Taxi Teachings: Thai Lessons

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.

thai teaching taxi driver on cell phone, bangkok, thailand“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.

En route to Penpark Place, Bangkok, ThailandHe 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.

Southeast Asia Itinerary-To-Be

With only a week left before my southeast Asia trip (!!), I thought I’d psych myself up (what with Christmas being so distracting), with what may or may not be my 4ish-month southeast Asia itinerary-to-be.

So, even though I’m a glutton and want to see everything, EVERYTHING (almost), I am trying to stick to quality over quantity – more time often leads to richer experience and cuts down on transportation costs (at least).

For this reason I’ve implemented, albeit semi-unsuccessfully, the one city, one beach, one extra plan for each country: cities for history and culture learning, beaches for beaches and time to write, and ‘extra’ for all those novel or quintessential experiences you sometimes just have to do.

With that in mind and no further ado:


City: Bangkok (pictured above) – Because I arrive in time to celebrate New Year’s (go big or go home, right?), and because I can’t not.

Beach: Maybe Ko Tao (above) for a diving certification, definitely Railay for the rock-climbable limestone crags, and then somewhere, anywhere (Ko Lanta? Ko Chang? Trang Islands? Bang Saphan?) to chill, work, enjoy and repeat (and there goes the one beach rule down the drain)…

Other (Culture): Back up north, Chiang Mai for culture and maybe a cooking class as a stopover before heading into Laos.


City: Phnom Penh – if only for the history learning of Pol Pot and the Killing Fields, as I currently know next to nothing. And because Siem Reap doesn’t count.

Beach: Sihanoukville – Maybe it’s a grungy beach, maybe it’s a party scene, but I’ve heard enough about Sihanoukville to know I need to at least visit it. And anything that supports me living on about $15/day on a beach, while getting work done, and enjoying good nightlife, well, consider me sold.

Other (Must-See): Siem Reap – Angkor Wat. Because it’s a checklist thing – sunrise, sunset, acting all Lara-Croft and the whole hoohaa, and because it’s apparently amazing.

The Other ‘Other’: Battambang – a “real slice of rural Cambodia” AND you get to take a boat ride there from Phnom Penh and I’m all about water if I don’t have to wade in. Plus, there maaaaaay be another reason for me to visit Battambang. For like, 11 days. If I go in March. (More on this later).

Oh, and maybe the Mekong Discovery Trail.We’ll see!!


Gah!! I already want to spend forever in Cambodia! How am I going to fit forever into Laos AND Vietnam, too??!

Novice Monks, Luang Prabang, LaosCity: Luang Prabang – see the whole monks wearing orange and collecting their alms in the morning thing.

Beach: Si Phan Don – Four thousand islands for beaches, hammocks and dolphins. I’ll try to choose just one.

Other: Vang Vieng – straight up tourist party scene destination. And must-do tubing on the Nam Song.


City: Hands down Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) – because of the history and because of the chaos.

Beach: Cat Bo – the less touristy and more beachy, adventure sport alternative to the infamous Halong Bay.

Ham Ninh Village, Phu Quoc Island, VietnamBeach 2: The Mekong Delta – because I {heart} cities on water. Enter any little village with beaches, jungles and back roads like Phu Quoc Island and I’m in bliss.

Other (Culture): Bac Ha/Sapa – For the hill tribe villages, if it’s warm, if I can ensure an “authentic” experience. Maaaaybe.

That’s about it for now. EXCITED!!!

What places would you add as must-sees? Which ones would you leave off?