Strictest dress codes – 5 countries with fashion police

Earlier this week, the “Burqa Ban” went into effect in France. Since passing into law, several burqa draped women have already been arrested, and the symbolic law is causing an uproar among the Muslim population of France and beyond. However, France is not the only country with authoritative garment laws. Many countries possess laws that limit what citizens and visitors are allowed to wear.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, these five countries have some of the strictest dress code laws in the world. The list includes countries from three continents, though France is the lone western world inclusion. It is odd that a country known for its fashion houses and pioneering designers is also home to such an autocratic fashion law. I would expect this sort of posturing from the American South, but clothing oppression along the Champs-Élysées seems a bit misplaced.France – Ban on burqas and niqabs
In April 2011, France’s law against burqas and niqabs went into effect. Essentially, the law is a ban on the traditional female Muslim dress and allows a police officer to verbally request removal of the veil before escorting any violator to a police station for ID verification and removal. Gadling blogger Meg Nesterov covered all of the details in a post earlier this week. The fine is 150 Euros for a first time offender and 30,000 Euros for a male that forces a woman to wear a burqa or niqab. I believe the excessiveness of the 30,000 Euro fine reveals the true intent of the law, but to fight the perception of oppression across cultures with oppression is a bizarre strategy.

Saudi Arabia – Ban on bare skin and cross-dressing
The old Kingdom of Saud has always been a leader in fashion constriction. Saudi Arabia is home to some of the strictest social laws on the planet, many applying exclusively to women. This separation of legal restrictions by sex seems austere by western standards, and though every country governs from a different cultural perspective, Saudi Arabia seems excessively sexist – placing 129 out of 134 countries in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report. Aside from requiring a male guardian, a Saudi Woman must also wear a niqab and abaya in public as to not expose bare skin. Men also have restrictions – they are not allowed to cross-dress.

Bhutan – Required gho and kira in public
Considered one of the happiest countries on the planet, Bhutan calculates its output in GNH – Gross National Happiness. While it is rare to read a word on Bhutan without being reintroduced to this policy on happiness, there are also other, less known measures in place to maintain Bhutanese culture. For example, all Bhutanese citizens must adhere to a strict dress code. In public, men must wear a gho – a knee length robe, and women must wear a kimono known as a kira. The dress code is older than the current kingdom and is known as Driglam Namzha.

North Korea – No pants for ladies and hair cuts for man
The hermit kingdom is one of the least visited countries on the planet. The lack of outside influences has bolstered the frozen in time North Korean culture. North Korea has a dead president, a money-pit ghostscraper, and laws governing a man’s maximum hair length. In North Korea, men are supposed to trim their hair every 15 days, and older men are given leniency so that their hair can grow long enough to cover bald spots. While most men are allotted a maximum hair length of two inches, fifty year old men and older can grow their hair an additional 3/4 inch. Women are not permitted to wear pants, and if an infraction occurs, the pant wearing offender faces a stint at one of the North’s horrendous labor camps.

Sudan – No make-up for men and lashes for pant-wearing women
In Sudan, women are punished for wearing pants with lashes and a hefty fine. Sudanese public decency laws are extremely strict and bear the beliefs of the predominantly Arab north. The tumultuous country is home to violent religious differences. With almost 600 ethnicities and a serious wedge between the Muslim north and Christian south, Sudan has been a poster child for racial intolerance for decades. While women are prohibited from wearing trousers, men too have laws governing their behavior. Last December, seven men were arrested and charged with public indecency for wearing makeup at a fashion show.

flickr images via Ranoush & Jadis 1958

Photo of the day (12.16.10)

What charmed me about this photo from Thimphu, Bhutan, other than the pleasant colors and lines, was the caption. Flickr user AndreaKW translated the suggestion box’s Dzongkha script as literally “thoughts box” and I love the idea, much less pressure than coming up with constructive suggestions. A thoughts box could have notes like “Next time, pack fewer shoes” or “Why don’t I ever eat meat on a stick at home?” or even the classic “Help! I’m trapped in a thoughts box!” The possibilities are endless, especially for traveler interaction, like the postcards from strangers project.

Have any photos to leave in our thoughts box? How about adding them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just choose one of your shots as our Photo of the Day.

Last minute oddball Halloween costumes that reflect your travels

While Catherine has Halloween costume ideas that reflect different types of travelers–(there are more ideas coming throughout today), and Heather previously posted on how to dress up like an awesome flight attendant, here are other costume ideas. These wander into the unusual–possibly the obscure.

Each are based on travel and incorporate souvenirs you may have brought home with you, particularly if you have problems passing up purchases. All were thought of at the last minute for a past Halloween and were worn at a party.

As a note, you may have to explain what you are, although the responses to each were positive.

Also, as you travel this year, think of costume ideas as you go. In this picture I see items that might come in handy. Read on.

Costume 1: A Homonym

Costume 1 may or may not need an explanation. It depends upon how much people understand language. It’s easy to do.

If you purchased some sort of robe on your travels, dress like a homonym by doing this: My husband wore a colorful striped robe that he purchased in Bhutan and leather sandals. He made a tablet out of cardboard and painted it to look as if it had the Ten Commandments written on it. He carried that in one hand. The idea was to look sort of like Moses. Around his neck, he wore a chart showing the Dow Jones on an up trajectory.

