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  • Living in Thailand Blog November 2007


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Living In Thailand Blog

Friday 30th November 2007

My Thai friend, Aor, who's currently working in Lijiang, China sent some photos today. The photos are of grass and flowers covered with small amounts of snow and ice. I couldn't work out the significance at first because they looked so normal. However, to her and her southern Thai friends, it's something they will never have seen before. Songkhla province doesn't get a lot of snow.

It would be like sending my Thai friends a picture of an elephant walking down my local high street in England and them not being able to work out the significance of such a photo. Some things in life are so common that we take them for granted but occasionally it's good to stop and smell the snow-covered roses (or the elephant shit, depending on your circumstances).

The weather has been pleasantly cool today (for southern Thailand) even though I would still prefer it to be a few degrees cooler. The day time temperature was about 25°C which is about as cool as it gets in this part of the world.

I saw on The Nation today that cold-spell disaster zones have been announced in Loei province. The temperature actually went below a bone-chilling 15°C for three consecutive days. Brrrr.

When I tell Thais the weather in England gets cold, a common reaction is that it must be pleasant not to have to live in oppressive heat. Sabai, they tell me.

I try to explain that it isn't sabai at all, unless they consider living inside a refrigerator sabai. Due to the fact they have never experienced proper cold weather in their lives, it's difficult trying to explain something they have problems even comprehending.

Thursday 29th November 2007

Exactly twenty years ago, I had just returned home to England from my first trip to Thailand; a trip I didn't realise at the time would change my life in later years. Earlier this month, I wrote about my first time in Bangkok and now - for the sake of completeness - I will finish off recalling that first trip before the mists of time, combined with old age, erase my memory entirely.

Backpacker John, my travelling companion, had heard a lot about an island called Koh Samui from his backpacker chums (which at the time was unknown to most foreigners) and was keen to go there. This type of thing is a common affliction among the type of visitors to Thailand who wear baggy Chinese fisherman pants and rave about Alex Garland's novel 'The Beach'.

This was a time before Samui had an airport so we flew down to what must have been Surat Thani (I can't remember) and stayed in a grotty guesthouse for one night before taking the ferry across to Samui.

I found Samui incredibly boring. There wasn't a paved road on the island and although it may not have been as wet as 2007, there was still a lot of rain. It was my first experience around 'backpacker' types and it didn't take very long to realise I had nothing in common with them and didn't like them very much.

The only accommodation available at that time was exceptionally basic beach huts which went for between Bt50 and Bt100 a night. One of my abiding memories was getting ready one evening when the generator stopped and the lights went out.

There was no central electricity supply so each rustic bungalow operation used generators. Backpacker John - naturally - was fully equipped for every emergency and came to my aid with a flashlight. As I shone his flashlight in my bungalow it was only then I realised what I had been sharing it with.

The floor was covered in large, brown cockroaches. They must have been hiding away and came out to play whenever the lights went off. Nice.

In Bangkok there had been lots of interesting things to do and see and lots of interesting Thai people to mingle with. In Samui, there was nothing. Just murky coloured sea, boring beaches, and millions of coconut palms.

All the backpackers wanted to do was walk around saying, "Hey, this is great," watch videos and get drunk at their guest houses in the evenings, and eat magic mushroom omelettes. I found them very, very boring.

The problem with travelling with someone else is that you have to consider what they want as well as what you want; a problem I fixed in later years by always travelling alone.

Anyway, after about four days, I managed to convince John that we should go somewhere different so we said goodbye to Samui and headed back to Bangkok where we took a bus to Pattaya.

My worst nightmare now is to end up in Pattaya but 20 years ago it was a lot of fun. Even five years after that, in 1992, it had changed significantly - and not for the better.

Using John's trusted Lonely Planet guide book once again, we opted to stay at the Diana Inn (which I think is still in business) and had a great time.

