Religion in Thailand is varied. There is no official state religion in the Thai constitution, which guarantees religious freedom for all Thai citizens. Although the king is required by law to be Theravada Buddhist. Thai law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. It does not, however, register new religious groups that have not been accepted into one of the existing religious governing bodies on doctrinal or other grounds.
The main religion practised in Thailand is Buddhism, but there is a strong undercurrent of Hinduism. The large Thai Chinese population also practises Chinese folk religions, including Taoism. The Chinese religious movement Yiguandao (Thai: Anuttharatham) spread to Thailand in the 1970s and it has grown so much in recent decades to come into conflict with Buddhism. It is reported that each year 200,000 Thais convert to the religion. Many other people, especially among the Isan ethnic group, practise Tai folk religions. A significant Muslim population, mostly constituted by Thai Malays, is present especially in the southern regions.
Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterised by tall golden stupas. The Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, especially Cambodia and Laos. Both of which share a cultural and historical heritage with Thailand.
Shoes are to be removed before entering homes and religious structures. Most types of attire are tolerated in areas frequented by tourists. It is a good idea to cover up when visiting temples and shrines. Those wearing sleeveless tops, short skirts, and shorts may be denied entrance. Remember to be respectful at all times.
It is also not unusual in Thailand to encounter signs prohibiting women from entering highly sacred places, such as temple libraries. Women who wish to worship do so outside the buildings.
Most buildings boast spirit houses or altars. This is where offerings of food and garlands are made to appease the spirits inhabiting the land. Please avoid touching such displays as some Thais can be highly superstitious, fearing disruption of harmonious balance.
Despite teachings against material attachment, many Thais worship Buddha images and don amulets for protection.
Visakha Puja –June 4th - This Buddhist holiday celebrates the three major events in the Buddha’s life: his birth, his enlightenment, and his death.
Asalha Puja Day – Based on the lunar calendar, Asalha Puja day is usually celebrated in July or early August. This day celebrates the day of the Buddha’s first sermon.
Loy Kratong - October This festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon. Although not a national holiday, this is an important festival. People honour the river goddess by floating candles down waterways throughout Thailand, leading to the name “The Festival of Lights.”
Buddhist Lent - August 3rd – October 30th - During Buddhist lent, people offer food and candles to temples, and hold a number of festivals, events, and religious ceremonies.
During All religious holidays the sale of alcohol is banned, so entertainment venues are usually closed or only able to provide soft drinks. Most Thai people return home to be with their families or friends during this time.