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When in Thailand: some useful phrases

| Words by Zoe Crane |

On vacation in Thailand you are likely to pick up some useful phrases like Khob Khun Ka if you are a woman and Khob Khun Krab if you are a man. Thais are so helpful and friendly, this term for thank you is basically unavoidable and you’ll hear it hundreds of times a day. Another phrase you’ll come across is Sawadee Ka/ Sawadee Krab. This means hello and goodbye, like the Thai version of “Ciao”. In fact, so prolific are these terms in you could pretty much get by on a two week trip with nothing else. But if you want to impress the locals with your insider knowledge, try some of these.

The sabai sabai lifestyle at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp

The sabai sabai lifestyle at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp

Mai pen rai  - More than a phrase, this is a way of life in Thailand and simply means “no problem”. When the bus or train is late… Mai pen rai, when the food you ordered is not what you expected… Mai pen rai, when the tuk tuk is stuck in traffic or the streets of Bangkok are flooded.....

Mai pet loy – Use this in an ironic fashion at restaurants for maximum effect. Authentic Thai dishes are packed with the local chillis, especially if ordering outside of the tourist places that offer watered-down Thai fare, so on the first taste exclaim “Mai pet loy!” which means “Not spicy enough” and you’ll be sure to draw a smile.

Mai ow na krab/ ka - This means “I don’t want”.  Picture yourself walking down Sukhumvit or through a market place and being bombarded with offers of everything from Viagra to silk suits to tuk tuks to crossbows. A simple "Mai ow krab/ka" with a smile will get most of these people off your back in double quick time.

Sabai sabai – The word “sabai” literally means happy, but is used to mean comfortable or relaxed. Thai’s sometimes say a word twice to intensify its meaning. So "sabai sabai" means "everything's chilled”. This state of tranquility is often described as the Thai lifestyle.

Aroy – My obsession with Thai food makes this my number one phrase. Meaning "tasty" you’ll notice (now that you know what it means) how many restaurants use this in their name. You might be offered some unknown delight, thrust forward with the assurance that it is “aroy”. This will likely be followed by an inquiry into your assessment of its tastiness “aroy mai?”, to which you can respond “aroy mak krab/ka” which means very delicious.

Pai Nai – Literally this means “Where are you going?” and you’ll also hear “Pai Nai Ma” which means “where have you been?” While this might seem a little intrusive by way of introduction, it is just a common greeting, similar to the English “what’s happening?” Rather than responding with a detailed itinerary, try “pai thiao” which basically means “out and about”.

Pai - This means "let's go", or "get a move on", although it’s not necessarily a sign of imminent departure, as you might hear a Thai will say pai many times for an hour before actually leaving.
Thanks to Chris Dalley, one of our Western tour leaders for many of the above tips. Try out some of these phrases on one of our small group tours of Thailand, or add a trip to Thailand to your Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos itinerary.