Touring Guide

The Monarchy

It is both socially unacceptable and a criminal offence to make critical or defamatory remarks about the royal family. Thailand's monarchy might be a constitutional one, but almost every household displays a picture of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit in a prominent position, and respectful crowds mass whenever either of them makes a public appearance. The second of their four children, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is the heir to the throne; his younger sister, Princess Royal Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, is often on TV and in the English newspapers as she is involved in many charitable projects. When addressing or speaking about royalty, Thais use a special language full of deference, called rajasap (literally "royal language").

Aside from keeping any anti-monarchy sentiments to yourself, you should be prepared to stand when the King's Anthem is played at the beginning of every cinema programme and to stop in your tracks if the town you're in plays the national anthem over its public address system – many small towns do this twice a day at 8am and again at 6pm, as do some train stations and airports. A less obvious point: as the king's head features on all Thai currency, you should never step on a coin or banknote, which is tantamount to kicking the king in the face.

Religion

Almost equally insensitive would be to disregard certain religious precepts. Buddhism plays an essential part in the lives of most Thais, and Buddhist monuments should be treated with respect – which basically means wearing long trousers or knee-length skirts, covering your arms and removing your shoes whenever you visit one.

All Buddha images are sacred, however small, tacky or ruined, and should never be used as a backdrop for a portrait photo, clambered over, placed in a position of inferiority or treated in any manner that could be construed as disrespectful. In an attempt to prevent foreigners from committing any kind of transgression the government requires a special licence for all Buddha statues exported from the country. With the above in mind, there is however no need to worry about taking photos of Buddha images or temples, inside and out. So long as it's tasteful in their eyes.

Monks come only just beneath the monarchy in the social hierarchy, and they too are addressed and discussed in a special language. If there's a monk around, he'll always get a seat on the bus, usually right at the back. Theoretically, monks are forbidden to have any close contact with women, which means, as a female, you mustn't sit or stand next to a monk, or even brush against his robes; if it's essential to pass him something, put the object down so that he can then pick it up – never hand it over directly. They're also forbidden to touch money (must put it in an envelope first), alcohol and cigarettes/narcotics. Nuns, however, get treated like ordinary women.

Religion - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Thai Names

Although all Thais have a first name and a family name, everyone is addressed by their first name – even when meeting strangers – prefixed by the title "Khun" (Mr/Ms but literal translation is 'you'); no one is ever addressed as Khun Surname, and even the phone book lists people by their given name. In Thailand you will often be addressed in an Anglicized version of this convention, as "Mr Paul" or "Miss Lucy" for example. Bear in mind though, that when a man is introduced to you as Khun Pirom, his wife will definitely not be Khun Pirom as well (that would be like calling them, for instance, "Mr and Mrs Paul"). Among friends and relatives, Phii ("older brother/sister") is often used instead of Khun when addressing older familiars (though as a tourist you're on surer ground with Khun), and Nong ("younger brother/sister") is used for younger ones.

Many Thai first names come from ancient Sanskrit and have an auspicious meaning; for example, Boon means good deeds, Porn means blessings, Siri means glory and Thawee means to increase. However, Thais of all ages are commonly known by the nickname given them soon after birth rather than by their official first name. This tradition arises out of a deep-rooted superstition that once a child has been officially named the spirits will begin to take an unhealthy interest in them, so a nickname is used instead to confuse the spirits. Common nicknames – which often bear no resemblance to the adult's personality or physique – include Yai (Big), Oun (Fat) and Muu (Pig); Lek or Noi (Little), Nok (Bird), Noo (Mouse) and Kung (Shrimp); Neung (Number One/Eldest), Sawng (Number Two), Saam (Number Three); and English nicknames like Apple, Joy or even Pepsi.

Family names were only introduced in 1913 (by Rama Vl, who invented many of the aristocracy's surnames himself), and are used only in very formal situations, always in conjunction with the first name. It's quite usual for good friends never to know each other's surname. Ethnic Thais generally have short surnames like Somboon or Srisai, while the long, convoluted family names – such as Sonthanasumpun – usually indicate Chinese origin, not because they are phonetically Chinese but because many Chinese immigrants have chosen to adopt new Thai surnames and Thai law states that every newly created surname must be unique. Thus anyone who wants to change their surname must submit a shortlist of five unique Thai names – each to a maximum length of ten Thai characters – to be checked against a database of existing names. As more and more names are taken, Chinese family names get increasingly unwieldy, and more easily distinguishable from the pithy old Thai names.

