Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice

When we were packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, went shopping, packed it all up in boxes, and sent it on its way. It turns out that we were way off with our list, and in today’s Thailand you can get just about anything you want or need – almost.

Thailand is now quite a modern country where just about everything is available. Maybe a little history will help us see why we were so mistaken about what is available here now. We’ll start with an anecdote about coffee.

I choose coffee because it seems that within just a 7-iron drive’s distance from my computer (for me that’s not very far) there are at least a dozen coffee shops. The shops have on their signs (in Thai) “Kafae Sot”. This literally means “fresh coffee”, but should be interpreted as “freshly brewed” coffee.

When I first arrived in Thailand coffee was rarely encountered. Maybe if you had a meeting with a high ranking official he would offer you a cup of coffee in his office. This meant Nescafe instant coffee, at the time the only coffee available. There were no coffee shops as we know them. If coffee was ordered at a hotel or a high end restaurant, it was Nescafe, the brand name that became synonymous with “coffee” itself. The reason the ubiquitous coffee shops today need to emphasized “fresh” is to differentiate it from the instant, powdered, variety so popular in the past.

I remember when the first real coffee shop was opened in Chiang Mai, circa 1970. Its very appropriate name, “First Coffee Shop”. And coincidentally, it was just one or two shops down from where currently sits the Starbucks on Tha Phae Road.

As with coffee, so many of the things we wanted or needed that were unavailable to us back then are encountered just about everywhere in today’s Thailand.  Here is an example.

My son on a visit here saw how much ice we used (it was the hot season) and he decided that we needed an ice maker. We couldn’t find one in the market here so back in the U.S. he checked out Amazon.com and got one for us and the next time he visited he schlepped* it all the way here in his luggage. It was 110 v so we needed a heavy duty electricity converter, but the thing works great.

We later learned that all we needed to do was a little on-line shopping right here and we could have found just about whatever we are looking for. Ice makers are here. So is the food dehydrator that we were thinking would be our next “schlepping” purchase from the U.S. All are available right on a number of Thai web sites and they are of the 220 v variety so no electricity converter is necessary.

The two on-line sites we have used are Verasu and Lazada. They seem to be reliable and fast, with good prices. Besides these two Thai sites there are Chinese on-line stores that ship directly here and so does Amazon and Best Buy and lots of other international companies.  For many items, especially foreign made, their prices are often much lower than the Thai prices. But to the lower prices must be added overseas shipping costs which can be quite high, and the possibility of having to pay taxes. Because of that our son is bringing a new Android tablet for me on his next visit. In this case, schlepping will be worth it. On Best Buy the price for the Android tablet I chose is 1/3 the cost here in Thailand.

The list of what I need from back home is getting shorter and shorter. But there are still some things that are either hard to come by here, are much more expensive, or the specific brand you like may not be available.

Here are a few examples.

 

Foods

Thailand seems to have a plethora of western sausages, none of which for me are edible (although Thai sausages are quite good). I absolutely love American hot dogs. Not to be found here. When in the U.S. I buy about 10 lbs. of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, freeze them, wrap them really well, and put them in my check in luggage when I travel back to Thailand. They make it here fine, still mostly frozen, but with all their nitrates and nitrites they stay fresh and are a great reminder of home.

We also pack a bunch of good quality cheese. You can get good cheese here but the prices are quite high and the selection is limited.

I also love those Blue Diamond almonds you can get on sale in U.S. pharmacies.

But the food I crave most is Trader Joe’s Belgian Milk Chocolate. I bring about a dozen 1 lb. bars back here with me, frozen. I eat two small pieces each night. It lasts me about 6 months that way. I have one 1 lb. bar left from my last trip. Just thinking about what happens when it is finished sends me into chocolate withdrawal. Locally produced Kit Kats just don’t suffice.

 

Clothes

I am a little guy in America, but large for here. Luckily I am right at the maximum range for Thai clothes and shoe sizes so I can usually get what I need. Anyone larger than I am, and that includes most westerners, might need to get their clothes, and especially shoes, back home. This includes both men and women.

