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A Word in your Ear, Part 1

As a visitor to Thailand , you will probably not speak the language nor understand many of the words you come across. The following is a list, and explanations, of words you may hear regularly. It is neither a vocabulary nor a dictionary. The spelling is neither linguistically nor phonetically correct -- it is surely a guide as to how the words may sound to your ear. Have fun listening to them -- and trying them!

  • Ajarn: Title given to a teacher/lecturer at University or University College level. Example:- Ajarn John, Ajarn Suwat. Not used to address Primary or High School teachers.
  • Amphur (Amphoe): Provincial District. Every province is divided into districts each with their own Amphur office
  • Baan: Means village or house. Example:- Baan Tawai (a well known wood - carving village).
  • Beer Chang: Two of the ever popular Thai beers. Meaning
    Beer Singha: "Elephant Beer" and "Lion Beer". Great thirst quenchers for those hot afternoons.
  • Buri: Meaning "cigarette". Example:- Buri Marlboro or Buri Krong Thip.
  • Doi: Means mountain. Example:- Doi Suthep, Doi Saket.
  • Farang: Means any Caucasian or a foreigner no matter what their nationality (English, Dutch, American, etc.). Also is the Thai word for guava fruit.
  • Hong Nam: Means toilet, bathroom or WC.
  • Jai Dee: Means Good Hearted, kind.
  • Katoey: Means Lady - Boy, transvestite or a male who acts in a feminine way. Does not mean homosexual.
  • Kantoke: A Thai dining experience well worth trying. Thai food in the ambiance of a traditional Thai setting accompanied by typical Folk Dance and local musicians.
  • Khun: Polite prefix to anyone's said before a name (male or female). Example:- Khun Sally, Khun Richard.
  • Kru: Title given to teacher at Primary or High School Example:- Kru Maliwan, Kru Decha.
  • Maenam: Means River (literally "Mother Water"). Example:- Maenam Ping, Maenam Chao Phraya.
  • Nam Pla: Thai Fish Sauce, added to most dishes, which replaces the need for salt.
  • Nam Blao: Drinking water. Usually sold in bottles or provided by hotel coffee shop or restaurant
  • Namtok: Means Waterfall. Also, delicious spicy meat dish.
  • Pamai: Means Silk for which Thailand is famous.
  • Paeng: Means Expensive. So don't hesitate to bargain.
  • Phra: Respectful title for a Buddhist monk.
  • Phu Chai: Man
  • Phu Ying: Woman
  • Phet: Means Spicy Hot as in food. Say "Mai phet" if you don't like your food too spicy.
  • Pratu: Means Gate, as in entrance gate through city walls. Example: Pratu Thapae. Also, door to a room.
  • Raan Aharn: Means Restaurant. Example:- Raan Aharn Thai.
  • Rawn: Means Hot relating to temperature. Example:- Nam Rawn (hot water), Rawn maak, maak (very hot weather).
  • Sabai: Means Comfortable Feeling. Example:- Yen Sabai (cool breeze), Sabai, Sabai (I feel fine).
  • Songtaew: The ubiquitous taxis (usually red) which ply Chiang Mai. Communally shared, wave your hand to signal one, tell the driver your destination and, if he's going your way, pay a 10 baht fare when leaving the vehicle. If the driver not intending to go your direction, you may need to negotiate a higher fare with him.
  • Wat: Thai name for Buddhist temple. Example:- Wat Phra Singh, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Chedee Luang. Not to be confused with "Wat you name"? or "Wat you telephone number"?

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