The Body & Social Conventions

The Western liberalism embraced by the Thai sex industry is very unrepresentative of the majority Thai attitude to the body. Clothing – or the lack of it – is what bothers Thais most about tourist behaviour. As mentioned above, you need to dress modestly when entering temples, but the same also applies to other important buildings and all public places. Stuffy and sweaty as it sounds, you should keep short shorts and vests for the real tourist resorts, and be especially diligent about covering up and, for women, wearing bras in rural areas. Baring your flesh on beaches is very much a Western practice: when Thais go swimming they often do so fully clothed, and they find topless and nude bathing extremely unpalatable.

According to ancient Hindu belief, the head is the most sacred part of the body and the feet are the most unclean. This belief, imported into Thailand, means that it's very rude to touch another person's head or to point your feet either at a human being or at a sacred image – when sitting on a temple floor, for example, you should tuck your legs beneath you rather than stretch them out towards the Buddha. These hierarchies also forbid people from wearing shoes (which are even more unclean than feet) inside temples and most private homes, and – by extension – Thais take offence when they see someone sitting on the "head", or prow, of a boat. Putting your feet up on a table, a chair or a pillow is also considered very uncouth, and Thais will always take their shoes off if they need to stand on a train or bus seat to get to the luggage rack, for example. On a more practical note, the left hand is used for washing after defecating, so Thais never use it to put food in their mouth, pass things or shake hands – as a foreigner though, you'll be assumed to have different customs, so left-handers shouldn't worry unduly.

Thais very rarely shake hands, instead using the wai to greet and say goodbye and to acknowledge respect, gratitude or apology. A prayer-like gesture made with raised hands, the wai changes according to the relative status of the two people involved: Thais can instantaneously assess which wai to use, but as a foreigner your safest bet is to go for the "stranger's" wai, which requires that your hands be raised close to your chest and your fingertips placed just below your chin. If someone makes a wai at you, you should generally wai back, but it's safer not to initiate.
Public displays of physical affection in Thailand are more common between friends of the same sex than between lovers, whether hetero or homosexual. Holding hands and hugging is as common among male friends as with females, so if you're caressed by a Thai acquaintance of the same sex, don't assume you're being propositioned.

Finally, there are three specifically Thai concepts you're bound to come across, which may help you comprehend a sometimes laissez-faire attitude to delayed buses and other inconveniences. The first, jai yen, translates literally as "cool heart" and is something everyone tries to maintain – most Thais hate raised voices, visible irritation and confrontations of any kind, so losing one's cool can have a much more inflammatory effect than in more combative cultures. Related to this is the oft-quoted response to a difficulty, mai pen rai – "never mind", "no problem" or "it can't be helped" – the verbal equivalent of an open-handed shoulder shrug, which has its basis in the Buddhist notion of karma (see "Religion"). And then there's sanuk, the wide-reaching philosophy of "fun", which, crass as it sounds, Thais do their best to inject into any situation, even work. Hence the crowds of inebriated Thais who congregate at waterfalls and other beauty spots on public holidays (travelling solo is definitely not sanuk), the inability to do almost anything without high-volume musical accompaniment, and Songkrahn, Thai new year that lasts a minimum of three days involving all in the national waterfight which takes place every April on streets right across Thailand.

Drugs - forget it.

Drug-smuggling carries a maximum penalty in Thailand of death. Dealing drugs will get you anything from four years to life in a Thai prison; penalties depend on the drug and the amount involved. Travellers caught with even the smallest amount of drugs at airports and international borders are prosecuted for trafficking, and no one charged with trafficking offences gets bail. Heroin, amphetamines, LSD and ecstasy are classed as Category 1 drugs and carry the most severe penalties: even possession of Category 1 drugs for personal use can result in a life sentence. Away from international borders, most foreigners arrested in possession of small amounts of cannabis are released on bail, then fined and deported, but the law is complex and prison sentences are possible.