Day times were mostly spent around the hotel pool and by night we hung out at the Anchor beer bar where - on out first evening - the girls working there had physically dragged us in from off the street.

Thinking about it now, they were all from Isaan but we didn't have a clue where they came from. We just labelled them as generic Thai girls and all Thais girls are the same, right? All we knew was that they were a lot of fun and very accommodating young ladies. As I recall, there were no other farangs in the bar and there weren't that many around generally - certainly not like today.

John went home a week earlier than me so I spent the last week on my own where I met a 'normal' girl who didn't work in a bar. It was one of those holiday flings that got quite intense. She had been in a relationship with a farang oil worker working in the Middle East but he had deserted her.

We got quite close and I remember being bitterly upset when it was time to leave. Even so, it was an incredible trip and from that moment I was hooked on Thailand. The time in Pattaya was by far the best part of the trip but, as the Buddha taught us, nothing in life is permanent.

For the next five years, I spent a lot of time in the US for work and pleasure (meeting an American girl in the process). It wasn't until 1992 that I managed to get back to Thailand but so much had changed.

The atmosphere in Pattaya had completely changed, as had the road layout, and I couldn't even find the Anchor beer bar. The girls looked thoroughly miserable and, in turn, their attitude made me feel miserable. The phrase I kept hearing over and over again was that everyone had gone to Phuket. So I followed.

Phuket in 1992 had the same good feel that Pattaya had had in 1987 but, just as Pattaya changed, so did Phuket and by 1996 it had started to turn into somewhere I didn't particularly like.

My love affair with Thailand continued - and it continues to the present day - but as more and more foreigners have arrived, and as the country has continued to get more developed, I have had to retreat deeper into 'real' Thailand to experience Thailand the way I want to experience it.

Sunday 25th November 2007

Taaw hao - Click for larger image Here's another sign for the two readers of this blog interested in written Thai. It's a real sign that I passed yesterday on my way to Loy Gratong. All I've done is remove the telephone number.

This one is a good example of how English expressions are making their way into the Thai language and illustrates the point I was trying to make a couple of days ago about how final consonants aren't always fully voiced in Thai.


The first word ขาย (kaay) is one I have covered many times before. It means sell or, in this case, for sale.

Next comes a which is a 'T' sound in Thai. There are other consonants that make a 'T' sound but this is the most common.

Following the 'T' sound are the letters าว which make a long 'AO' sound, and which I prefer to transliterate as 'AAW'. It's the same sound (but different tone) as 'KAAW' which means rice. Therefore 'TAAW'.

Yes, I know transliteration sucks and that is why you need to learn how to read Thai if you want to speak Thai.

The next letter น์ is an 'N' sound but above it is the symbol gaarun which indicates the letter is not voiced. This symbol is often used in words that have been borrowed from other languages. The original letters are preserved but gaarun indicates that letters aren't required when the word is spoken in Thai. Therefore, this word is 'TAAWN' but the 'N' at the end isn't voiced.

At the beginning of the next word (เฮา) there is a consonant and a double letter vowel where the vowel goes either side of the consonant. This sounds confusing at first but it really isn't.

The consonant in the middle is an 'H' sound. The vowel that surrounds it makes a short 'AO' sound.

At the end is the letter ส์ which makes an 'S' sound but you will notice the gaarun symbol again which indicates that it isn't voiced.

The sign is advertising a 'Town House' for sale, using the English expression but in Thai the final consonant sounds aren't voiced so it becomes something like 'TAAW HAO'.

The rest of the sign says the house has two floors, it costs Bt1.55m, and it is near a local landmark known as Gate 109.

When will it ever stop? Last night, seven members of two families were killed in a road accident by yet another speeding pickup truck driver as they made their way to celebrate Loy Gratong.

And here's another foreigner in Pattaya who is now where he deserves to be.

After living in Thailand for a while, you start to notice that the same news stories appear again and again with alarming regularity - crazy Thai drivers causing death and destruction on the roads and foreign perverts who prey on young children.

