I’m in the backseat of a taxi, driving from BKK to what will hopefully be my guesthouse a few blocks away from Khao San Road in Bangkok, when he asks:
“You fir time?”
“Sorry?” I lean in closer, trying to understand through his accent. He holds up one finger. “Fir time? Bangkok?” “First time? Yes.” I say.
“Aah.” He nods and when I ask him if he’s from here, he enthusiastically starts showing me different cities in Thailand on the invisible map that exists in front of all of us.
“Bangkok – here.” He points at the air, and goes on to name other cities in different directions. “Chiang Mai nors (north), Patthalung sows, Pai nors-ess, there.” I nod as he repeats himself, but after he names about nine different cities I no longer know what he’s trying to tell me.
“What is most beautiful city in Thailand?” I ask.
“Yes, yes, very beauteeful. Suwaiee. Beauteeful.” Huh? “Beauteeful. Suwaiee. You – suwaiee.”
“Suwaiee is beautiful?” “Yes, but me – no suwaiee.” I laugh, but he says, “Lady – suwaiee. Man – low. Handsome.” He pats his chest to point to himself. “Chan low. Lady – suwaiee.”
Score! Thai lessons!
“You say hello: Sawatdde-KHA – hello!” he waves at no one in particular and repeats until I get it right.
“Sa-wat-dee-KHA.” I hark out the last syllable. “Yes!” He laughs. “Sawatdeekha. Hello. You say good morneen, good afternoon, good eveneen – all same same: sawatdee-kha.”
“You want buy.” He hold up his bottle of water. “You want buy, you say: Tau rye HA? How much? Tao rye ha?” He’s so excited I can barely keep up typing it all on my phone.
He goes on to teach me how to say I want to buy water (chan suuh nam noi ha), turn left (leyo sai) and right (leyo hua), ‘I love you’ (chan rak-hon), women’s toilet (hong naam), and ‘okay’ (tok long kha). So, all the basics.
Wait! “How do you say ‘thank you’?” I ask before I leave.
“Tank you. Kop-hoon kha. Tank you. You want say tank you very much, you say: kop-hoon MA kha.” I close the door and he drives off.
Kophoonmakha indeed! And what a great intro to Thailand – I’d recommend it if I could.