Prophet–Profit. Get it?

Costume 2. A Souvenir Stand: If you purchased a large straw hat–mine was purchased in Mopti, Mali, turn it into souvenir stand by doing this. This costume seemed to look vaguely familiar to the party guests. People did like to look at it.

You’ll need strong thread, small objects that you bought during your travels and small price tags. Affix the objects to the hat by tying one end of a piece of thread to an object and then threading a needle with the other end in order to pass that end of the thread through the hat.

Tie a knot to attach the object to the hat. Keep adding objects around and on the brim. Then, add price tags. Name your souvenir stand and make a sign with the name on it. Put the sign around your neck or at the top of the hat. You can label where the objects are from as well.

Other ideas: You could alter this costume to be a museum exhibit. Or a postcard rack.

Costume 3. A Rain Forest. This one definitely is an attention grabber and people will know what you are. It is easier to create if you live near a rain forest, but it is doable if you live elsewhere. If you live right next door to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore, you won’t have any problems finding a few large leaves.

What you will need, in addition to leaves or some sort of palm fronds: rubber or plastic insects, snakes, flowers or what ever else you can think of that might be found in a rain forest. We added bananas and a stuffed animal monkey.

A small tape player with a tape of birds singing. We also had wooden instruments from Vietnam that sound like crickets and grasshoppers when clacked together. A rain stick would work for your audio portion of this costume.

Affix the leaves to your clothes–we wore black tee shirts and pants. Next, attach the other items in various spots. We used string and safety pins.

My husband slipped the tape into his pocket so when we arrived at the party, the birds singing and the instruments’ insect sounds created quite the entrance. We won 2nd prize.

If you don’t have large leaves, make some out of construction paper. I’m sure you could come up with a clever hat. I think we wore baseball caps with rain forest type things affixed to them.

Gadling + BootsnAll – Picks of the Week

Starting today, we’re unveiling a new weekly feature here at Gadling. Each Friday we’ll be highlighting the most interesting content from our friends over at BootsnAll, one of the best resources on the web for independent travelers. For those that have never taken a look, BootsnAll features a huge range of great travel content – everything from travel stories and blogs, to a built-in travel booking engine to one of the more robust communities of travelers anywhere on the web. Here’s what got us clicking this week:

  • Asian Temples Galore – Sure, you probably know about Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, but what about the Paro Taktsang in Bhutan or Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan? BootsnAll writer Deanna Hylund takes a closer look at some of Asia’s best temples. Let me tell you, looking at these makes me want to get back to Asia as soon as possible!
  • Unknown National Parks – Unlike Asian temples, we’re probably all familiar with the most famous U.S. National Parks. Who could forget the first time they saw the Grand Canyon? Or gazed up in awe at a 300 foot-tall Redwood in Northern California? Cherrye Moore thinks these sights are great but there’s a couple others you might have missed. Check out her article to see her list of “Six National Parks You’ve Probably Never Visited.”
  • Guilty Pleasures – Travel is supposed to be all about new experiences. Eating new foods, meeting new people and getting “out of your comfort zone.” But you know what? Bootsnall writer Lucy Corne knows that every once in awhile you need to indulge yourself with a taste of home, especially if you’ve been on the road awhile. I’m the first to admit: I love blasting my iPod pretty much wherever I go…
  • Eiffel Tower, Redux – Gadling writer Aaron posted some interesting thoughts on taking photos of the Eiffel Tower earlier this year. Sure, there’s a million pics out there, but as writer Jessica pointed out on Bootsnall’s WhyGo blog this week, there’s also a million ways to take some more interesting photos of this iconic landmark. Let’s get creative people!

When you’re done with the highlights, make sure to take a lap around the rest of BootsnAll’s site. There’s some great content on there, whether you’re looking to research a round-the-world trip or just looking for some good tips for that next trip to Vegas. Catch you next week!

A Travel Guide to Shangri-La

The mystical, mythical Shangri-La has held a special allure to travelers since the release of the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. In the book, the main character survives a plane crash in the Himalaya only to discover a hidden valley that is a paradise on Earth where the people live for hundreds of years without a care in the world. Since that time, many have searched for the possible location of Shangri-La, hoping to discover the place for themselves.

Now, author Michael Buckley has written a travel guide to the legendary place. The book, entitled Shangri-La: A Travel Guide To The Himalayan Dream, is an interesting mix of myth and reality, as it serves as a guidebook for such places as China, Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, while still focusing on Shangri-La, a place that doesn’t really exisit at all. The book weaves in local legends, with tales of the yeti and sacred Himalayan peaks, while still providing practical information on Himalayan culture, the best treks in the region, places to visit, and more. There is even a field guide to the wildlife you’ll encounter there.

World Hum has recently conducted an interview with Buckley in which he talks about the challenges of writing a travel guide for a mythical place and why that myth has become such an indelible part of western culuture. He also touches on his own experiences in the Himalaya, where he has spent more than 20 years immersed in the culture and landscapes there.

Shangri-La is one of those unique legendary places that often inspires travel. The mere mention of the place conjures up visions of far off, snowy mountain kingdoms. And while it may not exisit as a real place on a map, the mere thought of it is enough to send us off looking for it none the less.