Thai men are also sometimes found guilty of heinous crimes against very young children. This story was particularly sick.

Saturday 24th November 2007

Loy Gratong - Click for larger image The Loy Gratong festival is celebrated in Thailand today and it's about my favourite day of the year. This year was my fifth consecutive Loy Gratong and one of the best so far.

I'm not a big fan of Songkran but Loy Gratong is always a special event. The Thais are such civilised people and it was a huge relief for me to get back to normal, civilised life again after the horrors of Phuket last week.

I took quite a few photos today and will try to post more later if I have time.

Friday 23rd November 2007

Job ad - Click for larger image I need to correct something I wrote on 8th November about job descriptions for pretty girls. It wasn't until I saw another poster with the job description written in Thai that I realised I had got it wrong.

I find reading Thai a lot easier than listening. When reading, there is no ambiguity regarding consonant sounds but that isn't always the case when listening, especially when what I thought I heard before just about made sense in the context of the job ad.

The word wasn't เสริม but เสริฟ

Final Thai consonants can be a bit of a problem because often they aren't fully voiced and the sound of consonants can change compared to when they are used as initial consonants.

In this word, the final consonant isn't an 'M' sound as I first thought, but it is one that makes an 'F' sound as an initial consonant and a 'P' sound as a final consonant. Therefore, Thais would pronounce it serp but without fully voicing the final 'p'. I misheard this previously as an 'm'.

To further complicate matters, this word isn't in my Thai-English dictionary. The reason for that (I believe) is that it is an English word that has been transliterated into Thai.

I think it is an attempt at writing the English word 'serve' in Thai. An extra complication is that no 'V' sound exists in Thai. When Thais transliterate English words beginning with 'V' into Thai, they use a Thai consonant that makes a 'W' sound.

For English words that end with a 'V' sound (serve, move), they use a consonant that makes an 'F' sound (that unfortunately turns into a 'P' sound at the end of a word or syllable). One of the Thai mobile companies has a product called 'True Move' and when transliterated into Thai script, they do exactly the same thing.

Sunset as seen from Surin beach, Phuket, Thailand - Click for larger image As we flew into Phuket last week, I wondered briefly if I had got it all wrong. On the flight from Hat Yai we were treated to a magnificent aerial view of Phi Phi island and the whole area looked gorgeous with tropical islands set in a perfect turquoise sea.

Phuket also looked good from the air but as soon as we landed, everything changed and I realised that I hadn't got it wrong at all. The island itself is beautiful but what it has turned into and the kind of people it attracts makes Phuket a place I never want to go to ever again.

It finally dawned on me what is happening in Phuket these days. Moneyed, middle-class Brits heavily into lifestyles dictated by the Sunday Times Colour Supplement (the people with Dualit toasters and Agas in their kitchens) who, in the past, would be looking to buy farmhouses in Tuscany or Provence are now buying villas in Phuket.

With many properties priced in US dollars, and with the pound being so strong against the dollar, they can buy fancy new villas in Phuket for much less than the cost of a derelict farmhouse in Grosseto.

Pseudo Buddhism in Phuket, Thailand - Click for larger image On every Phuket road are huge billboards advertising new properties that go up even before the first pile has been driven.

The developers seem to spend as much on advertising as they do on construction. Every property being advertised has the word 'paradise' somewhere in the flowery advertising copy.

They're selling a dream and there is no shortage of eager buyers.

There are no olive groves or magnificent medieval towns in Phuket, so instead the newly arrived paradise seekers fill their villas with Buddhist artwork, and perform Zen Yoga and Tai Chi around their swimming pools.

They all have cars because a) they can afford them and b) their villas are often in remote areas. As they drive from one lifestyle mall to the next, they are completed isolated from the real Thailand.

