Ordering food in Thailand outside of popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai can be difficult. When I arrived in Thailand I knew a few basic words in Thai, but quickly realized I should have learned the names of popular dishes as well. Simply saying, “Pad Thai”, won’t get you far as that dish isn’t nearly as popular or available as people think.
Many restaurants will only have a menu written in Thai and street vendors will not speak English. Unless you’re content with pointing to a random menu or vat of steaming food from a vendor each time, it’s best to learn some dishes available almost everywhere. Here’s a bare bones Thai lesson that served me well nearly everywhere:
Rice- Khao (cow)
Chicken- Gai (guy)
Curry- Kaeng (gong)
Khao Pad Gai- Fried Rice with Chicken
Khao Pad Pak- Fried Rice with Vegetable
The bill- chek bin
Thank you- Kop Kun Kah (women end with “kah”)
Kop Kun Krab (men end with “krab”)
Be polite, always smile, and say thank you. Saying the food is delicious never hurts either! Good manners go a long way in Thailand and Thai people always appreciate making an effort.