Despite occasional royal pardons, don't expect special treatment as a foreigner: you only need to read one of the first-hand accounts by foreign former prisoners to get the picture, but if that doesn't put you off you could always visit an inmate in a Bangkok jail. The police actively look for tourists doing drugs, reportedly searching people regularly and randomly on Thanon Khao San, for example. They have the power to order a urine test if they have reasonable grounds for suspicion, and even a positive result for marijuana consumption could lead to a year's imprisonment. Be wary also of being shopped by another foreigner or local dealer keen to earn a financial reward for a successful bust (there are setups at the Ko Pha Ngan full moon parties, for example), or having substances slipped into your luggage (simple enough to perpetrate unless all fastenings are secured with padlocks).
If you are arrested, ask for your embassy to be contacted immediately, which is your right under Thai law, and embassy staff will talk you through procedures.

The British charity Prisoners Abroad (www.prisonersabroad.org.uk) carries a detailed Survival Guide on its website, which outlines what to expect if arrested in Thailand, from the point of apprehension through trial and conviction to life in a Thai jail; if contacted, the charity may also be able to offer direct support to a British citizen facing imprisonment in a Thai jail.

Thai Laws

Age restrictions and other laws

Thai law requires that tourists carry their original passports at all times, though sometimes it's more practical to carry a photocopy and keep the original locked in a safety deposit. Mine is scanned in, photoshop all the relevant pages together then printed business card size. It is illegal for under-18s to buy cigarettes or alcohol, to drive, or to have sex, and you must be 21 or over to be allowed into a bar or club (ID checks are often enforced in Bangkok). It is illegal for anyone to gamble in Thailand (though many do). Smoking is prohibited in all air-conditioned public buildings (including restaurants but usually excluding bars and clubs) and on air-conditioned trains, buses and planes; violators are subject to a B2000 fine. Dropping cigarette butts, littering and spitting in public places can also earn you a B2000 fine. The Thais laugh at these, calling them 'Farang (foreigner) Tax', as it's only us the police even dream of picking on. Beware, they are looking out for you, easy collar. There are fines for overstaying your visa, working without a permit, and not wearing a motorcycle helmet and violating other traffic laws.

Your Safety

Thailand has more than its fair share of scams, but most are easily avoided with a modicum of common sense.

More a nuisance than a danger, a common scam by touts, taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand is to wait by important monuments and temples and waylay Western travellers, telling them that the site is closed for a "Buddhist holiday", "repairs" or a similar reason. The 'helpful' driver will then offer to take the traveller to another site, such as a market or store. Travelers who accept these offers will often end up at out-of-the-way markets with outrageous prices - and no way to get back to the centre of town where they came from. So always check at the front gate of the site you're visiting to make sure it's really closed.

Avoid any tuk-tuks in Bangkok. Tuk-tuk drivers might demand much higher price than agreed, or they might take you to a sex show, pretending they didn't understand the address (they get commissions from places). For the same reason avoid drivers who propose their services without being asked, especially near major tourist attractions. Take meter-taxi's, can't go wrong, unless he tries the 'meter broken' scam, don't even waste your time arguing, tell him to pull over, get out and find another cab with a 'working' meter. The fewer who put up with this, the less it will be tried on.

Don't buy any sightseeing tours at the airport. If you do, they will phone several times to your hotel in order to remind you about the tour. During the tour, you will be shortly taken to a small temple, without a guide, and then one shop after another as they get commission. They might refuse to take you back home until you see all the shops. On your way back, they pressure you to buy more tours. No need to fear this on our tours, we'll take care of you from start to finish.

Easily identified with practice, it is not uncommon in tourist areas to be approached by a clean cut, well dressed man who often will be toting a cell phone.

These scammers will start up polite conversation, showing interest in the unsuspecting tourist's background, family, or itinerary. Inevitably, the conversation will drift to the meat of the scam. This may be something as innocuous as over-priced tickets to a kantok meal and show, or as serious as a gambling scam or (particularly in Bangkok) the infamous gem scam.

Beware also jewellery shops offering to 'clean' your jewellery, usually replaced with counterfeit items.

