Engaging Thailand Newsletter: The Power Of Language

Newsletter: Lashings Of Green Tea With Bide And Friends ( Issue 2)

Welcome to the second issue of the newsletter from Engaging Thailand called ”Lashings Of Green Tea With Bide And Friends”

In issue 1 our main theme was all about ” spending time wisely” however today the focus changes to the power of language.

1) A  Proverb Essential For Learning A New Language

Patience is a tree with bitter roots that bears sweet fruits  (Traditional saying)

2) Getting Enough Why’s Or A Big Enough Why

When I first looked at Thai writing properly with a view to reading it, my first thought was I can’t possibly learn that.I had dismissed the challenge out of hand because the writing style was totally unrecognisable to anything I knew. I could not work out where an earth one word started and another stopped as it all seemed to run into one continuous long line, so what was the point of wasting valuable time and effort.

I am pleased to say that my desire to learn to read and write Thai outweighed my negative thought pattern and I battled on. I had purchased the Thai linguaphone course that had a small Thai script booklet included in with it and after a long spell of procrastination I eventually  started looking at it.

An hour of study a night after work each night and I slowly began formulating 2 letter words and then 3 letter words from the ”how to” information given. I must admit it was a fantastic feeling and a real motivation shot when I realised I had started reading Thai script.

Learning the basics was the real key to a greater understanding and really helped me.It was from learning the alphabet that I was then able to pronounce the words properly.

There is a key factor to doing anything and this does not only apply to learning a foreign language, but to anything at all in life  that we invest time in and that is to get a big enough why.

As with most things in life the ”why” has to be big enough, so if its only a wish you will have a far less chance of success. So the first thing to do is have enough reasons why you want to learn the language.Once you have the why and enough ”why’s”  then throw in to the mix discipline,perseverance, patience whilst taking all out massive action and there lies the formula. Did I mention clever? No, because you don’t have to be, but you have to be determined.

3) Looking West

A Strange Kind Of Friendship

 In 1986 I was in Bangkok for a lengthy period of time and staying at the Mermaid’s Rest Guesthouse on Soi 8 in Sukhumvit Road. My Thai language at that time was virtually non-existent.

Soi 8 Sukhumvit Road Nowadays

One day bored with having food in the hotel and paying hotel prices I ventured out of the hotel up some steps and crossed over the bridge to a small restaurant with a few people in it. I paused at a distance to look at the days dishes that were on display and the owner ushered me in to take a closer look.

A dreadful feeling came over me, (you know the one you get when you are about to be moved out of your comfort zone) due to the fact that I could hardly utter a word of Thai let alone ask for lunch. I looked at the dishes again and was so pleased to see that Pork and rice were among the selections. It’s not  as if I even like pork that much, but I had learnt the word for pig and for rice so I told the gentleman ”moo which is pork” khao which is rice and walked to the fridge and took out a pepsi .

The owner nodded approvingly and began preparing the dish by hacking at the pork with a big meat cleaver adding the rice and some sort of soup juice to remove the dryness whilst repeatedly saying ” moo khao” and chuckling to himself . It sounded more like the sort of stuff they teach you when you are a baby and you are learning about cows ”moo cow” I was then ushered to my own table at the back of the restaurant feeling some what uncomfortable from the attention and looks I was receiving.

This procedure continued for about 6 weeks and like anything in life became easier and more comfortable the more I did it. Each day he would be out the front of his restaurant waiting for my arrival and would then straight away and dutifully prepare pork, rice and collect a bottle of pepsi from the fridge.

Not only did he prepare and serve this dish to my table which was always the one reserved at the back of the restaurant, but he would talk Thai to me like I was a native speaker, although I had no idea what he was talking about.

I was actually fed up with pork and rice after about 4 days, but the delight on his face as he served the food  to my table each day (the dish he thought I loved), completely halted me from changing it. I thought about trying to change the order and had purchased a Thai dictionary and carried out as much revision as I could in the evenings, but even armed with my new skills, I just couldn’t go through with it.

When all was said and done the man welcomed me to his restaurant, a restaurant where I was the only ever farang (or foreigner for those not familiar with the word farang) greeted me when I arrived, prepared and delivered the dish to me with great delight, told me a life story in between and carried a consistent smile on his face. In return all I had to do was eat rice and pork for 6 weeks.

Basically, even with a language barrier we got on fine  and I grew to like our daily meetings. On a business side of things it just goes to show that not all the ingredients have to be in the mix to make us return as customers, but treat people right and they will grow to like and respect you. When they like and respect you, they will return. I think half the battle to succeeding in any business situation is being liked.

I often wonder whether the gentleman is still alive today although the restaurant is no more and has not been there for a long time, but I often recall his kindness and fantastic attitude towards the only farang in his restaurant.

I suppose in a way it reminded me of the book I am about to talk about next called ”Ne’er The Twain Shall Meet”

4) Looking East

Ne’er The Twain Shall Meet

The first book that really got me hooked on Thailand fiction was a novel called ”Ne’er The Twain Shall Meet”  by Nick Noye first published in 1985. I suppose the fact that it had an old retired English major in the novel who liked to have a moan about most things  (only doing what we’re supposed to do) that endeared the novel to me even more.

