Thai Alphabet – Consonant 09 – ฉ – CH sound

The ninth consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 09 - CH sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 09 - CH sound

This letter makes the CH sound, as in chance or cheese. The mnemonic for this letter was a bit CHallenging, but one thing that popped into mind was a guy wearing CHain mail.

Thai alphabet - consonant 09 - CH sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 09 - CH sound

Perhaps a CHampion astride a CHarger CHallenging CHarlatans. Ok, maybe I’ve gone over the mnemomic edge, but when I see this letter, I think CHain mail, and arrive at the CH sound. This is another common letter. It doesn’t change at the end of a word or syllable as it’s never used in way. Simply put, it always makes the CH sound. It’s a high class consonant.

Some words that use :

ฉลาด – cha laht – smart
ฉัน – chahn – I, me, my (female)
ฉาย – chai – to show (as in a movie)

Up next, consonant 10, , the CH sound.

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Soi Dogs

Written by a friend of mine, Jack, a longtime Bangkok resident. A true, interesting, colorful piece about life in Bangkok, from a perspective we don’t often get. Soi is Thai for smaller side-street. Jack writes:

Here’s a piece I wrote during my darker period in Bangkok.

I’ve come to know and love some street dogs. Like most people, I hadn’t really paid them much notice. They existed off my radar. They do in a very real sense live “off the grid.” They’re not coddled like pets in the West who are handed everything without lifting a paw. They literally never know where or when their next food will come from. I’ve come to know their lives a little. It’s a challenging Darwinian life. It’s Lord of the Flies on four legs but surprisingly more humane. I sometimes think they’re better than people. No, make that a lot of times.

I wouldn’t have even encountered them in any meaningful way had I not myself been caught in a downward spiral. But that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say that they had become a part of my milieu, or I theirs. Take your pick.

I accepted my plight. I was stuck in a poor, working class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bangkok. And I would probably never escape it. I was living on a ridiculously small pension. But at least I knew I was going to eat and where I would sleep, however primitive the nature of the accommodations were.

Ironically, it’s alienation that most suits me. I am literally a stranger in a strange land here; in fact, I have never seen another foreigner on the street in my area. But I am less alienated here than when I was paid well in the West and led a “comfortable” life. That was Miller’s “air-conditioned nightmare” for me — actually less life affirming than the raw conditions that are now my reality. But I digress.

With no funds in the budget for air-conditioning or entertainment, combined with the seemingly unrelenting heat of Bangkok, I would simply have to get out of my flat sometimes in the evenings. I needed a slight breeze and some respite from the heat. I would walk down to the local 7-11 and buy a cheap bottle of beer or a coffee and sit on the steps of a business across the street.

At first I had to wade into a sea of barking soi dogs protecting their turf to get to my seat. But I was not to be denied. They learned pretty quickly that I was coming there and sitting down and that was that. Live with it, boys, life’s all about accepting change, however grudgingly.

And it was a motley crew for sure. Over time, I named them. There was Mama for obviously apparent reasons. And Blackie and Blondie and Swish and Butch. Butch was a particularly impressive specimen of maleness! Big, aggressive, foreboding. He eyed me suspiciously. Was I a competitor? How much of a threat or inconvenience would I be?

But on successive nights I bought a couple of foot-long hot dogs with cheese and would bring them over for the guys. They were slightly heated in the microwave and sliced up and a little wooden skewer was included with which to dispense them. The first few nights were a little chaotic. Impatience reigned. A warm, cheese-injected hot dog was the filet mignon of the street, apparently! Anyway, they were more or less distributed equally. It’s difficult to say exactly how equitably under the circumstances. But I did my best.

It didn’t take long for them to recognise my gait. They’d come running down the street to greet me at 3:00 am when they saw me coming. I pointed to the other side of the street and barked, “Go on, get over there!” And they ran back to where they had been napping or keeping watch. And in a few minutes I’d have my drink and their treat. Eventually, they all lined up patiently for their alternating bites. The chaos was gone. They all seemed to know that they would get their share. That there was no longer any need to be savages.

After they got fed, they’d all curl up and take a nap, and I sat in their midst and did some email or reading on the web with my Blackberry. It was a nice ritual that went on several times a week for months. I didn’t come to think of them as friends. I came to *know* them as friends. Even the times when I couldn’t afford their treats, they loved to greet me and curl up around me when I did my reading. They still came up and nuzzled me, loving the physical contact. I always played with them a bit, and they loved it, even being quite vocal during the process. I don’t think they had much real physical contact with humans, even though they relied on cajoling some handouts from the 7-11 clientele. I petted and patted them and playfully pulled their ears, etc. I’m sure it meant at least as much as the food.

