Pilgrimage and prostitution: contrasting modes of border tourism in lower South Thailand

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Askew, Marc and Cohen, Erik (2004) Pilgrimage and prostitution: contrasting modes of border tourism in lower South Thailand. Tourism recreation research, 29 (2). pp. 89-104. ISSN 0250-8281


In this article we argue that ‘Border Tourism’ – intensive patterns of tourist visitation between adjoining countries – requires more systematic attention by scholars as an important sociological, anthropological and spatial phenomenon. Border Tourism and the often marginal spaces where it emerges exhibit some distinctive features: notably the juxtaposition of illicit and liminal activities sustained by multiple motivations among visitors. This paper discusses Lower Southern Thailand and the tourist-oriented border landscape which has emerged largely as a product of intensive short-term visitation among Malaysians and Singaporeans since the 1970s. We discuss two contrasting forms of tourism occurring simultaneously across this frontier; sex-tourism and pilgrimage (or religious tourism). We investigate a number of key religious and entertainment sites and discuss how tourists engage with these sites and their workforces, in particular the Thai sex workers in the border towns and the main tourist hub city of Hat Yai. The Lower South Thailand border zone comprises dynamic spaces and sites shaped by the interactions between a range of groups, including local inhabitants, a Thai tourist-orientated workforce (largely with origins outside the south) as well as tourists/sojourners. The relationship of Malaysian and Singaporean tourist/sojourners with the border zone is informed by a familiarity borne of proximity and cultural affinity as well as a difference marked by the contrasts between the moral/legal regimes of their own countries and that of Thailand. The multi-dimensional character and role of the Lower South Thailand border zone therefore ensures its continued importance as an interstitial space for visitation and identification.

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/1329
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Historical > RFCD Classification > 370000 Studies in Human Society
Keywords border, sex, pilgrimage, prostitution, Thailand, Singapore
Citations in Scopus 27 - View on Scopus
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