Chapter 5: Thai phrases to use while on holiday!

Learn to speak Thai

“Hello, my lovely students, sabai dee mai?” I’m just back from my holiday in Malaysia. I feel totally refreshed and now ready to take you through the next lesson, which will be devoted to… well, you can guess… Yes! H-O-L-I-D-A-Y!

Having known this, how do you feel by now? A bit excited? If you say not at all, I’ll be disappointed. The truth is all of us love the holiday and we’re looking forward to the holiday. Usually, it should be one of the best times in your life when you’re supposed to be relaxed, chill, having fun and enjoying your gut-challenging activities! Holiday is the time when we pack our stuff, buy tickets and get out to explore the whole wide world. Damn! I’m so loving my holiday.

But wait… before you grab your passport and go out with a head full of expectations, let’s get ready for the real lesson. As you’ve spent month after month planning your trip thoroughly and carefully, you don’t want it to tumble down just because you stumble on the language barrier, do you? And here are something you need to know if Thailand is your holiday’s destination. I know this because I’m just back from Malaysia where I’m a total stranger (Yeah, I know we might look the same but we’re not exactly the same, okay?) Apart from the English language that not everyone can speak fluently, the only way we can communicate is through sign language and your conversation partner might or might not understand what you’re trying to convey depending on your non-verbal communication skills.

To help you avoid the destiny like mine, I’ll give you something to hold on to. Let’s start with this vocabulary…

Chapter 5: Vocabulary

Ta-non (n.): This word means road or street. Unlike the English language that has many words such as road, street, boulevard, avenue, ta-non is ta-non in Thai. If it has special characteristics or is different from other roads, we’ll put a modifier after it. For instance, “Ta-non luang” means main road, or sometimes called “Ta-non lak”, “Ta-non rong” means the road that are not the main road or smaller road.

Tang (n.): “Tang” means way. If you’re not sure which way to go, you might ask “Pai tang nai” but if you know for sure which way to go, you could say “Pai tang sai” (go the left way), “Pai tang khwa” (go the right way), “Pai tang nee” (go this way) or “Pai tang nan” (go that way).

Soi (n.): “Soi” is alley, by-road or side-street. Ta-non can be composed of many sois, usually more than one hundred. For example, I live on Sukhumvit road, soi 101. Although smaller than ta-non, soi is normally big enough for cars to run through.

Trok (n): “Trok” is a smaller way. It’s not big enough for cars but enough for people and tuk-tuk to go through.

Soi tan (n): “Soi tan” or “Tang tan” means dead-end. If people tell you that the way is “Tang tan”, it means you shouldn’t go in there.

Tang khao / Tang aok (n.): “Tang khao” means entrance, “Tang aok” means exit.

Rod-may (n.): If you can’t travel around the city by foot, why don’t take a “Rod-may”. A bus in Thailand is cheap and sometimes free! Although it’s pretty hot and most of the time crowded but if you choose the right time, this vehicle can take you to every part of Bangkok, giving you a joyful colorful experience. And if you’re looking for something exciting, I recommend you to take bus no. 8.

Sa-ta-nee khon song (n.): Formed by combining two words: “Sa-ta-nee”, meaning station and “Khon song” meaning transportation,“Sa-ta-nee khon song” means bus station or sometimes called “Ta rod” by the locals. Bangkok has two major bus stations – “Sa-ta-nee khon song mor chit” or Mor Chit Bus Terminal which transport people to central, northern and northeastern regions and “Sa-ta-nee khon song sai tai” or Southern Bus Terminal which transport people to southern and western regions.

Ta ruea (n.): “Ta ruea” means harbor, port, pier or jetty, no matter big or small. But for train station, we don’t call it “Ta rod-fai”. We call it “Sa-ta-nee rod-fai”

Sa-ta-nee rod-fai (n.): “Rod-fai” means train. When combined with the word “Sa-ta-nee”, we’ll get train station. The biggest train station is Hua Lamphong Railway Station which can be easily reached by buses and MRT underground.

Sa-nam bin (n.): Actually, we have an official word for airport beginning with “Ta…” But since the word is too long, no one uses it in everyday life. So, we call it “Sa-nam bin”.

Tuk tuk (n.): This is the most popular vehicle among tourists and probably the most famous invention from Thailand. “Tuk tuk” is the three-wheeled motorized vehicle with open frames on both sides. It is practically baby taxi without running meter.

If you notice, you can see that this vocabulary is all about transportation and direction. Why so? Because during your holiday, chances are that you’ll spend most of the time on getting lost and finding destinations. Whether it is your hotel, restaurant, bus station or secluded village in a far, far away land, knowing this vocabulary will help you to communicate with the local people and hopefully, carry you to the right destination.