My presence in this neighbourhood has always been an extreme oddity. I feel a bit guilty saying it’s almost by design that I don’t speak Thai. I’ve made no effort whatsoever. There are two English daily newspapers and I have access to the internet and my email through my Blackberry. So I’ve been a bit spoiled. And since I’m a loner by nature, I don’t feel any particular incentive to socialise. The social isolation really doesn’t bother me.

Anyway, I am an oddity here. And it’s the sort of area where no one speaks my language, either. Though, strangely enough, the one guy who sees me and engages me in conversation is obviously certifiably nuts. He’s told me as much, mentioning all the medications he’s using! Hilarious. Maybe there really is a god, and he has a sense of humour!

I ignore for the most part how the Thais see me. Usually they just stare. Sometimes smile. This is, after all, “the land of smiles.” It’s amusing to see the confusion on their faces because they believe all foreigners are rich. So what is this foreigner doing sitting virtually on the street in this neighbourhood drinking a bottle of beer or a paper cup of coffee!? I like to think I’m challenging their view of the world!

Once, very late at night, I was enjoying the quiet and the fresh air and the peace. My guys were fed and fast asleep all around me. I noticed someone coming down the street. He was muttering some things. It broke the stillness of the night. He was on the other side of the street and when he reached the point which was about opposite to me, he yelled something. I looked up but then went back to my reading. He yelled again, like he was very angry. Now I was a bit annoyed. I looked up and it was obvious that he was yelling at me. And without really thinking, I made a dismissive wave of my hand and said, “Fuck off!”

He screamed some more Thai. It was one of those moments when you don’t have to speak the language to know that trouble is brewing. This time I just gestured with my hand a movement which I believed conveyed the aforementioned sentiment to Get Lost! He had a bottle in his hand. He threw it onto the street and the sound of the exploding shards of glass was not a welcome one. Then he started straight across the street for me. It was a very assertive stride. I realised then that I was going to have a problem with this guy. He wasn’t just a drunk. He was a very angry drunk.

I was mugged one time in Vancouver late at night when I was carrying a laptop computer. The mistake I made was trying to make a run for it. I would not have made that mistake had I not been so close to my apartment building. I was almost literally across the street. But I was 50 years old and not as fast as I used to be and was struck down by a blunt object. End of story. Military historians and strategists universally tell you that under most circumstances, cutting and running doesn’t work. You get “routed.” I love that term.

That lesson for me about confrontation has been hard earned. You could say, in the vernacular of the computer crowd, that it is now a “hard wired” part of my programming — I don’t run anymore!

So when he came hard charging across the street, I just sat there. When he got a little less than ten feet away, he stopped. And then he delivered another angry statement and then began to move toward me. Ok, now my mind was racing. I was just on the very verge of deciding how I would meet the attack when something amazing happened.

The air was immediately filled with the most savage, primitive growls I’ve ever heard. I looked to my right and saw Butch’s bared teeth. Then I looked to my left and saw Blackie’s. I had no idea they had so many teeth! The guy who was once approaching with such conviction, immediately stopped and a look of panic transformed him completely. He started to slowly back up. I started to laugh. I said, “That’s right. Fuck off!”

And he faded into the night as abruptly as he had appeared. And I put my arms around these closest two dogs of my crew and continued to laugh.

It struck me very deeply because the thing I value more deeply than anything else is loyalty. Yeah, I love brains and cleverness and humour and wit and beauty. But when someone puts it all on the line for *you*….what more needs to be said? My soi dogs have class and character. More than I can say for most people I’ve met. And I laugh with the most love and appreciation whenever I think about that incident and my soi dogs.

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Bangkok Scam – Beware The Indian Yogis

A friend, who was in Bangkok recently, wrote about his experience getting scammed:

Looking back, I cannot figure out what my state of mind must have been for me to have been fooled so easily. I’m usually aware of my surroundings and comfortable, yet cautious. On this afternoon, however, I failed my own “stupid-test” miserably.

After a night of hanging out at the bars of Patpong in Bangkok with my buddy, I was awakened by the hotel lobby calling me just after 12 noon, check-out time. She wanted to know if I wanted to stay another night or if I was going to checkout. I mumbled in my stupor that I would be checking out late. She said, “Ok, but if it’s after 3 then you’ll need to pay a 30% room fee.”

