My Thai Lessons

I always pride myself for being 12.5% Thai – both my greatgrandparents were half Thai, half Chinese, so that made my grandpa half Thai. And since grandma is Chinese, my dad is thus 25% Thai – leaving me, my siblings, and my cousins 12.5% of those awesome Thai genes.

So that would be what I proudly declare when people comment that my eyes are a tad bigger than usual for a Chinese, and sometimes I do get mistaken for a Thai especially when I travelled to Bangkok.

Sadly, though, apart from growing up with Thai-influenced cooking, watching Thai TV channels, hearing my elders and dad speak a smattering of Thai, and praying at the Siamese temple near my late my greatgrandparents’ home (before I became a Christian at the age of 16)at the small town in the northern Malaysian state, Kedah, which is half an hour’s drive from the Thai border, there’s nothing much left of my Thai roots.

So I’ve always wanted to learn Thai and this year I finally made good my resolution.

Some basic Thai I have learnt so far, from a native Thai teacher residing in Malaysia:

1. Sawadeekha – the Thai greeting (equivalent to good day, good morning, good evening etc.) which most people would know
2. Korb khun kha – thank you
3. Sabai dee mai? – a formal way of saying ‘how are you?’
4. Bpen yang ngai bang? – an informal way of saying ‘how are you?’, especially with people we are close to
5. Khun che a rai kha? – What is your name? The ‘kha’ is added to sound more polite
6. Di chan che Alexis – My name is Alexis
7. Di chan bpen khon Malaysia – I am a Malaysian
8. Khun phood Thai dai mai? – Can you speak Thai?
9. Chan phood Thai dai nit noy – I can speak a little Thai
10. Chan ma jak prated Malaysia – I come from Malaysia. ‘Prated’ means country, so in Thai one way to say ‘Thailand’ is ‘prated Thai’

Anyone familiar with the basics of the Thai language would know that the first person pronoun is different depending on the gender of the speaker i.e. ‘I’ for a female would be ‘di chan’, or ‘chan’; whereas for a male is would be ‘phom’.

And where ladies would say ‘kha’, men are supposed to say ‘krup’ – as in Sawadeekha vs. Sawadeekrup.

The Thai language is also a highly melodious one, which makes it so beautiful and pleasant to the ears. Compared to Chinese which has only four intonations, Thai has five!

So I have completed my basic Thai lessons and am looking forward to progressing to Level 1. To this day I am still intrigued by the language and the culture of this vibrant and colourful nation – so where my lessons are concerned, I will continue till I get to the stage of being able to carry a decent, substantial conversation in Thai. Sawadeekha!

Bangkok on a whim… Somewhat :)

With the Thai classes I have been taking and the affinity I (and many others I am sure!) have for Thailand, it’s only natural that I would visit the country more than once.

And it turned out that my second trip to Bangkok was rather impromptu – I decided one Monday that I wanted to go and in less than two weeks found myself walking down the colourful streets of Bangkok again.

My roommate from university, Bee Choo was game enough to come along and we both flew over separately – I from Penang and she from Kuala Lumpur – and had our reunion at the Suvarnabhumi Airport that bright, busy Friday morning! Between catching up, luggages in tow we managed to hail a cab and make some rough plans on what to do on our first day, while I practised a bit of my newly acquired Thai with the cabbie on our way to the hotel.

‘Ton née prated Thai politik bpen yang ngai kha?’ How are politics in Thailand now?

The tanned middle-aged man ruefully shook his head but the satisfaction that a native Thai speaker actually understood me was shortlived because right after that he launched into a heartfelt response that I could hardly understand. I made a mental note to catch up with my revision and continue my Thai lessons, and decided that this time around it would be more practical to just focus on our main trip agenda – shopping, food and massage!

20140524-234848.jpgThere was a train station right at the doorstep of the Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit Sukhumvit Hotel where we would stay for our two nights there, but on the first day we explored the area mainly by foot – partly because the hotel staff told us that the Platinum Shopping Mall was ‘walking distance’ from the hotel without specifying that it would take 20 minutes to get there on foot!

20140524-234459.jpgBut get there we did, and thankfully it was fun because along the way we stopped by Amarin Plaza for a pleasant Thai lunch at its bright and spacious food court, and saw a number of interesting street stalls selling fresh orange and promegranate juices, tea and coffee, cut fruits, and snacks like barbecued sausages and meats.

At the end of our trip to the popular fashion mall we were both satisfied shoppers with the tops and dresses we bought. I also found a gorgeous pair of rose gold-coloured sandals and three lovely necklaces. The gold-colored choker was an epiphany discovered on our way back to the hotel, at a roadside jewelry stall! That night, after a short rest and shower we ventured out again and had our dinner at some street stalls near Siam
20140524-235112.jpg
Square. I had an entire baked fish by myself with a side of herb and vege salad served with a hot, spicy chilli sauce – no doubt one of the best carb-free meals I’ve ever had! Bee Choo’s pork noodle soup didn’t disappoint either, with the flavourful and richly spiced soup base.

20140524-235209.jpgOn the second day we were delighted to discover some really quaint shops at Siam Square selling pretty, high-quality tailored and handmade dresses. Before that we were at the Central World Plaza where I succumbed and joined the Fit Flop bandwagon, buying a glittery pair of the famed sandals in a subtle yellow gold that would go with almost any colour. Bee Choo bought some body wash and lotions from a shop next door that sells a homegrown Thai skincare brand – probably Thailand’s answer to the likes of Body Shop, L’Occitane and Skin Food. We also had fun looking at accessories at Accesorize.

A one and a half-hour body massage later was followed by more shopping at Boots Pharmacy, and then we took the tuk tuk to the Pratunam night market. Nothing much appealed to us there but I did come across some really charming tuk tuk key fobs which I bought to bring home as souvenirs – my female colleagues’ squeals of ‘wahh so nice!!’ upon being asked to pick one in the color they liked seemed to confirm that I had made the right choice.

That night we had a simple dinner of takeaway street food from the night market – Bee Choo had her mango sticky rice and I was contented with my fried chicken. My only regret was not to have bought at least two pieces.

Our last day was rather fruitful too as we managed to visit a supermarket, Villa Mart which was just a 5-minute walk from our hotel, where I picked up some chocolate bars and biscuits. We went back to Boots again to buy a few more things and even went for a lovely Thai foot massage near the Siam train station, where we also had lunch before heading back to the hotel to check out and bid goodbye to this vibrant city.

We spent some time window shopping at the airport before hugging each other goodbye and heading to our departure gates.

So looks like this post has turned to be a plain account of what I did in Bangkok – not so much of the introspective piece that I had originally intended to write. Maybe I’ll leave that for another day, and I guess a brief two-night trip with the ‘shallow’ agenda of shopping, eating and massage doesn’t offer much time and opportunity to really observe and absorb the culture and nuances of the life in Bangkok.

But that’s okay, because I will definitely be back again.