 

Electronics and sports equipment

As mentioned above, electronics, computer equipment, tablets, smart phones, computer games, and their like, are quite expensive here. U.S. on-line sites have much better prices. The same goes for sports equipment. I priced a Ping driver at a department store here the other day and it costs more than $1,000. It is more like $300 back home (I ended up buying mine used from a friend for 2,000 baht.). An archer friend of mine said he had the same experience with his bows and arrows.  Best to check prices.

 

Vitamins and supplements

These aren’t considered medication so they carry a big tax. Vitamins, even the one-a-day kind, can be quite expensive. I take one tablet of Glucosamine a day. Keeps my joints lubricated. Very expensive here. They are pricey at Costco back home but still lots cheaper than here.

 

Other stuff

We like good quality American tools, especially Craftsman from Sears.

I like a specific brand of after shave and deodorant that I can’t get here (It’s as Hannibal Lecter said after sniffing the Edward Norton character in Red Dragon, “The one with the ship on the bottle.”)

If I eat spicy foods for dinner I get stomach troubles at night and America’s Alka-Seltzer it’s the only thing that works for me, but it isn’t sold here.

We can get fitted sheets here but for some reason they don’t come with a matching flat sheet, so we buy good quality sets at home and bring them here. Be careful with these since the mattress sizes here can be different from those in the west.

What I really crave is good ice cream. Most Thai-made ice cream has never seen cream and is made with palm oil as a substitute. That is a big no no for an ice cream aficionado. You can get Haagen Dasz Ice Cream‎ here but a quart costs about as much as a good wristwatch and I won’t pay that much for an ice cream with a made up Scandinavian sounding name by two kids from New Jersey. I prefer Breyers Butter Pecan all natural ice cream and if I find a way to bring it in my luggage then the world will be spinning correctly.  (As a substitute, Thai coconut milk ice cream, sold in push carts, is quite good.)

*****

Request: For those already living here, to help those planning on making the move, please leave a comment if there is stuff that you can’t find here and that you bring to Thailand whenever you return from a visit home.

*****

I just checked and it turns out that Lazada website carries the stuff with the ship on the bottle.

I did another search and found ice cream makers and scoops but no Breyers Butter Pecan.

*****

*schlep: to carry or pull (something) with difficulty: to drag or haul (something).  A Yiddish word that is part of the New York vernacular I grew up speaking. No standard- English word seems to carry the same feeling.

 

Time

We know that time is a relative thing. Einstein taught us that time changes depending on the speed in which we are traveling. I now believe that time also changes depending on how old we are. It is my learned opinion that now a day consists of only about 18 hours (4 of which I can sleep if I am lucky), a week has 5 days, a month about 3 weeks, and a year, maybe just 8 months now. Those 90 day immigration reporting requirements come about every 45 days for some reason. That’s the way it appears to me now that I am 70 years old.

In a few months it seems, I will turn 80. Wow! Where did the last decade go?

Youth is wasted on the young.

– attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

When I dream I am always 18 years old (which makes it a pity that I can sleep only 4 hours a night).

And when I dream:

I was eighteen, didn’t have a care

Workin’ for peanuts, not a dime to spare

But I was lean and solid everywhere

Like a rock.

 Like a Rock, Bob Seger

*****

Friends

Back when I was 18 it seems like I had hundreds of friends. I’m not talking about Facebook “friends”. I’m talking about real people; people I would hang out with, travel with, party with, get high with, dream and love with. I had time for all that because a day had 36 hours back then.

You would think that the older one gets the more time we would have to accumulate more friends. I guess that I have met more than 10 thousand people in my lifetime (I once counted more than 3,000 former students.) But now I find myself spending most of my days with myself (Pikun is outside in the garden), writing, lifting bags of manure, playing music, Internet surfing, binge watching TV shows, and never missing a Seahawks game.

I have about a half dozen friends that I occasionally take a meal with or visit, and another half dozen that I email or Skype once in a while. Living 10,000 miles away from people you know makes anything more than an email/Skype relationship difficult. But once a week I play golf with a friend I have known for 40 years. We’re not getting any better at golf but our friendship continues unabated.

New friends are few and far between.

Those National Geographic shows on the Serengeti told us how things would be.

