If you are at odds with what to do in Khao Lak but want to be able to communicate better with Thai people, why not learn some Thai? Sure, as a Westerner it ain’t gonna be easy, especially incorporating the different tones; however, learning some basic Thai phrases will go a long way with communicating what it is you actually want, and might even save you from having to endure some difficult situations. I’ll never forget my first trip from Phuket to Khao Lak. I was wanting to visit a friend who had shifted to Khao Lak from Rawai, a southern beach on the island. I got on a bus at the Phuket bus station not knowing how long the journey would take. Given the distance between the bus station and Khao Lak is only around 100 kms, I figured the trip would take around 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours tops. Now, my bladder is not known for its capacity to hold liquids for very long. Indeed, I had previously found myself in a series of embarrassing moments on a previous occasion sitting at a bar in Patong. Anyway, the traffic was horrific and 1 hour, then 2 hours, passed by, and still there was no sign of Khao Lak. The problem was that I knew very little Thai at the time and I did not know what to say to the bus driver to get him to stop so I could have a pee. (In case you need to know just say “bpai hong naam” which means “go to toilet”) After 3 hours, we finally got to the Khao Lak center, where I ran off the bus and into McDonald’s. You won’t hear me bad-mouth McDonalds anymore!
What are some useful basic phrases in the Thai Language? In my experience the following are most useful:
(1) Hello: sawat dii
(2) How are you: sabai dii mai
(3) Thank you: khop khun
(4) Good-bye: lar gorn, or see you tomorrow: jer khan phrung nii
(5) Sorry (or excuse me): khar tort
Knowing the first ten numbers is also very useful and it doesn’t take long to learn them. At my age, my brain is turning to porridge, yet it only took a short time for me to remember them. One method I often use for learning Thai words in general, is to make an association with the word in English until it becomes automatic. Thus, for example, the word “trash” in Thai is “kaiya”. I learnt it by remembering the English word “kayak”, then making the small adjustment to the actual word.
An important aspect of the Thai language is that phrases and sentences are often gender-specific and determined by who you are speaking to. In more formal occasions, such as when you are talking to a Thai official or when speaking to a person of cultural standing in the community, females add the word “kha” at the end of a phrase or sentence. Officially, males should use the word “krup”, but in the Khao Lak region (as well as in other places in Thailand), the “r” is left out so that the word becomes “kup”.
To learn Thai can be an interesting journey. It has been for me, and I now at least speak enough of the Thai language to be able to get most of the important things I need… especially when I want to find the nearest toilet!