Bangkok’s tourist boom fuelled by cross-dressing craze

Photo of cross-dressers visiting Wat Arun and Rattanakosin historic area courtesy of Bangkok Post

In the heart of Bangkok’s cultural tapestry, temples and palaces stand as timeless monuments, attracting a staggering influx of tourists, now bolstered by an unexpected trend: The rise of cross-dressing among travellers.

This unconventional craze, captured in a recent viral video, showcases groups of male tourists donning traditional Thai female attire as they explore the city’s iconic landmarks.

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), sheds light on this burgeoning phenomenon, noting that dressing in Thai costumes has become a prevalent activity among tourists, with men embracing traditional garments originally designed for women.

“With an average of 25.8 million foreigners visiting Bangkok annually, our historic quarters, adorned with temples and palaces, remain prime attractions.”

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The top ten most-visited temples in Bangkok, predominantly nestled in the Rattanakosin historic area, including the revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the enchanting Wat Arun, have witnessed an influx of cross-dressing visitors, sparking enthusiasm among Thai netizens.

Thapanee expresses the TAT’s embrace of this trend, citing it as a testament to Thailand’s inclusive ethos and cultural diversity.

“It’s about freedom of expression, even in attire, reflecting our nation’s openness to all.”

Moreover, this trend not only enriches the tourist experience but also aligns with the government’s strategy to enhance Thailand’s soft power, showcasing the allure of traditional Thai costumes on the global stage.

As tourism revenue skyrockets, with Bangkok generating a staggering 216 billion baht in the first quarter of the year, industry experts attribute the surge to innovative initiatives, including Thai costume rentals near key tourist hubs such as the Grand Palace.

Chanyuth Sawetsuwan, director of the Bangkok office of the TAT, highlights the symbiotic relationship between tourism and local businesses, with Thai restaurants partnering with costume rental shops to offer enticing discounts, further fuelling the city’s economic growth.

With iconic landmarks like Wat Arun welcoming over 3 million foreign tourists annually, Bangkok’s evolving tourism landscape continues to captivate travellers worldwide, reported Bangkok Post.

Chanyuth points to the city’s expanding transport infrastructure, coupled with emerging attractions like Iconsiam and suburban temples accessible via river cruises, as key drivers of this growth trajectory.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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