They would start out with those lion cubs, romping around all day, playing at hunting and fighting. Then the lions grew to adolescence and they did some more serious life-practice at being adults with their ”friends”. Later they would all join and work together, colleagues, to achieve their group goals, antelopes and wildebeests beware. When the male lion was mature and at the top of his game he would lay around all day, the little ones jumping all over him as he tried to snooze, waking only to go eat the food his ladies had prepared. When he got too old to lead the pride he was left to mostly wander about on his own.

I am happy now, and after retiring probably as happy as I have ever been, and if I could sleep for a solid 6 hours I would be ecstatic.  But sometimes I feel like that old lion wandering about alone. Where did all the “young lions” go?

*****

Older

I used to laugh when stories would depict older people grabbing the newspaper in the morning and opening to the obituary section first. I don’t read the newspapers anymore but I do note when some famous or important person passes away. I never miss the part of the Oscars when they show the pictures of all the stars who have left us this year.

Before I even look to see the reason for their demise I look to see their age. Are they older or younger than I? And if they are younger, then I look to see how they died. And I check to see if I have any of the symptoms of what they died of. So far so good (as I knock on my wooden desk).

So many of my contemporaries are “less-than-well”, or worse. Just the other day, after visiting a sick friend, of which I seem to have more and more lately, I thought to myself how lucky Pikun and I are to be healthy and happy; a few aches and pains, nothing a good session of senior complaining won’t cure. But we know that the Buddha’s truths will always be with us. If we have been born then we have getting older, becoming ill, and then leaving this mortal coil to look forward to. That’s all there is, but it is enough.

We’re okay with that, but at the same time we will continue to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”, but we’ll enjoy the light as long as we have it.

*****

Politics

I wasn’t happy with either candidate. I was a Bernie supporter and over a year ago I posted on Facebook: “If Hilary is nominated then our next president will be named Trump.

Sometimes I hate being right.

I recently posted the following on Facebook. It describes my feelings about the United States’ next presidential term.

Bizarro World: A world in which everything is opposite from the real world, down is up, wrong is right, bad is good.

Now that the president-elect, whose name shall not be spoken, has selected most of his incredibly divisive billionaire-military-general-Wall-Street-banker laden cabinet, we realize that we are living in that Bizarro World.

In this “post truth” era, a time when the truth is not important and “fake news” and fake accusations help to elect a president, and that president is the prevaricator-in-chief, then down is up, wrong is right, and bad is good. Once again Orwell has proven prescient.

How does one live in this upside down world, without rats attacking your face that is? We now know that almost every stance the Republican nominee took has been modified and revised by the president-elect, that all his promises were conditional, that even his top advisors tell us not to take what he says “literally”.  We should realized that we can believe nothing said by this administration, good or bad. It is the “post truth” era so what can we expect.

My suggestion about how to survive the next 4 years is that anytime he, or his minions say anything on TV, switch the channel. Anytime you see an article on the Internet, newspaper, or magazine, about what the administration is planning, turn the page. Don’t listen to or read any of it because it will change with the weather, and if we do, it will only make us heartsick.

In that way your mind won’t be twisted and turned by these Bizarro machination and we might come out at the other end with our sanity, although sadly maybe not our country, intact.

*****

Annus Horribilis

The horrible year 2016 is over. That’s the good news. Looking forward to 2017. Game of Thrones Season 7 will be upon us. Prediction: Cersei Lanester, the Mad Queen, dies a horrible and much deserved death.  If the football gods are with us, and our defense holds up, then the Seahawks will once again be in the Super Bowl. Pikun and I are going to Hawaii’s Big Island for my Peace Corps group’s reunion (for some reason it is the 48th year reunion), and we have some great friends (2 of the half dozen I still email/Skype) who we once shared a house with in of all places Iran, coming for a nice long visit. It will give us a chance to tour the country and do lots of the touristy stuff we usually put off.

And I just planted a cocoa tree.

If we are lucky then 2017 will be a huge improvement from this year and we will see our first chocolate harvest.

May 2017 be for you happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful.

Is “Enough” Enough?

