March 23, 2023
BANGKOK – The surreal sight of Chinese tourists wandering around in Thai traditional outfits is becoming commonplace in Chiang Mai.
Visitors from China have returned after three years of Covid-19 with a thirst for memorable and “authentic” Thai experiences as they tour historical temples and other attractions in the northern province.
Surrounded by crowds of Thais in jeans and T-shirts, Chinese tourists stand out in finery that was fashionable several centuries ago in Thailand.
Chiang Mai entrepreneurs are eager to cater to the trend after being starved of tourism income for the past three years.
Ban Or Chao, a costume rental shop in Muang district, said Chinese tourists are making online bookings for the Thai traditional costume package, priced at 1,090 baht per person for four hours.
Customers arriving at the shop are fitted with the costume of their choice, with a full hair and makeup session thrown in for free. The shop also offers a photography and transport service for an extra fee.
Ban Or Chao’s owner said the shop serves 40-50 foreign tourists per day, most of whom are Chinese. Others come from South Korea and Europe. The tourists like wearing traditional costumes to visit attractions in the province and take selfies to flaunt their “authentic” Thai experience.
Wanlop Namwongphrom, vice president of the Chiang Mai Council of Cultural Affairs, said the trend of posing in classical threads at the city’s attractions is helping showcase Thai tourism and culture to the world, as the resulting photos often get posted on social media sites like Instagram.
“This is a good opportunity to present Thai culture to a global audience and lure them to upcoming cultural festivals like Songkran next month,” he said. “It could also encourage Thais to also wear traditional costume to preserve our culture.”
The council said it is also monitoring for “inappropriate behaviours” while wearing Thai traditional costume, such as drinking or visiting entertainment venues.