, so forgive me the self-indulgent rant.
It was a very warm day yesterday in Chiang Mai although not especially hot and certainly not humid now that we have entered into the cool season. It’s actually a really pleasant time of the year in the north of Thailand and great for long walks without getting too sticky or sweaty. I went for a meander yesterday through the old town area of Chiang Mai and I was genuinely surprised by the number of foreign male tourists who weren’t wearing shirts. They stood out like a sore thumb and on two separate occasions I heard Thai people speaking in disparaging terms about this behaviour. Although it might not always seem like it, Thailand is actually very conservative in many respects. If you are walking or cycling around a city, it isn’t polite to take off your shirt. And if any of the group of five shirtless lads walking along Ratchadamnoen Road are reading this, then you might like to know what that Thai waitress actually said about you as you walked past. Yes, I know she smiled at you, but that wasn’t because she was admiring your physique. She was embarrassed by your behaviour. Although she’s seen it occasionally before in Chiang Mai, she told me what I already knew; it’s ‘lo-so mak’ (very low-society or uncouth). This was one of the politer phrases she used. So gentleman, you might have the body of Adonis or the abs of Arnie, but that won’t impress the local ladies if they think you’re a khi-nok farang* who doesn’t wear a shirt in town.
*(An insult which translates as meaning a low class foreigner khi-nok = bird shit).