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Introduction to Thailand (Part 3)
(Part 1)

This third page of my introduction to Thailand contains some practical tips.


Tip 1: Phone Home

Tip 2: Write Home

Tip 3: Breakfast

Tip 4: Language

Tip 5: Medical problems

Tip 1: Phone Home.

If you want to phone home, and you don't want to use the - mostly expensive - telephone service of your hotel, or pay the epensive roaming rates of your mobile provider, what should you do? You can look for a telephone booth, of which there are plenty, but be aware that you need an International booth, not the normal booth.

Normal telephone booth Asian Games telephone booth

On the left hand side picture you see the normal telephone booth. You will find plenty of them, but you can't use them for International calls. By the way: they come in a slightly different shape too! One different shape is shown on the right hand side picture. Before the "Asian Games" were held in December 1998, special telephone booths with a kind of "roof" were opened. They were still there in November 2002, so I suppose they will be permanent. Hence this additional picture.

If you want to make local calls and long distance calls within Thailand, you will discover that hardly any phone accepts coins any more. Therefore you should buy a phone card for your calls within Thailand. There is a wide choice, but according to my experience the best buy (that is: accepted in most phone booths) is a TOT card. Buy it for instance at a 7 Eleven shop.

What you need is some kind of International booth. Mostly, but not always, they can be recognized from logo's like "VISA" or "Mastercard". The easiest one is the International Card booth.

International card phone booth International card phone

Of the left hand side you see the International card phone booth. On the right hand side you see the International card phone (without booth). You find these (especially the one without booth) on several public places like department stores and restaurants. But they are not very widespread! You have to look intensively for them and you just have to hope to walk upon one. If you find one, however, you can probably use it: There is hardly any card thinkable that won't be taken by these.

GSM phone booth

In 2001 I saw these "GSM phone booths" for the first time. Youngsters who find their phone bill disappointing after all, give you the possibility to use their mobile phone for -in this case- 3 Baht per minute. This is one more way in which the Thais show their inventiveness and their sense for business! In 2002 the price had dropped in most places to 2 Baht per minute. In later years they slowly seemed to disappear, and in 2004 and later I did not see than any more.

The best way to phone home in Bangkok, though, is to go to the Telecom Building next to the Central Post Office (pronounce "Praisanee Klaang" in Thai) on Charoen Krung Road, not so far from the River City Shopping Center. The Express Boat or your hotel boat will bring you to River City. Within 5 minutes you are at the Central Post Office. Now, facing the Post Office, walk into the Post Office grounds, and you will find the Telecom Building on the right hand side of the Post Office building. (In other places go to a large Post Office).

Telephone building

This Telecom Building is open 24 hours and you can ask for your call at one of the desks, but you can also use one of the "Home Country Direct" booths. In some other locations in Bangkok and in other places upcountry, but quite scarcely spread, you can also find some "Home Country Direct" booths. If you want to be certain, go to the Telecom building, shown and described above or to a large Post Office.
A possibility to phone easily and cheaply within Thailand is to buy a sim card in any phone shop or a shop like Seven-Eleven. Of course you need a phone without a sim-lock for that! Prepaid sim-cards come at prices starting at 300 Baht.


Tip 2: Write home.

This is not a very complicated matter. In Bangkok there is no problem at all. The post box looks as you would expect:

Thai postbox

Problems can arise when you are in a smaller pace outside Bangkok. Often the text near the two openings will be only in Thai then. But as a rule of thumb, if you cannot remember the text above the left hand side opening, choose the opening with the shortest text. This really is a good gamble, because there are few place names shorter than the Thai word for "Other Places".


Tip 3: Breakfast

Often your breakfast will be included in your hotel price, especially if you book in advance at home. Then you will probably have some buffet for breakfast and you can take whatever you like.

However ... if your breakfast is not included, do me a favor and try at least once "Khao thom moo", which is a sort of rice porridge with meat balls. Well, on second thoughts you should try it anyway. After I had taken it for the first time I never took anything else for breakfast. This will probably also happen to you!

Khao thom moo (Thai rice porridge with pork) Khao thom kung (Thai rice porridge with shrimps)

If you look carefully, you can see an egg yoke somewhere at the left of the left hand side picture above. Ask for an egg (like I did) and you have the most delicious variety. If you don't like pork at all, you can ask for "kung" (shrimps), "plaa" (fish) or "gai" (chicken) instead of "moo" (pork), but my advice is "Khao thom moo" (left hand side picture) or "Khao thom kung" (right hand side picture). There is a slight problem in pronouncing these words, so for your convenience you can

Khaothommoo Khaothommoo or Khaothomkung Khaothomkung


Tip 4: Language.