November 17, 2016

His late Majesty, King Rama IX of Thailand, is universally mourned and loved by Thais, especially for the care and guidance of his people which he exhibited throughout his reign. The major suggestion he gave his people on how to live a happy life, which everyone in Thailand knows, from school children to golden age retirees, is embodied in the Thai term “Paw Piang” (พอเพียง).

“Paw Piang” is a simple term meaning “sufficiency, or “just enough” but as a lifestyle it carries so much more meaning. And interestingly enough, besides being a great suggestion about how Thais can live a happy life, it can apply directly to how we, as retirees in Thailand, can also enhance our existence here.

The concept of living a life with the understanding of what is “enough” can be traced way back. Twenty-five hundred years ago, one of the Lord Buddha’s basic teaching tenets was that we find the “Middle Way”. This is spelled out in the “Noble Eightfold Path”, the following of which would lead us to a life of liberation by avoiding extremes and avoiding a too austere life. Wisdom was to understand “moderation”.

At about the same time in history, all the way over in Greece, moderation was being emphasized by another of the world’s great thinkers.   Socrates enjoined us to do “Everything in moderation”, to choose the mean and avoid extremes. One of Plato’s four virtues, moderation, had a similar emphasis.

The concept of “Paw Piang” therefore is not new, but adapted to the Thai people and their way of life, it still works.

To adapt to a “Paw Piang” lifestyle Thais are encouraged to understand their current situation, to not overextend themselves, like not going into debt and buying a top of the line SUV when they really can only afford a Honda Jazz. If you have the money, go for that Honda PCX 150 motorcycle you’ve always dreamed of; if not maybe settle for a Honda Dream. They should do what they can to live more sustainable lifestyles, raising chickens for eggs, having a small vegetable garden for their own use and maybe growing a little more to sell at the market, developing handicrafts. “Paw Piang” doesn’t discourage people from reaching higher, it encourages people to know themselves and reach for the achievable, not for that “pie in the sky”. Many Thais, but not all of course, have taken this philosophy of moderation to heart.

As a young man of 22 living in Thailand I thought that moderation was about the last thing I was interested in. I am not sure what the opposite of “Paw Piang” is in Thai. Some English antonyms for “moderation” are “extreme”, “wildness”, “outrageousness”. The younger me knew them all very well.

I know now that I was lucky to have survived the many extravagances a young man in 60s and 70s Thailand participated in.  But today, as a retiree who really wants to be around a lot longer because I am so curious about how things are going to turn out, I realize that I can achieve that, live contentedly, and learn a lot from the “Paw Piang” lifestyle.

*****

I have often written on these pages that if one is planning on retiring here in Thailand you should first try a staggered retirement, test the waters, see if Thailand is right for you, see if you have the psyche, patience and flexibility to live in a foreign country, and then see if you can afford a lifestyle here and that you would have “enough” to live a comfortable and stimulating retirement.

It turns out that many retirees, after answering these retirement-prep questions in the affirmative, and then moving here, change.  They decide that they don’t have “enough”.

*****

Foreign retirees sometimes think that, with the absence of business regulations here, they could make lots of extra money, whether they need the money or not, by starting a business in Thailand. Restaurants and bars are the big dreams of some who ignore the fact that they may be in their 60s and 70s and have never run a restaurant or bar before. As with most foreign-owned business ventures in Thailand they often run into big problems, and they often lose the money they were counting on to get them to the “end”. One example: There are 6 foreign owned pizza restaurants within 1 kilometer of the PC I am writing this post on, and none of them seem to be making a profit.

*****

Then there are the foreign retirees, men in their “golden ages”, who once again feel a young man’s urges that they thought had been long gone. In his 6 or 7 decades on this planet he begins to feel he hasn’t had “enough” of all that.  This occurs especially when a young Thai nubile, who may or may not have ulterior motives, tells him how handsome he is, and who is more than willing to allow him to express those young-man urges once again.

I like the story of the 80 year old Chinese sage when asked what it is like not to have to worry about women and sex anymore answered with ”It’s like getting down from a wild horse.” That’s “Paw Piang”. Nevertheless, you’ll hear more than one story about old foreign “sages”, aided by the latest in chemical assistance, hopping back on to that wild horse, sometimes with marriage, sometimes with another set of children, usually holding on to that wild horse for dear life, often with quite deleterious effects on their health, sanity, and their life savings.