Talking of the real Thailand, it is very much in evidence in Phuket. It's absolutely everywhere - apart from where the foreigners congregate. It doesn't surprise me at all that foreigners who have only visited Phuket, Koh Samui or Pattaya disagree with (or don't understand) anything I write about Thailand.

How tourists see Thailand - Click for larger image There were also plenty of perpetual drunks in evidence. Watching them try to walk and hearing them try to speak is comical. I normally only see them on visa runs where they always go in pairs because most are incapable of completing such a complicated task alone. Vast quantities of alcohol and intense sunshine doesn't do the brain much good.

One farang stereotype that Phuket doesn't see many of is the farang kee ngok backpacker. I saw one in the typical uniform of dirty clothes, backpacks fore and aft, and hair that has been neglected for years so that dreadlocks have started to form but that was it. The prices in Phuket are just too high for them.

Prices are ridiculous there. A woman tried to charge me Bt30 for a coconut. I can buy three at my local market for Bt20, and street vendors and small restaurants where I live sell them for Bt10 or Bt15. She got very upset when I said I didn't want one. Presumably she is used to tourists just handing over their money.

Even at a traditional hole-in-the-wall Thai food shop, Iss bought some breakfast which cost Bt45 when she said it should have been about Bt25. Nothing is cheap in Phuket and it is now the most expensive place in Thailand.

Ripping off stupid tourists is a sport among the Thais in Phuket; a sport they find highly amusing and one that is quite lucrative. One evening I was on my way to meet my family and I was about five minutes away by foot.

A tuk-tuk driver shouted out the usual, "Where you go?" I told him where I was going without any suggestion that I wanted him to take me there. He replied, "150 Baht." I couldn't believe this so - in Thai - I confirmed what I thought he said.

"You mean, I can walk there in five minutes but you want to take me in your tuk-tuk for Bt150. You must be joking." He thought this was hilarious and burst out laughing but I would imagine that tourists frequently fall for these scams. Quoting stupid prices is just a big joke for the Thais and how they must laugh when they actually get what they ask for.

Everywhere I went there were Thais asking, "Where you go?" They assume farangs can't speak the language and don't know where they are going. Even if someone wants to go somewhere that is only a few minutes away, they will charge a lot of money and they will never tell foreigners about cheap bus or sawng-thaew services.

Where I live I have never paid more than Bt40 for a tuk-tuk but in Phuket the journey back to our villa from Patong was Bt500. I don't know what the distance was but it worked out at over Bt10 per minute compared to about Bt2 per minute where I live.

In addition to taxi drivers, Thai girls in Phuket also have lots of fun with Western men; playing with them like cats with captured mice.

Iss bumped into a friend who is now working at Central Festival. She told us that farang men are always sniffing around and that she has several on the go, none of whom she treats seriously. She isn't a great looking girl - a bit overweight - but because there are so many farang men in Phuket, it doesn't matter.

The fact there are so many foreigners there gives Thai girls a huge advantage. The girls also have a big advantage because most foreign men they meet are deaf, mute and illiterate in Thailand, not being able to understand anything of the spoken or written language.

It's purely a numbers game. I'm not being boastful when I say this but I find it is the complete opposite away from the tourist areas where there are a lot more Thai girls than foreign men.

It's not to say there aren't any cute girls in Phuket because there are plenty - but not the ones offering themselves to farang tourists. I have met lots of lovely waitresses, teachers and shop assistants in Phuket. The key is language. To meet Thai girls who are really worth getting to know, it helps to be able to speak to them in their own language and to know what makes them laugh.

Thai language ability isn't necessarily about communication - because many Thais in Phuket can get by quite well in English - but demonstrating knowledge of the Thai language and culture tells Thais a lot about a foreigner and what that foreigner is doing in Thailand.

Thais are incredibly tolerant people but do you think they are really impressed with the drunken antics of the shaven-headed, tattooed, shirtless thugs they see every day at the major tourist resorts? They smile, and they will never say anything, but the truth is that it disgusts them.

