BANGKOK, THAILAND :: THAI LANGUAGE & TRANSPORT TIPS // how i got around to the best local eats and how i was able to order without saying a word

After a few days in Thailand, some people confused me as a Thai native! Why?

Well, some people said looked Thai… but they knew I wasn’t Thai once I opened my mouth (unless I was mimicking something I had heard earlier).

So how did you get around town if you couldn’t ask people for directions? Well, I relied heavily on my SE Asia Lonely Planet to get me where I needed to go, but it wasn’t that helpful. So, after a few language struggles during long walks and metered cab rides (even if you give the driver an exact address in English, they won’t know where to go), I decided to carry around a piece of paper that said where I wanted to go in Thai.

How did you do that? Googled helped, but the front desk at my hostel(s) worked much better. They knew exactly what to write in order for the cab driver to reach the destination… and it looked something like this…

Intimidating yet beautiful, right?!Thai language is sprinkled with words from Pali and Sanskrit (the classical languages, respectively, of Theravada Buddhism and Indian Hinduism). Written Thai employs an alphabet of 44 consonants and 32 vowels that combine to form syllabic sounds. The same word can be said in five different ways – normal or middle tone, high, low, rising and falling. In Thai the meaning of single syllable may be alter in five different tones.”

Mmm yeah… I was able to pick up bits and pieces of the language by listening, learning, and reading. I mimicked, I tried, I got by. Most people in Bangkok can speak English… the only people I had trouble conversing with were the cab drivers… and speaking of cab drivers… here are some helpful hints with the transportation system in Bangkok!

Thai Cab Drivers:

  • Most are very nice, honest, friendly
  • Most do not speak English well
  • ALWAYS have them turn on the meter…
  • Do not make deals with cab drivers, it costs more in the end for YOU
  • Sometimes the drivers will give you a fixed price, but you can say “No, put on the meter please.”If they do not want to put on the meter, just get out of the cab (sometimes they will even change their mind since they need the business but there is no need to be rude to them, there will be other cabs within seconds)
  • Do not take tolled highways… it’s not much faster and you have to pay extra for the toll
  • If you need to make multiple stops, tell the driver so he doesn’t stop the meter (otherwise you’ll have to pay the standard meter fee twice)

Tuk-Tuks:

  • In Bangkok, Tuk-Tuks are MORE expensive than cabs because they are nostalgic and the drivers know it
  • If you want to take a tuk-tuk, ask the hotel/hostel how much it should cost from Point A to Point B and then you’ll be able to barter for your price

Motorcycles:

  • Bangkok is a busy place, with high amounts of traffic… so if you’re in a rush, there’s an option to ride with licensed motorcycle drivers
  • HOWEVER they are reckless… BE VERY CAREFUL… during one ride I almost had a car crash into my leg as the motorcycle driver tried to weave through the traffic
  • Price wise you can get a fairly cheap deal if you barter well (give or take an extra dollar here or there for convenience)
  • All of the motorcycle guys I encountered were friendly to me, even if I wasn’t taking a ride with them, some would help me load my luggage into a taxi or help explain where I wanted to go to the cab driver

Other Methods of Transport that Local Use:

Boat:

  • In NYC we take the metro, in Bangkok they use the water ways…
  • Tickets are extremely cheap, the boat is efficient and picturesque… just make sure not to sit too close to the edge (they have some fabric to block the water from splashing, but not all)
  • Personally, I was taken on the boat with a local- I got on, I got off… but I wouldn’t know how to tell you how to do it so make sure to google!
Bus:
  • Buses are another affordable method of transport but it can be timely…
  • One time I got the bus, paid the woman carrying a big money stick and got off at the correct destination;
  • Another time I waited and waited and waited for the right bus to arrive, and once I got onto the bus (the woman who came around with a big money stick) told me to get off because the bus wasn’t stopping at my stop that day

More food posts to come but I thought this was appropriate and helpful!

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