Once identified, the wary traveller should have no trouble picking out these scammers from a crowd. The tell-tale well pressed slacks and button down shirt, freshly cut hair of a conservative style, and late-model cell phone comprise their uniform. Milling around tourist areas without any clear purpose for doing so, the careful traveller should have no difficulty detecting and avoiding these scammers.

Many visitors will encounter young Thai ladies armed with a clipboard and a smile enquiring as to their nationality, often with an aside along the lines of "please help me to earn 30 baht".

The suggestion is that the visitor completes a tourism questionnaire (which includes supplying their hotel name and room number) with the incentive that they just might win a prize - the reality is that everyone gets a call to say that they are a "winner", however the prize can only be collected by attending an arduous time-share presentation. Note that the lady with the clipboard doesn't get her 30 baht if you don't attend the presentation; also that only English-speaking nationalities are targeted.

Another recurrent scam involves foreigners - sometimes accompanied by small children - who claim to be on the last day of their vacation in Thailand, and having just packed all their belongings into one bag in preparation for their flight home, lost everything when that bag was stolen. Now cash is urgently needed in order to get to the airport in a hurry and arrange a replacement ticket for his/her return flight in a few hours time.

Terrorism: national security is currently at the top of the agenda of countries around the world and Thailand is no exception. The insurgency in southern Thailand is limited to the country’s three southernmost provinces and has thus showed no signs of having an effect on the capital. After the recent second bombing in Bali it’s difficult to offer any guarantees and Thailand certainly is an easier place for these groups to operate.

Drugs: while the situation has lightened somewhat since the severe crackdown of the infamous ‘war on drugs’ in 2003, Thai authorities still draw a hard-line on drugs and possession of even a small amount of marijuana will make you vulnerable to a massive potential fine or even jail time and deportation. Foreigners caught trafficking drugs are likely to end up living a hellish existence at the infamous ‘Bangkok Hilton’, Bangkwang prison. Do not be drawn into any suspicious deals, no matter how financially rewarding it may sound to a desperate soul.

Violence: Thais, on the whole, are passive people and manage to maintain a passive environment. However, there is the odd occasion when alcohol fuelled fights break out and the aggressor will stop at nothing with his rage. Thai men are proud and controlled, but some are known to get drunk easily and if their national or self pride is insulted by an insensitive foreigner they can really ‘lose it’! Some men have also reported rather destructive jealousy-fuelled tantrums from their Thai female companions which have left their hotel rooms trashed.

Life is very cheap here, 100,000b can buy you off from a murder if you've friends in the right places, Thais keep their cool far longer than we ever would/could, but like a pressure cooker it builds until it goes in fine style. Leave. Immediately.

Women alone: Thailand is generally a safe country for women to travel alone, but there have been a few cases of rape by taxi drivers or women lured by local men into fatal or fearsome situations. As with all strange countries, keep your wits about you and be wary of befriending strangers too quickly.

Hustlers and touts: pushy touts are likely to be among the first Thai people you meet upon landing in the Bangkok airport and you are likely to meet many more during your stay. They will all want to cart you off to some destination or other, all the time with an eye on making a bit of extra money from someone unfamiliar with the city. Relative to other tourist destinations in developing countries the Thai are generally quite polite and, apart from market vendors and tuk tuk or taxi drivers, they respect your privacy.
A firm ‘Mai ow krap(for men)/ka(spoken by ladies)’ (not interested thanks!) will serve you well in most cases and if it does not simply ignoring the persistent pleas and continuing on your path will cause the tout to move on to the next person. Sometimes hard work not to let your eyes flicker towards them giving the 'in' necessary, but completely ignoring them usually does the trick. Sunglasses!

Scams: tuk tuk drivers, especially those who congregate in tourist areas, are notorious for offering ‘tours’, even on occasion bringing you to the famous site of your choice for free, provided you stop off at look at jewellery or a suit shop along the way. On the occasion we do use Tuk-Tuks (they ARE fun)we use a select few we've built a good working relationship with, who'll take us directly to our destination. These scams are arranged with the owner of the shop and making purchases during such a trip is not a good idea as you will be paying far higher rates than you would normally and quite possibly receiving goods of dubious quality.