I stumbled out of bed with the goal of getting my daily fruit breakfast down the street so I could have my healthy constitution of the day prior to heading back to Pattaya. On my way down the street, I was called aside by an Indian man, who said to me, “Hello sir, you are a fortunate person. Your face shows that you are strong, but your spirit is troubled. I am a yogi with spiritual powers.” I smiled because I instantly remembered a similar man coming up to me on the street in Pattaya a few months earlier.

These guys carry around little notebooks, which they use to perform little “magic tricks.” The first ‘yogi’ to approach me in Pattaya did so with almost the exact greeting. His eyes looked friendly and honest enough, and I wasn’t in a hurry and he walked with me while we talked. He took out his little note book and began to scribble something on a little piece of paper. After he finished, he crimpled up the paper and put it into my palm and closed my hand. He then asked me what my favorite color was. I said, “Blue.” He said, open up the piece of paper in your hand. It said “Blue.” I was impressed. He asked for a small donation. I gave him 200 Baht for the effort, since I was so amused.

But then he continued with similar tricks, asking about my favorite fruit. Upon this exchange, I picked something a bit different – I said “Apricot.” He then tried to scribble “Apricot” on another piece of paper and tried to use slight-of-hand to switch the paper in my hand. But I caught him in the act. I remember when I used to play around with magic. The mantra was always – A good magician never attempts the same trick twice with the same audience.

That’s why I cannot understand why this second ‘yogi’ in Bangkok was able to swindle me so easily. I had the benefit of foreknowledge and was still fooled. This time, he asked me first, “If I can guess your mother’s name, will you pay me my fee?” “What’s your fee?” I asked. He said his fee was 5000 Baht. Feeling like I already knew the game, I was curious how this ‘yogi’ would do it, and so I agreed. He scribbled something on a piece of paper, crimpled it up and put it in my hand and asked me to put it in my shirt pocket. I did, and even placed my other hand over the pocket and kept it there. He then asked me what my mother’s name was. I told him and he wrote it down on a piece of paper, saying it was for “proof.” Then he turned his notebook toward me and proceeded to write another name. He wrote “Mary” and underlined it three times, saying, “This is my god.” Being from a Christian background, although I thought it unique that an Indian yogi would find Mother Mary or the Virgin Mary god-like, I just nodded my head and said, “ok.” He then tore off that sheet, crimpled it up and asked me to put it in my shirt pocket as well.

This is where I messed up. I really don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I forgot about the slight-of-hand that happens at this moment. He doesn’t put a crimpled “Mary” in my pocket, but had secretly switched the paper with my mom’s name. “Mary” was already in my pocket from the start. I suppose Mary is a common name, and that’s the first guess these ‘yogis’ try. If they get away with it on the first guess, they come out looking really good. Just like the first guy back in Pattaya who guessed my favorite color was “Blue.” Anyway, I did it as he asked. He then asked me to open the two pieces of paper. One had “Mary” and the other was my mom’s name.

Wow! He asked for me to place his fee in his notebook, discretely – “Don’t let anyone see.” I did as he asked, totally screwed over, but true to my own word. (I didn’t put it all together until later. Maybe it was the way he talked. Maybe it was the light brown color of his eyes. Maybe it was his golden earrings. In my haze, I really can’t say what the deal was. I was not hung over because I hadn’t drunk any alcohol the previous night – kept to orange juice. No excuses, except for being unaware.)

But wait! Not satisfied with 5000 Baht, he then wanted to further fleece me by telling me that his spiritual powers were very strong and that he could help me. He told me that I was an honest person, but allowed people to take advantage of me too easily. No shit? Ya think? He wanted to come back to my hotel room and show me some meditation to “help” me with my problems. I said, “No, I really don’t feel comfortable taking you back to my hotel room.” I asked if he instead wanted to join me for breakfast… “I was just on my way to buy some fruit from the street vendor up yonder.” He followed me and there was a small crowd waiting to be served by the fruit vender, so he wanted me to follow him to a quiet place where we could talk – he said, “Just 10 minutes.” Curious again, I said ok and he led me up the street and he found a small cafe, which didn’t have any people in it and proceeded inside. While seated at the table, the waitress gave us a menu. He ordered a coke and water, but no food. I didn’t want to be rude to the cafe owner, so I ordered a small meal, which neither of us ate anyway. It just gave us time to talk. (By the way, that meal we didn’t eat ended up costing me 300 Baht)

He then proceeded to ask me questions. Last time I had sex. “Last night” I said. He told me that I shouldn’t have sex with Thai prostitutes because of AIDS. He then started to tell me about my past lives. He said that in a past life I had an abortion and that baby is casting an evil spell on me. He asked me if I wanted help getting rid of the evil spell. I asked him if he could do anything about it and he said “yes.” He told me that I needed to find a chicken heart from the market, wrap it up in a red cloth and touch it to my forehead, exclaim that I’m casting off the karma from the aborted child as I cast the chicken heart “into the river.” He then wrote a simple meditation chant on a piece of paper and gave it to me. He told me that I would need to do it twice every day.