*****

I sometimes wonder why a retired person who could be happy with a small room-with-a-view wants to get back into real estate. I mean, would you join a “fight club” at this age? That’s what real estate is. Even though we as foreigners can’t own land, so many people think that what they currently have is not enough. Land is fairly cheap here so the possibility of becoming landed gentry looks inviting. Often the deeds to the land that they “own” have the names of Thai spouses, almost spouses, Thai companies, or Thai acquaintances.  I have literally seen an older foreign real estate mogul want-to-be end up with life savings gone, pot to piss in gone, along with that small room-with-a-view.

*****

I had drunk my lifetime quota of beer and alcohol by my mid-thirties, and have abstained since then. That is probably one reason I am in pretty good health (knocking on my wooden desk). But so many foreign retirees do the opposite of “Paw Piang” when it comes to alcohol. I have seen many a foreign retiree indulge to the point that they have used up their alcohol quotas for the next few lifetimes. I don’t give much direct advice, I tell stories, but one piece of advice I would give is a bit Socratic. One should consume alcohol in “moderation”.

*****

“Paw Piang” works for me. I have a great life working in my garden, playing golf once a week, Skyping with my kids, drinking Thai Frappuccinos, learning the piano, hanging out with old buddies once in a while, satisfying my addiction to Game of Thrones, watching my Seattle Seahawks, studying the Thai language, going down south to the beaches once a year, writing these posts and maybe occasionally helping an Expat understand this place a bit better, and each morning waking up to my roosters crowing and a brand new day.  It works for me, but we are all different and I find that “Paw Piang” is relative.

We were on a short trip with some Thai friends down in Karbi in southern Thailand. We took a short ferry ride to Kho Yao Noi, an island in the Andaman Sea with a number of resorts and empty beaches, not the white powdery type, but nice. We found a place on the beach with a beautiful view and cabins for 1,200 baht per night. Just about our speed.

While we were there we heard about a number of higher scale resorts around the island, a number going for 30,000 – 40,000 baht per night. You could even rent a luxury yacht for a “nightly rate as low as 365,000 baht”.  We were told that there was a resort up on the hill overlooking us and the bay that charged its guests 400,000 baht per night. And a local showed us pictures of the European football great Renaldo, who had just spent his honeymoon up there. Whereas we took the ferry here, they had flown in by helicopter. We hired a long tail fishing boat to take us island-hopping, they had one of those super-fast luxury speed boats.

Now my first reaction was, “That’s crazy. 400,000 baht per night!?” But then I thought about it. I could afford the 1,200 baht, maybe a little more, and the next morning I would wake up with about $50 less in my bank account than the day before.  That’s no problem.  Since Ronaldo earns $70 or $80 million a year he would probably wake up the next morning, after having spent 400,000 baht the day before, with tens of thousands of dollars more in his bank account than he started with. That is the definition of “an infinite amount of money”, that is, he could not spend all his money no matter what he bought.

This is the essence of “Paw Piang”. I was staying at the appropriate place for someone with a finite amount of assets, and he was doing what was appropriate for someone with an infinite amount of assets. Interestingly I was not in any envy. I am sure that Ronaldo and his bride ate a beautiful gourmet meal that night. We, on the other hand, had given a fisherman some money in the morning and that evening he brought us a bucketful of fresh jumbo shrimp, crabs, squid, and fish that he had caught that day. The cabin owner cooked it all up for us. Holy sea bass, Batman! That was a great meal. I don’t think Ronaldo’s could have been any better.

I went to bed overlooking the view, although at a somewhat lower altitude, of the same Andaman Sea that Ronaldo was seeing, and I was enjoying every minute of it as I am sure he was.

*****

And btw, I am still in lust for that Honda PCX 150, but my 10 year-old Honda Dream still works great. Maybe once it dies I’ll reach for the brass-ring. Until then I have more than enough to be a happy retiree here.