Also be aware of recommendations from taxi drivers when it comes to jewellery shops, suits, shops, bars and restaurants. Gem scams are the most prolific and every week someone lodges a complaint about losing larges sums of money buying what they thought were cheap ‘illegally smuggled’ Burmese gems, only to discover the goods are fake and the shop gone when they return. The solution to this one is simple; don’t be greedy, and imagine you are scoring a bargain illicitly. The only bargains to be picked up here are by the Thais themselves.

Motorcycles: many consider motorcycle taxis so dangerous in Bangkok, that they’re to be used as a last resort when you need to beat the traffic. They can be particularly dangerous for those who have much larger body types than Thai people. Remember that a motorcycle driver is accustomed to having a thin-framed Thai person on the back of his bike and may at times not leave too much room to negotiate himself through a tight traffic squeeze. Motorcyclists can also be a hazard to pedestrians and locals have a habit of driving rather recklessly. Personally I have used them a great deal in the past, dodgey as hell but incredible fun!

Buses: getting on an off the buses in Bangkok is not a simple matter. You must be sure that it has come to a full stop, and as such it is best to get off with a group of people and be careful about doing so. Numerous terrible injuries occur every year due to people falling off buses.

Construction: Bangkok is one ongoing big construction projects and much of the work that was abandoned after the 1997 financial crisis is now being finished off. Pavements are a particular hazard, full of holes and sometimes loose debris. Safety laws in Thailand are rather loosely applied and falling masonry and collapsing walls and billboards are a hazard from time-to-time, but seldom cause any widespread casualty. You'll see the Thais mostly watching the ground when they walk rather than looking straight ahead. Good habit to get into, no claims against the council here!

Drinking Water

Is it safe to drink the water?

Despite the fact that the authorities have made efforts to make tap water meet World Health Organization standards, very few people drink tap water in Thailand, even the local population. Bottled water is widely used instead. They're just beginning to advertise a water company in Bangkok which provides drinkable tap water.

Some people actually boil tap water before use, but this will not remove chemical toxins or remnants of whatever else was there before boiling. You should also be careful with ice, as freezing does not protect you from bacteria, viruses or chemicals. Brushing your teeth with tap water is considered to be safe, although those with very sensitive stomachs may occasionally experience problems.

In restaurants, you will find the water to be generally safe. You can always buy small bottles if you like but make sure the seal has not been broken.

However, you should be very careful with street vendors and street food stalls. The biggest risk is actually from the cleanliness of the glasses themselves. You can become very ill indeed if you are not careful. Drink directly from the bottle if you are in any doubt. Use the straw they provide with canned drinks, rats running around atop them in the warehouses. Weill's disease is a possibility.

Don't worry too much about the ice that is served in cafes etc as they usually have the ice delivered to them from government inspected ice factories. Perfectly safe with the 'tube shaped' ice that comes from these factories, don't accept cubed or crushed ice. I've seen them drag an ice block across the road before now, throw it directly in the crusher and straight over the fresh fish on sale.

Drinking Water - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Mechanical Phrases

For the more advanced, some Thai that may just get you out of a sticky spot. Cars, biking stuff etc. Kindly provided by Ray Fisher of Udorn thani.Please don't forget the 'R's at the beginning or in the middle of a word are either rolled for the correct pronunciation or more usually (by the Thais themselves) pronounced as a soft 'L'. At the end of a word the 'R' is stretched as on the previous page.