Patong is still the ugliest blot on the landscape by a very long way. We stayed at Surin but I got dragged along to Patong twice. As you walk around in the evening watching Isaan bar girls in fake schoolgirl uniforms dancing on top of the bars showing off everything to the punters drinking at the bar, how can anyone believe my comments about Thai girls being very conservative if this is all they have experienced in Thailand?

I didn't see too many classic sex tourists although there are still the foreign guys who go to Thailand because it is one of the few places in the world where they can get anywhere near a woman. A lot of young foreign males visit Patong in groups now for boys-only holidays. No doubt the prostitutes play a big part in their choice of destination but their primary activity seems to be getting drunk.

This Patong restaurant has a relaxed dress code - Click for larger image Iss was horrified at seeing so many farangs walking around shops and restaurants in the evening shirtless, covered in tattoos and carrying bottles of beer.

I felt the same way. You would never see Thai men behaving that way and I actually felt ashamed and embarrassed to be a farang.

So, what was good about Phuket?

It was nice to see property and public areas being maintained properly. The Thais don't bother generally, not painting anything and discarding rubbish into the streets, but Westerners are a lot better in this respect and where there are lots of Westerners, the Thais make more of an effort.

Around Phuket town there are some very attractive old buildings and many have been restored well. I found some pleasant restaurants and cafes that were not only decorated well, but had great food. Being able to order a bagel was a rare treat indeed. If I was forced to live in Phuket, the main town would be my preferred location.

Areas of Thailand with lots of foreigners have good bookshops. I was able to get some Thai language learning material at Central Festival that is unavailable where I live.

I was surprised to receive compliments on my Thai from Thais in Phuket. For starters, it's not very good and - with so many farangs there - surely they must hear farangs speaking good Thai often, mustn't they?

It seems not, apparently. There are the exceptions, of course, but for most foreigners in Phuket it would appear that booze, sex, shopping and other hedonistic pursuits are far more important than learning about Thai language or cultural behaviour.

I always say I will never go back but sooner or later I will get a call from friends or family asking me to meet them in Phuket. If it is difficult to make an excuse I will have to go but other than that I will not be going back voluntarily.

On the positive side, the great thing about Thailand is that the vast majority of foreigners I want to avoid only go to a small number of locations. Therefore, by knowing where these locations are (and who doesn't?), they are very easy to avoid most of the time.

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Thursday 22nd November 2007

As we were driving back to Phuket airport last Sunday morning, the taxi driver pointed to a place in the road where a foreigner had been involved in a car crash the previous day.

There were no other vehicles involved and he wasn't drunk. Phuket's roads are very hilly. Low-powered vehicles, such as tuk-tuks, struggle to get up hills and, conversely, vehicles can reach high speeds very quickly going downhill.

This isn't a problem in itself except that there are often tight bends at the bottom of the hills. It seems the farang had just been going too fast and lost control of his vehicle. Iss asked the taxi driver if the guy was hurt. "He's dead," came the reply.

Elsewhere in Phuket, I saw lots of evidence of recent accidents from where the police use white paint to paint around the outline of vehicles involved in accidents.

One old farang guy who looked like a retiree had scabs all over his leg that looked like classic motorbike accident trophies. A young lad at the airport who, along with his three young friends looked like death warmed up as the result of massive hangovers, had one knee strapped up and about half the skin on his left forearm missing. No doubt, the result of a motorbike accident.

The Nation reported today on a nine vehicle pile-up in Chonburi province that took the life of another foreigner. It's crazy and being involved in a serious road accident remains my biggest fear in Thailand.

Wednesday 14th November 2007

Since starting work again, life has been very busy so I haven't had much of a chance to write anything here. I've also been suffering from some mild cold symptoms.