Now, let’s learn some grammar about asking direction…

Asking Direction

In the beginning, I’ve talked about using the word “which” to ask for direction. “Which way to go?” means “Pai tang nai” in Thai. But if you have a specific destination in mind, you can string a question using this pattern: N. (Place) + Pai tang nai. This is different from the English language that usually puts the noun (place) at the end:

Question: Rong-pa-ya-ban + pai tang nai (Which way to go to the hospital?) Answer: (Rong-pa-ya-ban) pai tang khwa (Go the right way.)

Question: Chai-had + pai tang nai (Which way to go to the beach?) Answer: (Chai-had) Trong pai (Go straight.)

Besides which way or “Pai tang nai”, you can use where or “Tee nai” to ask for direction/ location as well. The difference is that you have to use it with the verb to be “Yu”, normally in this pattern:

N. (Place) + V. to be (Yu) + Tee nai.

Question: Prai-sa-nee + yu + tee nai (Where is the post office?)

Answer: (Prai-sa-nee) yu tang sai tid kab 7-11 (On your left-hand side, next to 7-11.)

Question: Amphoe Don Jedi + yu + tee nai (Where is Don Jedi district?)

Answer: (Amphoe Don Jedi) yu nai changwad Suphan Buri (It is in Suphan Buri province.)

From the examples, you can see that the subjects can be dropped out in both cases. This is a characteristic of using the Thai language in which many unnecessary words can be omitted. However, you’ll still understand the meaning from the context.

Now, what would you say if you’re about to give a direction? My advice is that you go back to review the preposition list in Chapter 2 and learn this vocabulary:

Direction and Transportation

English Thai Examples
left sai Hong-rean yu tang sai The classroom is on your left-hand side.
right khwa 7-11 yu tang khwa 7-11 is on your right-hand side.
go straight trong-pai Trong-pai tang nee. Prai-sa-nee yu tee hua-mum Go straight this way. The post office is at the corner.
turn left liao-sai Trong pai laeo liao-sai tee hua-mum Go straight and turn left at the corner.
turn right liao-khwa Trong pai laeo liao-khwa tee fai-daeng tee song Go straight and turn right at the second light.
u-turn klab / klab-rod Klab-rod pai tang ta-non Charoen Krung Take a u-turn to Charoen Krung road.
cross kham Kham ta-non trong nee mai dai! You can’t cross the street here!
intersection see-yaek Mee rod chon tee see-yaek Bangkapi There is a car accident at Bangkapi intersection.
expressway tang-duan Khun kuan khuen tang-duan prao rod tid mak You should take expressway because the traffic is really bad.
overpass, flyover sa-phan loi Khun tong kham sa-phan loi pai fang non. You have to take the flyover to the other side.
subway, underground rod-tai-din (MRT) Khun Khuen rod-tai-din pai ta-lad-nad ja-tu-jak dai You can take the underground to Jatujak weekend market.
skytrain rod-fai-fah (BTS) Mee rod-fai-fah BTS song sai nai Krungtep There are two lines of BTS skytrain in Bangkok.
bus rod-may Rod-may suan-mak jod tee ar-nu-sa-wa-ree chai-sa- mor-ra-phum. Most buses stop at Victory Monument.
boat ruea Khun khuen ruea pai Ta Tian jak Taksin dai You can take the boat to Ta Tian from Taksin.
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English Thai Examples
motorcycle taxi mo-tor-side rab-jang mo-tor-side rab-jang nai Krungthep ha ngai It is easy to find motorcycle taxis in Bangkok.
trishaw sam-lor Rao mai-khoi hen sam-lor nai mueang We hardly see trishaws in the city.
airplane krueang-bin Karn-doen-tang doi krueang-bin paeng tee-sud Traveling by airplane is the most expensive.

The transportation in Bangkok is as confusing as in other captial cities in this world. If most of your trip is around Bangkok’s CBD, the easiest and fastest way is to use “Rod-fai-fah” (BTS skytrain) and “Rod-tai-din” (MRT), costing around 15-52 baht. Apart from those, you may choose other forms of transport depending on your budget and lifestyle. I’ve summarized your options here…

Modes of Transportation

BTS: The BTS or “Rod-fai-fah” is an elevated rapid transit system serving in and around Bangkok city center. The Sukhumvit Line (shown on the map with light green) running northwards and eastwards, terminates at Mo Chit and Samrong and the Silom Line (shown on the map with blue- green color) running westwards serving Silom and Sathon Roads, terminates at National Stadium and Bang Wa. Both lines are connected at Siam Interchange Station. The BTS has become the major transport mode for city people, it could be very crowded during rush hours.

MRT: The MRT or “Rod-tai-din” is an underground rapid transit system running between Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue. The Blue Line connects to the BTS at Mo Chit, Sukhumvit and Silom Stations. The Purple Line, which is rarely used, goes westwards to Nontaburi province and ends at Bang Yai.

SARL: Bangkok also has an airport rail link running from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phayathai BTS Station. It connects you to the MRT underground at Makkasan City Interchange Station but you have to walk around 10 minutes to take the MRT at Petchaburi Station. Also, most people don’t realize what SARL is, we call it ‘airport link’.