Motorcycle มอเตอร์ไซค์ Motasai
Car รถเก๋ง Rot Gaeng
Clutch คลัช Clut
Brake เบรค Braake
Brake Pad ผ้าเบรค Pah Braake
Brake Disc จานเบรค Jaan Braake
Brake fluid น้ำมันเบรค Nam-man Braake
Brake Light ไฟเบรค Fai Braake
Windscreen กระจกหน้า Gra-Jok Nah
Rear Windscreen กระจกหลัง Gra-Jok Lang
Engine Oil น้ำมันเครื่อง Nam-man Krueng
Gearbox Oil น้ำมันเกียร์ Nam-man Gear
Power Steering Oil น้ำมันพาวเวอร์ Nam-man Power
Radiator หม้อน้ำ Mor-Naam
Radiator Fluid น้ำในหม้อน้ำ Naan Nai Mor Naam
Engine เครื่องยนต์ Krueng Yon
Steering Wheel พวงมาลัย Phum-a-Lai
Boot/Trunk ท้ายรถ Tai Rot
Air Filter ฟองอากาศ Fong Aggart
Side View Mirrors กระจกข้าง Gra-Jok Kaang
Rear View Mirror กระจกมองหลัง Gra-Jok Mong Lang
Electric Windows กระจกไฟฟ้า Gra-Jok Fai Fah
Fuel Injector หัวฉีด Hua Cheet
Bonnet/Hood ฝากระโปรงหน้า Fah Gra-Bong Nah
Stereo เครื่องเสียง Krueng Seeang
Tyre ยาง Yaang
Hand Brake เบรคมือ Braake Mue
Exhaust ท่อไอเสีย Tor
Spare Tyre ยางอะไหล่ Yaang Arai
Steering Alignment ตั้งศูนย์ Dang Soon
Front Bumper กันชนหน้า Gan Chon Nah
Rear Bumper กันชนหลัง Gan Chon Lang
Distributor จานจ่าย Jaan Jai
Spark Plugs หัวเทียน Hua Ti-en
Shock Absorber โชคอัพ Chock-Up
Seat Belt เข็มขัด Kem Kat
Timing Belt สายพานไทม์มิ่ง Sai Paan Timing
CV Boot ยางหุ้มเพรา Yang Hum Pow
Suspension Spring สปริง Sa-Pring Leaf
Spring แหนบ Nairb
Rear Light ไฟหลัง Fai Lang
Reverse Light ไฟถอยหลัง Fai Toi Lang
Head Light ไฟหน้า Fai Naa
Indicator/Turn Light ไฟเลี้ยว Fai Leeow
Differential ไฟท้าย Fuang Tai
Horn แตร Dae
Wiper Blades ที่ปัดน้ำฝน Tee Bat Naam Fon
Oil Filter กรองอากาศ Glong Nam-man

Mechanical Phrases - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Handy Words & Phrases

Thai language isn't easy simply because the rules just don't gel with our own. For starters they've 44 consonants and 23 vowels. However the vowels are split into short and long versions for each. Nueng (the number one) for example is the short version of the UUe vowel, which if you've ever stepped into a pile of dog poop and 'Yeuch!', is roughly how it's pronounced! No spaces between words so they make up for this by using beginning, middle and end consonants. Also a fair few of those we don't have, such as the 'Bp' sound, beginning of my wife's name Bpuk (now that's with a normal 'u' sound though!) and 'Dt' as in Dtao (pronounced Dtow), Turtle.

However, day to day vocabulary is fairly limited, and surprising how little you can get away with! All assume when they hear me rattling away I've an excellent command of the language, not so I'm afraid to say, just know how to ask for the items I require, and pretty basic conversation. Still often thrown by a curve ball! All in all very unlikely indeed you'll be caught anywhere without any of us around for assistance. Hasn't happened yet. Bit of 'Hello', 'Please' and 'Thank you' nice to know though if you're prepared to read on and be undeterred by the incidentals?
Firstly we'd better cover a little pronunciation. Spelt 'r' for inclusion in this text, the Thai version is rolled when correctly pronounced something like the Scots' do. You'll only ever hear this on news/current affairs television programs though. In everyday usage, the Thais will pronounce a shortened roll which ends up as a version of 'l', if at all. Prime example 'Khrap' below. Originally a rolled r, shortened, changed to an l, however used so often nobody even bothers to pronounce that any more, leaving us all with 'Kap'. You also have to change the stress on many words with an English base, invariably putting the stress at the end of the word, last syllable. Example; compUter, stress on the U as we pronounce it becomes computERRRRR in Thai speak. Because it's such a phonetically controlled language you don't stand a chance of being understood if you forget this golden rule. A menu becomes a meenoo etc. They say it as they see it, which leads to some very amusing spelling and pronunciation!

There are also five tones used in words which completely change their meaning. Low, mid, high, rising and falling. We'll stay away from these on the whole as most Thais are smart enough to figure out what you're saying contextually. Even if with a giggle when you walk into the tailor's shop and proudly announce you'd like to purchase four tigers, rather than four shirts! Very tricky indeed as the tones don't normally coincide with our natural western speech patterns. Therefore we'll follow the KISS principle; Keep It Simple, Stupid!