But he told me that he would also need to pray for me every day for a month. He showed me a laminated card that he took from his notebook. It had a written prayer along with a list of items that would need to be gathered in order to perform the prayers. I don’t remember everything on the list, but it included things like: flowers, candles, incense, etc. About half way in the list was gold. He asked me again, “Do you want me to perform this prayer for you so that the evil spell upon you can be removed and that aborted baby can go to heaven?” I asked, “Do you think you can do it?” He said he could. I said, “Yes, please do this prayer for me.” He said, “Ok, but I will need to buy all these materials and it will cost 31,000 Baht.”

Yeah, I’m stupid this morning…. but I’m not THAT stupid. I told him that I’m not giving him any MORE money. He said, “If you don’t have this spell removed, this coming November, you will have very bad luck. You may even end up in the hospital. Scare tactics. I refused. He then asked if I could pay a small portion of it now and then later pay the balence. I told him I couldn’t do that. He then asked if I would feel more comfortable if we walked to a place where we could buy the material together. I said “No, I don’t even have any money left. I gave you money already.” He told me that money was his fee. He continued, “You may not have any money in your pocket, but I know you have an ATM card. Everyone has one of those. You can get more money from the ATM.”

I smiled and said, “Sorry, you’re not getting any MORE money from me today. But if you give me your phone number, I’ll think about it and if I change my mind, I’ll give you a call.” After a few more unsuccessful efforts to get me to change my mind, we walked out of the cafe and onto the street. He did give me his phone number – he wrote it on the little meditation chant paper he gave me.

Most people on this earth are nice, friendly people who don’t want to do any harm to their fellow man. But there are a few people who take advantage of others. These are the people to watch out for. Heaven help the next ‘yogi’ who approaches me. Karma may be coming his way.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 08 – จ – J sound

The eighth consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 08 - J sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 08 - J sound

This letter makes the J sound, as in jump.  Again in this case, as with the letter, it looks a bit like the english letter that makes the same sound.  So, for the mnemonic, we’ll say it looks like an upside down J.  This is a fairly unique looking letter, which makes it easier to remember, and the only letter that makes the J sound in the Thai language.

Thai alphabet - consonant 08 - J sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 08 - J sound

So when you see this letter, just think upside down J, or maybe even Juxtaposed J :) and remember the J sound.  This is a very common letter, you’ll hear words like jep (hurts),  joop (kiss), and jai (heart) a lot.  It’s also one of those letters that changes when it’s used at the end of a word or syllable.  In this case, it makes a T sound.  It’s a mid class consonant.

Some words that use :

เจ็บ – jep – hurts
จูบ – joop – kiss
ใจ – jai – heart
จาน – jahn – plate

Up next, consonant 09, , the CH sound.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 07 – ง – NG sound

The seventh consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 07 - NG sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 07 - NG sound

This is the first letter (if you’re looking at these posts in order) that makes a sound we don’t have in the English language (for a single letter anyway), the NG sound.  To make the right sound,  just use the last sound made when saying a word like ring or thing.  In English, we use two letters to make this sound,  and it never starts a word.  In Thai, this letter can start a word or syllable.

The system of mnemonics I’ve been using won’t work for this letter, because there are no English words (or pictures) that start with NG, as in all of the other pictures.  We have to get a little more expansive and creative with this letter, so I looked at it, and thought it looked like the letter g. I just remember when I see the Thai letter that I need to add letters to make it sound like NG.

Thai alphabet - consonant 07 - NG sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 07 - NG sound

So, look at the letter, think of a G ending a word with NG, and that’s your sound.   This is a common letter, it has the same sound at the beginning and end of the syllable, and is a low class consonant.  It’s the only letter in the Thai alphabet that makes this sound.

Some words that use :

งาน – ngahn – work
งวง – nguahng – tired
แดง – daaeng – red
เงิน – ngern – money

Up next, consonant 08, , the J sound.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 06 – ฆ – K sound

The sixth consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 06 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 06 - K sound

This letter makes the K sound,  and is the last letter in this series of 5 in a row that make the K sound.  The mnemonic picture for this one is going to take a little more imagination, but when I looked at it, I thought it looked a bit like a cat.