I recently celebrated my 70th year on this planet. I really enjoy my 70 year-old mind, lots of good stuff going on in there. My 70 year-old body, well, that’s another thing.

Today I want to talk about how we can use the wonderful “personal” computer residing between our ears to live a happier and more successful retired life abroad.

Our “personal” computer has a fantastic memory capacity, and unlike the computer I am writing this blog post on, the memory never seems to get maxed out. Yes, sometimes our computer’s ability to retrieve information slows down, but if we keep it well-maintained (good food, exercise, less alcohol and drugs, and a daily belly laugh) it will serve us well for a lifetime.

This brings me back to the question of how to live a happier and more successful retired life, especially in a foreign country. And the answer is in that wonderful “personal” computer’s language-learning capacity.

We who live here in Thailand have good reasons and real motivation to learn the Thai language, and even though our aptitude for learning may have been slowed down a bit, it has not been maxed out yet. No, old friend, you are never too old to learn.

**********

First let’s get motivated. I’ll start with something that happened to me just yesterday.

I went to my favorite iced coffee vendor and I ordered my usual.  While the “barista” was making my cappuccino frap I struck up a simple conversation. I told her how much I liked her product, how in fact I was becoming addicted to it. I told her how I had already gotten 10 stamps on my card so this one was free. She laughed and told me I could get a free cookie too.

I know, not a deep exchange but I got to thinking – if I didn’t know Thai, the “barista” would just take my order and serve me my coffee –  a serving girl to me at most, and me, a mere customer. Instead, using just a few lines of simple dialog, she became a real person to me, and I to her. She handed me my coffee, I thanked her, took my free cookie, we both smiled, and both our days were brighter for it.

Sometimes, instead of making our days a bit brighter, knowing the language can make our days a bit less dark.

A while back I was at the driving range when behind me a long-time Expat, in English, told the 16 year old counter girl he wanted another tray of balls. She asked him in a three-word Thai sentence, “Old ones or new ones?” They are priced differently. The long-time Expat, not understanding a word she had spoken, turned to his paramour sitting nearby and shouted, loudly enough for all to hear, “Tell this girl what I want. She is too STUPID to understand me.”

I came so very close to breaking this guy’s jaw after telling him that he should not call the girl stupid, that she in fact did understand him, had asked him a simple question, and that he himself was the one too stupid to understand her.

The moral of this story: Just a few words of Thai and the Expat would not have become so angry, not have his blood pressure rise to unhealthy levels, not made a fool of himself by calling a young girl who was helping out her mom stupid, and not have had that physical confrontation with me. He would simply have hit some golf balls and then gone home, looking forward to spending the evening with his paramour in a much happier mood. All that with just a few words of Thai.

***********

I have heard the excuses for why one doesn’t learn Thai:

  1. “I tried but after a few weeks of study I just gave up.”
  2. “Everyone I need to talk to speaks English.”
  3. “Thais really don’t want me to speak Thai.”
  4. “I’m too old to learn something new.”

Well,

  1. A few weeks is not nearly enough to learn a language. I’ve been studying Thai for over 45 years and still have a ways to go.
  2. Very few Thais speak comprehensible English. Mostly it’s just the ones doing business with foreigners, and even then their English leaves much to be desired.
  3. Many Farang feel that Thais don’t want them to speak Thai because the Thais always answer in their broken English when they try. In fact, it is possible that they are responding in the little English they know because the foreigner’s Thai, often toneless, is incomprehensible to them. My barista never said a word to me in English except “cookie”.
  4. I’ve already told you what I think about being too old.

These excuses don’t do much to convince me that an older person can’t learn Thai, just that the effort to learn, sadly, might be too much for them.

**********

So why put in the effort to learn Thai?

Don’t we want a little more than “Me Tarzan you Jane.”? Wouldn’t it be nice to really get to know someone here and to understand their dreams and desires? Wouldn’t it be nice to tell someone how you feel so he/she understands you better?  Wouldn’t it be nice to order something at a restaurant and get what you are expecting, or tell the barber “Not too short.”, or let your barista know how much you love her coffee?

Can you at your advanced age learn a foreign language?