Set in a Bangkok restaurant a strange friendship exists between two ageing alcoholics a Chinese restaurant owner and a retired English major who for the past 7 years have drunk whisky together at a back table of the restaurant. Neither speak the same language or understand the others language, but the friendship thrives. Aside from these two is the  poor hardworking Chinese restauranteurs wife who is frustrated by her husbands drinking and impotency and investigates several ways to revive him as she longs to feel like a woman again.

I found the novel throughly entertaining and enjoy it as much today as I did on the first reading in 1986. Look out for some classic lines spoken by the major as he goes in to an English kind of moan / rant on why for him he wound up in Bangkok.

England is not the place to die or live in, he says ” Take the weather. Where else can you experience winter, spring , summer and autumn within 24 hours? You need the metabolism of an eskimo, the endurance of an Indian ascetic and the skin of a bloody rhinoceros just to survive.”

”The major said on retiring from the army…. no couldn’t have returned to bloody England . A rented seaside flat, afternoons in the park or library, the Telegraph an evening sherry the television and a pitiful survival on my bloody pathetic pension. No not bloody likely.

The author got the character of the English major perfect and each moan or complaint throughout the book  left me in fits of laughter. The book was written in a way that for each chapter,  one character informed you of how they saw daily life unfold around them. Each character had two or three chapters where they told their story, unexpected solutions are found for the characters at the end of the book. Absolutely great stuff.

Ne’er the twain shall meet is something you say when two things or people are so different that they can never stay together or agree with each other.


5) Out And About

I was out and about in Nakhon Sawan during February 2012 and saw a sign for a Thai Massage that stated ” welcome please get inside”  I was expecting a couple of heavies to appear either side of me to make sure I went inside. If it had said ”welcome please come inside or please step inside I probably would not have paid much attention to it, but I love the polite request for the first part followed by a more urgent call to action. ” You will have that massage”. By the way the sign above informs that fresh coffee is also available. That’s it I’m sold.

6) Thai Conversation

In today’s language conversation Waan decides to ask Nick some questions to get him in the habit of understanding and being able to respond to what he has heard . Waan decides to put Nick in a more relaxed mood with a visit and walk around the superb Lumphini park in Bangkok. See full conversation below.


7) Thailand Travel Tips   (Tips From Chiang Mai)

Restaurant In Chiang Mai

With so many good places to eat in Thailand it’s fairly difficult to identify your very favourite restaurant, but in Chiang Mai there is a a place that was in the very first Lonely Planet guide-book and is also my very favourite restaurant.

If it’s about show, appearance and sitting in some where plush for you then forget it, but if it’s the taste of delicious Thai dishes then head over to ” Aroon Rai” in the Thapae gate area. All things in moderation of course but I do love a good Gang Gari (แกงกะหฺรี่) yellow chicken curry and here they do the best I have ever tasted.. superb. They have been serving quality food for more than 40 years and the quality never diminishes.

Swimming Pool And Fitness Centre In Chiang Mai

Whenever I say that I am going to Chiang Mai… people say, but there is no beach there. Correct. I am not one for sitting on a beach all day anyway, but if you do crave the combination of sunshine and water, then give this place a visit.

The Hillside Fitness Center which is on the 4th floor of the Hillside Plaza & Condotel 4 on Huaykaew Road Chiang Mai has a great pool and even a gym. For a fee of 100 baht I get to exercise, sit by the pool read, relax and complete outstanding work in whatever order you want.

8) Guest Interview … Mark Stephens On Thai Food And Travel

The first part of a superb  interview I carried out with Mark Stephens a British expat who has lived in Hua Hin, Thailand for the past  8 years.Mark is also a superb writer to boot. In my experience there are those expats that you run a mile from and there are a small group that you sit up, listen and take notice of.  Mark is of the latter group. Here Mark gives his tips and advice on Thai food and travel.


By the way Any One Need A Quality Writer (Mark Stephens)

For anyone who needs any writing done Mark is a Freelance Writer and Editor specialising in 5 star copywriting, articles and blogs. Whether short oF time yourself or more importantly requiring quality written work assignments carried out then please follow the link below in order to learn more about the service he provides and to be able to get in touch with Mark.


9) Recommended Article

How To…. Learn A Foreign Language from the excellent mindtools website


Recommended  Thai Language Product

PDQ Thai

The Thai PDQ-Quick Comprehensive Course: Learn to Speak Understand, Read, and Write Thai With Linguaphone Language Programs

If you are planning a trip to Thailand and would like to build up some Thai language to use before you go then look no further than the linguaphone Thai – PDQ quick comprehensive course. I have been a big fan of the Linguaphone method for a number of years and it was how I started my own Thai language studies in the very beginning. Phrase books are all very well and good, but you really have to be hearing the language especially a tonal language to get any grasp on even the basics. This course is designed for busy people in mind with no fluff and no filler just pure information. Linguaphone in my opinion have always done it better than most so why not give yourself a great head start for your forthcoming trip to Thailand.


Engaging Thailand Website

For more information, articles and stories about Thailand travel, food and all things Thai related, please visit the website



3 thoughts on “Engaging Thailand Newsletter: The Power Of Language

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s