The old wives' tales about colds being caused by wet weather and changes of temperature exist in Thailand, just as they do everywhere else, but those factors don't actually make us sick. The majority of colds are caused by viruses entering our body and they normally enter through our mouths which is why a sore throat is often the first symptom.

However, cold viruses do seem to be more prevalent at times of the year when the seasons change. I think I have found a way to ease the symptoms, although I still haven't found a way to cure myself completely.

When I start feeling ill now, I take a Redoxon Vitamin C and zinc effervescent tablet each day to boost my immune system. I also drink gallons of warm water. This results in having to make frequent toilet trips but it seems to reduce the symptoms and speeds up my recovery.

The Thais have a special dish which is perfect for combating colds and whenever I'm ill I eat it every day. In fact, when I am ill, I crave it. In Thai, it's known as kaaw dtom bplaa or simply, fish and rice soup. 'Rice boiled fish' is the direct translation.

It can be made from either chicken or pork stock but I will only eat the variety made from chicken. Chicken soup is known in Western countries to be good for colds and when I was sick as a kid, my mother used to steam white fish for me.

Kaaw dtom bplaa contains both chicken soup and white fish, along with rice and some other healthy ingredients. Smothered with a liberal amount of pepper powder, it tastes heavenly when you are feeling below par.

I am leaving for Phuket tomorrow where I will be until Sunday and then returning to work on Monday but I may have time tomorrow morning to do another quick blog entry. I added yet more misleading information last week (it's getting to be a habit) so need to make a small correction.

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Saturday 10th November 2007

Thai plumbing - Click for larger image Normally it is examples of Thai electrical wiring that make me stop and stare in disbelief but occasionally I see Thai plumbing that has the same effect.

When they can be bothered to do a decent job, Thai tradesmen are capable of doing very good work but most of the time they can't be bothered and just want to get something done as quickly as possible, using the least amount of effort.

A foreign guy I spoke to ages ago was having a house built and told me he had to watch the Thai workers like a hawk to make sure their work met his standards.

I had a ceiling fan fitted about three years ago. The Thai electricians started off OK but wrapped the excess cable around the base on the outside of the fan. It worked fine but looked terrible with all the ugly cable on display.

I asked them to do it properly by concealing the cable inside so it didn't show. They weren't happy but reluctantly finished the job as it should have been done in the first place.

Without doubt, there is a lot of apathy among Thais. The quicker they can get something done, the quicker they can get back to the important things in life - eating, sleeping, relaxing, joking around with their friends, etc.

Are they lazy? They can be but when working on anything they consider to be worthwhile, they aren't lazy. Normally, the problem is that they just can't be bothered to do things properly. "It works, doesn't it?" seems to be the general attitude.

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Thursday 8th November 2007

There are a couple of nightclub type places in town that employ lots of pretty girls to attract male customers in so tonight so I stopped at one of them for a while to carry out research. I hope any readers I may have appreciate the lengths I go to for this blog.

I didn't go inside but just chatted with the girls outside for a while. It's not easy trying to speak Thai while, at the same time, trying to keep your tongue in your mouth.

Please forgive my naivety but I don't go in for the bargirl/go-go scene. The last time I went to a go-go bar was when I met my brother in Patong a couple of years ago. The girls look good but mainly because of how they dress. If some girls I know dressed the same way, they would look even better.

I found out this evening that 'coyote' girls do the sexy go-go type dancing. The girls who stand outside tempting men in with big smiles and flirtatious glances are called 'PRs' or serm.

Serm (เสริม) as in raan serm suwaay (beauty salon) means a shop to make (people) beautiful so I guess that serm in this context means girls who make a nightclub beautiful by their presence. With no Thais around at the moment to help me, I am guessing here so feel free to correct me.

The term 'Pretty' that I saw on the job advert poster recently didn't appear to be known but serm, I believe, is essentially the same thing.

I am getting mildly irritated with waitresses who refuse to understand me. I know these girls aren't the sharpest knives in the box and that I should be more tolerant but it is getting very tiresome.