The main thing I want to stress in this posting is that anyone at any age can learn a language. You don’t have to become fluent, I still haven’t. But how about just learning to say “I love your iced coffee.” or “Give me the new balls, please.” Your day will be much brighter, as will your chances of getting a free cookie.

**********

So here are some Thai learning hints on what and how to begin. You can use it as your basic curriculum. Give this list to your Thai teacher and tell them this is what you NEED to learn.

  • Learn the Thai greetings and how to say “Please” and “Thank you”.
  • Learn the Thai numbers, at least up to 10,000. Learn the Thai money system.
  • Learn the Thai personal pronouns and how to refer to yourself and to others.
  • Learn subject/verb patterns. Learn everyday verbs. Learn to speak in the present, past, and future.
  • Add to the above the subject/verb/object pattern. Then add some adjectives.
  • Learn the vocabulary that is important and interesting to you. Learn the nouns that fit your needs. Enjoy gardening? Learn the Thai words for the plants, insects, and birds you will encounter. Enjoy eating Thai food? Learn to order all the Thai dishes you like. Enjoy cooking Thai food? Learn all the names of the condiments and sauces that you will need. I would stay away from talking about politics and religion for now though.
  • Learn how to ask “What is this?” “How do you say … in Thai?” (Use both to increase your vocabulary.)
  • Learn how to ask if someone has something, and the vocabulary you’ll need in order to ask a shopkeeper if he/she has the thing you are looking for.
  • Learn the vocabulary you will need to tell a doctor or your Thai companion how you feel if you are under the weather.
  • Learn to ask yes/no questions and other questions like when, where, who, how and how much. Then learn how to answer them.

The above basics will take you about a year of hard study. What fun. Get a good teacher and good learning materials. Anything with “Easy”, or “Fast”, or “Learn Thai in … Days” should be avoided. They are lying to you. I mean, do you believe everything a carnival barker running for the U.S. presidency says (and the other one isn’t any better)?

Learning Thai will not be easy, or fast, or accomplished in a few days? No! That is why it will take so much time but also is why it will be so much fun.

No need to be in a hurry. When we get older, learning new stuff just takes a little longer than it used to. Take your time. You have the rest of your life to get it right.

At this point don’t worry about learning to read and write Thai or learning the Thai tone rules either. Many people suggest this. But I feel that’s the equivalent of having to learn how to read music in order to sing “Happy Birthday”.

But what about those terrible Thai tones?

Yes, they are terrible. But Thai tones are really, really important to get right. Really!

First learn to laugh at yourself when you make a tonal mistake. I currently laugh at least a half dozen times a day.

Here is my suggestion on how to handle Thai tones. SING.

Thai is a tonal language, just like music. How did you learn “Happy Birthday” in the first place? You heard someone singing it. And then you sang it back just like you heard it.  Thai, and all tonal languages, work the same way.

**********

You in fact, can do much more than you think you can.  I completely don’t accept the idea that older people can’t learn anything new.

I took up rock climbing in my 40s, got my karate black belt in my 50s, became a blogger in my 60s, and started playing the piano at age 67.

I am now learning Latin in my 70s? Why not?

Here, you can cut and paste this into Google Translate to check my progress.

Fīlia mea cenam parat.

Learn Thai in your 60s and 70s?  Why not?

Just reboot that old computer of yours. No, old friend, you are never too old.

**********

Below I have listed some resources for beginning your learning Thai odyssey.

On-line Dictionaries

There are quite a few on-line Thai/English dictionaries, many with good audio to help pronunciation. Here are some that I frequently use.

  • Thai-Language.com – Probably the most extensive with lots of words used in sentences.
  • Thai2English.com – You can paste whole sentences into a translate box and it will return definitions for each of the words in the sentences along with their phonetic transcriptions.
  • Google Translate – Good for individual words and phrases but less accurate when translating complete sentences. Has good audio for all words.

Thai learning resources

Good luck, enjoy and I hope you get lots of free cookies.

Thai Vocabulary in the News

Learn Thai vocabulary Words that have recently appeared in the Thai Newspapers

A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Retire 2 Thailand's Blog

Thoughts on retiring in Thailand