All phrases (not even as far as a sentence) should be followed by 'Khrap' if you're a gent and 'Ka' if you're a lady. Basically a polite affirmation, equivalent to calling somebody Sir or Madam. However, as in many Asian cultures (Japan's 'Hai!' really just mean's "I'm listening", and nothing more), no actual words for 'yes' or 'no', so on its own suffices as a yes, or more effectively, a simple affirmative. Don't worry if you don't add it often enough for etiquette, they'll forgive you and just be pleased you're at least one of those who tries, rather than the classic shouting louder hoping this will aid understanding!!

'Mai' conversely, with a falling tone equals 'not' and is therefore placed before any other word rather than used on its own as a 'no'.

'Mai' with a rising tone implies an enquiry, though still literally translating as 'not?' easiest to remember that one, stick it at the end of the phrase just the same tone as asking a question naturally.
A number of other 'Mai's to be taken into consideration, including long and short versions, very famous Thai phrase utilising them all translates as 'New wood doesn't burn very well, does it?'.

Enough of the difficulties, let's give you a few stock in trade phrases that will get you by out in the sticks. You'll have no difficulties whatsoever in Chiang mai itself. As an aside, the whole language itself is very imprecise indeed compared to our own. Mistakes are very commonly made, even between Thais themselves, requires the whole subject to be discussed for an interminable length of time before agreement is reached! Directions particularly...Beware!!

Addressing; mainly aimed at staff as this will be most of your requirement. Everything based on age here, you wouldn't believe how important age and therefore rank/seniority is established. You'll have a nightmare trying to judge ages at first, they all look about twelve, some with wrinkles! Ladies, please don't be upset if somebody asks your age, with the importance placed on it here it's often almost the first line of questioning in a conversation between two Thais who've never met before, sometimes before enquiring as to name!

Khun...(Formal)...................You/Mr/Mrs/Miss
Nong...(Informal).................Younger sister/brother/staff/friend
Pii....(Informal).................Older sister/brother, etc.
Loong..(Informal).................Much older sister, etc., but with respect!
All to be used with the appropriate Khrap/Ka as follows, here just for basic attention grabbing. Bottom of list if you're unsure of age, probably most situations!
Nong Khrap/Ka!
Pii Khrap/Ka!
Khatoetd (na) Khrap/Ka...Excuse me (please), but also used for I'm sorry, forgive me etc.
Sawasdee khrap/ka................ Good day, Hello!
Taow rai khrap/ka?............... How much is it?
Khawp khun khrap/ka...............Thank you
Ma................................much
Mak...............................very much
Na................................that/so
Khawp khun ma na khrap/ka.........Thankyou so much
Khawp khun mak khrap/ka...........Thankyou very much
Arai?.............................What?
Arai na?..........................What's that?
Tam...............................Do
Dai...............................Can
So, Khun tam dai mai khrap/ka? Can you do?
Mee...............................Have
So, Khun mee...something...mai khrap/ka? Do you have...?
Mai(falling)......................Not
So, Mai mee, don't have.
Chuue.............................Name
So, Khun chuue arai khrap/ka? What's your name?
Deeselle..........................Diesel
Gaow (falling) nueng.............91 Octane fuel
As above + Gasohol ...............91 Palm oil mix
Gaow (falling) haa (falling).....95 Octane fuel
As above + Gasohol................95 Palm oil mix
Allegedly these palm oil mixes aren't as environmentally friendly as we're led to believe, clearing rainforest to grow the palms.
So, Dterm (fuel choice above), dtem tan noi Khrap.....Fill 'er up with (...) please.
Alternatively, instead of dtem tan (full tank), substitute appropriate cash amount
Geaow.............................Glass/Cup/Mug, drinking receptacle
Jaan..............................Plate
Kuuat.............................Bottle
Kapong............................Can
Lek...............................Small
Yai...............................Big
Bier..............................Beer
Bur-rie...........................Cigarettes
Nam prow..........................Water
Nam keng..........................Ice
Nam som...........................Orange juice
Nam manaow........................Lime juice
Nam man...........................Light oil/fluids including petrol
Mam man krueng....................Heavier including engine oils
Hong naam.........................Toilet (Water room)
So, Hong naam, yu ti nai Khrap/Ka...Where's the toilet?
Hong Ngong........................Bedroom (sleep room)
So, Hong ngong yu ti nai Khrap/Ka...Where's my (the) bedroom(s)?
Cafe..............................Coffee
Char..............................Tea
Rawn..............................Hot
Yen...............................Cool (Iced)
Suue(rising, and that dogpoo sound)Buy
Suua(mid-tone)....................Shirt
Suua(rising)......................Tiger
Cow...............................Rice/White
Phad..............................Fried
Gai...............................Chicken
Kai...............................Egg
Muu...............................Pork
Ngua..............................Beef
Plaa..............................Fish
Goong.............................Shrimp/Prawn
Bpuu..............................Crab
Bpet..............................Duck
Pak...............................Vegetables
Ow................................Literally means take, or more usually I'll have a... followed by the item you're after. If you need to point because you don't know there's always;
Ni................................This
Nan...............................That