Bus: Buses or “Rod-may” in Bangkok have never been on time, which is understandable considering Bangkok’s infamous traffic. Anyway, traveling by bus is cheap and covers every part of Bangkok. You can choose normal bus which cost around 8-9 baht or the air conditioned bus, called “Rod-air” or “Rod-por-or”, which cost from 11 to 24 baht depending on the distance. The most crowded bus stop is Victory Monument. If you don’t know where to start, you’d better go there.

Boat: In the past, our major transportation was along the canals and the Chaophraya river. Although land transportation has become more important, you can still take a boat to many parts of Bangkok, especially the west which locates some historical places like the Royal Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Bavorn, Sanam Luang and flower market.

Airplane: There are two airports or “Sa-nam-bin” in Bangkok — Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. The first is much bigger and is the main hub for international airlines while the second mostly serves domestic flights and budget airlines. You can take “Krueang-bin” or airplane to most major cities in Thailand. It is the most convenient transport and the most expensive too.

Taxi: Taxis are prevalent in Bangkok and comes in different colors. The fare starts at 35 baht but could be very expensive if you get stuck in the traffic. There’re other options like Grab and Uber but the price is normally higher unless you get a promotion. If you need some exciting experience and natural air, tuk tuk is a good choice.

This is the intro to different transportation modes in Bangkok. Besides all these. you should learn some common words and phrases to communicate with your driver and the local people you have to contact with during your trip…

Frequently-Used Words and Phrases

Reo reo noi: “Reo reo noi” or “Reo reo noi dai mai” is partial order, partial request, meaning could you please do somehting faster. “Reo” or “Reo reo” means fast, “Noi” means please. “Dai mai” is used to make the sentence a question. If you’re in a taxi, “Reo reo noi dai mai” means could you please drive faster.

Cha cha noi: Opposite to “Reo reo noi”, if your driver drives too fast, you can tell him to slow down by saying “Cha cha noi” or “Cha cha noi dai mai”.

Jod trong nee: If you want your driver to stop the car, you can say“Jod trong nee”.

Sue tua: “Sue tua” means to buy tickets. If you want to buy one ticket, you can say “Sue tua nueng bai”. If you want to buy two tickets, you can say “Sue tua song bai”. The pattern is Sue tua + Number + Classifier. If the ticket seller asks “Gee khon” (how many persons), you can use the same pattern saying “Song khon”, “Sam khon”, “See khon” and so on… To learn more about using “Gee”, please go to Chapter 4.

Nan mai: “Nan mai” means how long. If you ask this question, the answerer might say “Nan” which means yes (it takes a long time) or “Mai nan” which means no (it doesn’t take a long time). But if you want to know exactly how long does it takes from Bangkok to Chiang mai, you can ask “Gee chua mong” which means how many hours, and your answerer might say “Hok chua mong”, “Jed chua mong”, “Paed chua mong” and so on…

Klai mai: “Klai mai” means how far. Similar to “Nan mai”, the answerer might or might not give you a specific answer. But if you want to know for sure how far it is from one place to another, you can ask “Gee kilo” which means how many kilometers, and your answerer might reply “500 kilos”, “650 kilos”, “1025 kilos”, etc. This might be confusing to most foreigners since they don’t know what “Kilo” stands for. The truth is we like to simplify everything, so does the English language. As such, words like kilometer and kilogram are shortened to “Kilo”. To know exactly which word is being represented, you have to see the context.

Aok / Thueng gee mong: These sentences are to ask for time schedule. “Aok” means depart, “Thueng” means arrive, and “Gee mong” means what time. So “Aok / Thueng gee mong” means when will the vehicle depart / arrive.

Khuen rod / ruea tee nai: If you don’t know exactly where you can get on the bus or boat, you can ask “Khuen rod tee nai” or “Khuen ruea tee nai”.

Hong-nam (n.): There might be at least once during your trip that you’ll have to face this nature’s call problem. It would be good if you’re in a restaurant or a department store in which toilet can be easily found. But if not, you may have to ask around, and “Hong-nam” is that word. Don’t forget to try the grammar you’ve learned. In this case, you can ask “Hong-nam pai tang nai” which means which way to go to toilet.

Please keep in mind that knowing some necessary words will be very helpful, especially when every second counts!

Definitely, your trip will be different from mine but most travelers share the same difficulties. I hope that by learning this lesson, you’ll have some background about traveling and staying in Bangkok, and be able to expand your vocabulary, which will make your trip go smoother. All in all, I wish you having a great holiday in Bangkok!

But the truth is you can’t have a real holiday if you don’t make it. You can’t travel by staying at home reading a Lonely Planet or checking comments on TripAdvisor. It’s good to be prepared but you can’t spend your whole life planning things. …So, don’t slack off! Get out and have fun!

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