I went to a typical Thai 'hole in the wall' restaurant tonight where I have never been before. Upon seeing me enter, I noticed the look of fear on the waitress's face.

These kind of small Thai restaurants often have the menu written on a wall but I looked around and couldn't see anything.

I sat down and asked for a menu. This almost caused the girl to have a panic attack and she started faffing around like a deranged person. What she wanted to tell me was the menu is only in Thai but she couldn't speak English and she wouldn't speak to me in Thai - even though I had spoken to her in Thai.

After asking about five times for a menu, I was eventually given one. Straight away, she hovered over me with her notepad and pen - as they always do. Just give me a few minutes, please.

After I had decided what I wanted, I attempted to get her back to take my order but she wouldn't come. She tried to get a Thai man to take my order (possibly her boss) but he was busy. I knew what was going on and started to get irritated with her behaviour so gestured to her in a quite forceful manner to take my order.

It wasn't difficult at all. Dtom yum goong (not too spicy), a plate of steamed rice, and a young coconut. Simple. She nodded her head; I asked if she understood (I had ordered in Thai, of course); and she said yes. I leaned back, looking forward to a steaming bowl of spicy and sour shrimp soup.

Unbelievably, she then called her boss over who arrived to take my order. I was in a stroppy mood by this time so refused to give it again. I told him I'd ordered already (sung lair-o), nodding towards the girl. She then told him what I had ordered and it was perfectly accurate.

If they can't understand what I say and act stupid, I can understand their behaviour (to some extent), but when they do understand and still act stupid, I don't know what else I can do.

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Wednesday 7th November 2007

A few months ago, a Thai girl I know sent me an e-mail asking what I knew about the University of Sunderland. It was an easy question to answer because I know absolutely nothing about the University of Sunderland.

I got to thinking though; what would it be like for a foreign student to spend a couple of years in that area? Even I have problems with strong British regional accents so it must be really difficult for foreigners.

And would a foreign student pick up the local accent? A Thai talking English with a Geordie, Scouse, Glaswegian or, even worse, a Brummie accent would sound pretty weird. My students, of course, are picking up their teacher's East London cockney accent so don't sound weird at all.

After a conversation yesterday, I started to think about the same issue regarding myself. In my feeble attempt to get to grips with the Thai language, am I picking up a southern Thai accent or using expressions that are unique to southern Thailand?

I was told that the Bangkok dialect is very pleasant and easy on the ears. I was also told that Thais from outside of Bangkok can't imitate it. The guy who told me this comes from somewhere in Kanchanaburi less than 200km from Bangkok but Bangkokians can tell he is from outside the capital.

The other thing he told me is that the southern dialect sounds very harsh to Thais from other regions. I've actually noticed this myself, comparing it, for example, with the northern Chiang Mai dialect which sounds a lot gentler. Maybe this is why southern Thais have such a fearsome reputation in Thailand, notably natives of Nakhon Sri Thammarat.

An example he gave me was the Thai for 'cannot'. Bangkokians would speak a very gentle, "Mai dai ka/krup," with no real emphasis on any one word. With southerners it's more of a, "Mai DAI," as if they are shouting, 'CANNOT'!

I noticed a long time ago that southern Thais use the Thai word for 'want' a lot when they are in shops and restaurants. When I did my initial Thai lessons, I was taught the polite 'kor' but noticed straight away with the locals that it was always, "Ao this," and "Ao that." I want, I want, I want.

I asked a few people about this and they said it wasn't rude. Not rude in the south, I guess, but maybe it is considered rude elsewhere.

I probably won't find out the answer to this question until I move to somewhere else in the country - but even then it could take a while. Thais don't like to cause offense so will not always tell you about mistakes you are making.

I like to be told, as correcting my mistakes helps me to learn but the only people who tell me are those I've known for a long time and who know me well.

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