Here you find some very basic tips. You will need them to get anywhere at all. Visit my page with Language tips for first time visitors for more essential information about what you can expect about the language. (At the bottom of this page you will find a link as well).

Tip 4a: When you take a taxi in Thailand, ask a Thai friend (or the reception desk of your hotel) the exact pronunciation of the name of the place you want to go to. You will never, ever get to "Siam Center" if you pronounce it in correct English. Say something like "Sayaam Sentuuuuh" and lay strong emphasis on "tuh" (therefore spelled with several u's), otherwise you will never, ever get there! Anyway, that was my experience during my first visit to Bangkok. So don't tell me I did not warn you!

Siam Center Siam Center


Tip 4b: A similar problem will arise if you want to go to one of the branches of "Central Department Store" (recommended!). Don't pronounce this like you would do in England or the US. You won't get there. Say "Centran" (the "n" at the end is no typing error!) with quite some emphasis on "tran". This advice is also based on my personal experience. But this was not during my first visit any more, but a the time I knew it already, but wanted to check this one more time. "Central" was like a foreign language to my driver. "Centran" was clear as water!

Central Central.


Tip 4c: And the third -and last- very basic language tip: If you ever want to go to the "Oriental Hotel" (the hotel is too expensive anyway for you or me, but you can have a very good Chinese lunch or an ice cream there for an acceptable price) don't think you will ever get there if you pronounce this the English (or American) way. Nobody will understand you! The proper Thai pronunciation is something like "OrienTEN" (emphasis on "TEN").

Oriental Oriental.

Tip 5: Medical problems.

It can always happen that you get sick or ill in a foreign country. This is very unpleasant. What to do when this happens during your stay in Thailand?
In many cases you will get diarrhea from eating something wrong. If you are as certain as is reasonable that it is just that, take a medicine. I always use Imodium® in those cases. I have given more information about this in the FAQ section of the site.

Thai drugstore (1) Thai drugstore (2)

In Thailand drugstores do not look as "clean" and beautiful as in your country, but they are perfectly safe and trustworthy.
They will for instance look like the two examples on the pictures above. The medicines you buy there are (according to my experience) at least as fresh as at home. The only difference is that the price is (much) lower.
In Thailand it is also possible to go to a drugstore for advice for minor inconveniences. The owner will give you the drug(s) you need. If you have to use drugs regularly and you forgot to take enough of them with you, it is no problem if you do not have a recipe. Just walk into the drugstore and ask for the medicine you need and they will give it to you without a recipe. (Well, there may be exceptions, but I don't know about them). Please note that Trade Names may differ from those you are accustomed to, so it is a good idea to know the generic name of the medicine you need!

Sign of Thai drugstore

The Thai word for "drugstore" is something like "khaay yaa". The sign can be recognized easily. You may even be able to memorize it from the picture. If not, I believe you will recognize it again if you see it in Thailand. There are lots of drugstores and you will see this sign very often.

Thai clinic

If you can't help yourself and the drugstore can't help you, in other words if you don't know what is wrong and you suspect that it can be (a bit) serious, relax and don't hesitate to consult a doctor. Medical care is excellent in Thailand. I know (Western) people who specially go to Thailand if they need medical treatment!
Like at home, doctors in Thailand are well educated and trained. They will always speak English and normally they will have a small private clinic, where they also can do simple laboratory experiments. They will normally also sell medicines. Such a clinic may look like the one on the picture above. Sometimes you will see an English word like "Doctor" or "Clinic" on the window or door. If in doubt, simply enter and ask if there is a doctor working there.

Sign in a Thai private hospital

You can also go to a Hospital if you (probably) need a Medical Specialist. There are no waiting lists, although you may have to wait for an hour or so. There are Government supported Hospitals (like for instance Siriraj Hospital or Chulalongkorn Hospital) and there are private Hospitals. As a rule of thumb you may have to wait longer in a Government supported hospital, because some categories of Thai Citizens are entitled to free medical treatment there. Also, only as a rule of thumb private hospitals can be more modern. As you can see from the above picture -taken in a private hospital- the staff is accustomed to deal with non-Thai speaking people. I emphasize again that medical care is extremely good in Thailand and that the medical staff is very well educated and trained. Be prepared to have to pay cash (or by credit card) when you go to a Hospital. Although honoraries and tests will be lower than in your country, it is not free of charge!

A Thai dental clinic

In a hospital you will often also find a dental department. However, there are many small (and good) Dental Clinics in the streets. They will look more or less like the small medical clinic shown above, and they will carry a sign like shown here. Thai is a difficult language, but I am certain it is possible for you to memorize this sign.

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