Thai alphabet - consonant 06 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 06 - K sound

Sorry about that picture, art isn’t my strong suit :) .  Look at this letter, think cat, and remember the K sound.  is a very uncommon letter.  As a matter of fact, when I got to it, I couldn’t remember ever seeing it before, so I asked my girlfriend if it’s obsolete, and she said no.  I looked it up and found relatively few words that use it, but still, this one needs to be learned.

Here are a few words that start with .

ฆ้อน – khawn – hammer
ฆาต – khaht – to kill

The sound is the same at the beginning and the end of syllables.  This means all of the K sound letters in the Thai language remain the same whether they start or end a syllable.  It’s also a low class tone, which means all of the K sound letters are either low or high tone class, no mid tone class.

Next up, consonant 07, , the NG sound.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 05 – ฅ – K sound

The fifth consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 05 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 05 - K sound

This letter makes the K sound, and looks a LOT like the letter before it, .  Not only that, it has the exact same characteristics, the same sound, the same ending sound, and the same tone class, low. Again, we’re going to use the keyhole picture to remember.

Thai alphabet - consonant 05 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 05 - K sound

You’d look at this letter, remember a door with a keyhole, and think the K sound. The big BIG difference between the two letters, and the reason we’re using the same mnemonic picture, is because this letter is also obsolete. I looked into it a little bit, and some wiseguy movie maker recently released a movie with this letter in the title. But let’s not waste any time with it. I think we’ve covered the only two consonants that are obsolete, though there are still a few that are just very uncommon.

Next up, consonant 06, , the last K sound.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 04 – ค – K sound

The fourth consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 04 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 04 - K sound

This letter makes the K sound. As you’ve noticed if you’re going through these in order, a lot of the same sounds are grouped together. There are 5 letters that make the K sound in the Thai alphabet, and I assume one of the reasons for so many is the tones assigned to the words.

When I look at this letter, it looks a bit like a door with a keyhole in it.  So I see it, think keyhole and get to the K sound.

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

The is also a common letter, you’ll see it all over the place with some very common words. Some words that begin with :

คุณ – khun – you
คิด – khit – to think
คิม – kim – the english name
คน – khon – person
ไข่ – khai – egg

This letter always makes the K sound, both at the start and end of syllables. Its tone class is low.

Next up, consonant 05, , the K sound.

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Bangkok Number 1 for Facebook Usage

Surprisingly, the Bangkok, Thailand leads the world in Facebook users, according to the Socialbakers list of top Facebook usage by city.

That surprises me for a few reasons.  First of all, it’s not just a given that people in Bangkok own a computer.  I suspect that’s changed dramatically in the last 5 years with the price of computers and accessories falling so significantly, but even still, paying $500 for a computer is a significant purchase for the average Thai person.  Along with that, it’s not just a given that every household has internet access.  The fact that internet cafes are in business everywhere is a testament to that.  Internet access has gotten considerably better and cheaper — 5 years ago, a 2 to 4 Mb connection was normal to standard, and service just wasn’t very good or reliable.  Now 20 Mb connections are easily available and affordable, but it still comes down to financial issues.

What a lot of Thai people have is smart phones, but due to recent government infighting, 3G is only recently becoming readily available and can still be spotty.  Wireless access seems to be pretty universally available in Bangkok, though, even if 3G isn’t.

I would have guessed that some of the bigger US cities, with everybody having computers, smart phones,  3/4G and good home connections would lead the way, but there isn’t even a US city in the top 10.   Another indication that Bangkok is one of the leading international metropolises in the world.

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Thai Alphabet – Consonant 03 – ฃ – K sound

The third consonant in the Thai alphabet is the letter .

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

For this letter, I’m using the coffee cup picture again, except it’s got a curvier handle. Curvy Coffee Cup, that’s a lot of alliteration.

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

Thai alphabet - consonant 03 - K sound

Why am I using the same picture as , isn’t it going to get confusing because these letters look so much alike? Well, here’s everything you need to know about this letter: nothing. It’s obsolete, and you’ll never see it in Thai language. I asked my girlfriend why and she said she didn’t know. I just added it for continuity.

If for some reason you’re interested, it’s got the exact same characteristics as the , a high tone, and when it’s at the end of a syllable, makes the K sound.

Let’s move on to the next letter in the Thai alphabet, , the K sound.

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