Mid-lesson practice!
So, you want some American Fried Rice with chicken? Ow cow phad gai, noi Khrap.
What about a coffee? Ow cafe rawn, noi Khrap/Ka (Hot) Ow cafe yen, noi Khrap/Ka (iced) Easy, simply substitute item required. Two cups? Ow cafe rawn, noi Khrap/Ka, sawng geaow Khrap/Ka. Three? Ow cafe rawn, noi Khrap/Ka, saam geaow Khrap/Ka. All beginning to fall into place yes? See what I mean about the Khrap/Ka being at the end of each phrase rather than sentence? Don't panic, what's the worst that can happen if you get it wrong? A good-natured giggle.

Ow.(something).eek............... Another (something)
Noi...............................Tiny, but if placed at the end of the phrase just before your khrap/ka, means 'please'. Handy.
So, ow beer Chang eek noi Khrap/Ka, another Chang beer same size bottle as the last one, please Sir! More beer!!
Bpii..............................Year
Duan..............................Month
Akiidt............................Week
Wan...............................Day
Mong..............................Preceeded by a number (below), hour, therefore time to the nearest hour.
Chemong...........................Preceeded by a number, hour(s) or multiples of as in how long.
Natii.............................Minute, or multiples thereof
One.......Nueng_________________Twenty-two.....Yee-sip-sawng
Two.......Sawng_________________Twenty-three...Yee-sip-sam
Three.....Saam__________________Thirty.........Sam-sip
Four......Sii___________________Forty..........Sii-sip
Five......Haa (falling)_________Fifty.........Haa-sip
Six.......Hok___________________Sixty.........Hok-sip
Seven.....Djet__________________One hundred...Nueng-roy
Eight.....Bpaet (low)___________Two hundred...Song-roy
Nine......Gaow (falling)________Three hundred.Saam-roy
Sip.......Ten___________________One thousand..Nueng-pan
Eleven.........Sip-et___________Two thousand..Song-pan
Twelve.........Sip-song_________Ten thousand..Nueng-meung
Thirteen.......Sip-saam_________Twenty thou...Sawng-meung
Fourteen.......Sip-sii__________100 thousand..Nueng-saen
Twenty.........Yee-sip__________One million, nueng lan, and so forth.
Twenty-one.....Yee-sip-et
Met......................Metres
Kilomet, but often Kilo..Kilometres
Lo.......................Kilogrammes
Laeo sai.................Turn left
Laeo kwaa................Turn right As against kwai/Kwaey below;
Dtrong bai...............Go straight
Bai nai?.................Go where?
Yaak bai.................I want to go to....
Ba!......................Let's go!
Baa......................Crazy (a little strong and insulting)
Ting-tong................Crazy (far more jovial)
Kwai.....................Buffalo, probably the worst insult you can utter, don't do it!
Kwaey....................The famous river and bridge, notice the difference? They get a little upset with our common mis-pronunciation, basically insulting their bridge, all brought around by the film!
All subject to alteration as I consider better ways of transposing their language into ours!