Throughout the country, you’ll come across small shrines at the roadside and in front of people’s homes. Meanwhile, elaborate temples dot the landscape, and shaven-headed monks can be seen pretty much everywhere. With their orange robes, the monks are instantly recognizable and provide a constant presence in the country.
In fact, every male Thai is expected to spend a period of time as a monk. In the Theravada orthodoxy, this should be around three months. However, many modern Thais only don their robes for a matter of weeks, and in some cases only a few days.
This cultural imperative to become a monk – even if only for a short while – explains why there are some 38,000 temples in Thailand. And at any one time, these play host to around 300,000 followers. This huge network of temples accounts for an annual turnover of donations of up to $3.6 billion.