Thai Language Thai Culture: “Tieow” Like a Thai

Thai Language

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“Tieow” Like a Thai…

We had to get away from Chiang Mai during this ridiculously hot spell and after the madness of Songkran (for which we stayed at home for four days). So Pikun and I decided to take a trip down to the southern beaches for a break and play with real water.

When we were asked where we were going (ไปไหน /bpai năi/) we answered with the typical Thai response, ไปเที่ยว /bpai tîeow/ “Going to have some fun.” And this time we decided to Tieow like a Thai.

What I mean by “Tieowing” like a Thai is that we booked a tour from a Thai agency that specialized in Thai tourists (be careful, there are some fraudulent tour agencies out there). Thai tourists like to be pampered, taken to restaurants with great food, and they like to stay at nice resorts with everything taken care of. Just the ticket we were looking for.

Our tour was basically to eat three or four great meals every day, mostly fresh seafood that we can’t get up here in Chiang Mai, and then be ferried around to white sand beaches down in Krabi and Trang, and go snorkeling and beachcombing all day and hang out in a beach side bungalow in the evening and eat great seafood.

Our tour was a little different from the stereotypical Thai tour. A running joke is that a Thai tour bus will pull up to a tourist spot, everyone jumps out, they all line up for two minutes to take a photo, then they all pile back into the bus to drive 100k to do the same thing at the next spot. On this tour a boat ferried us out to a magnificent island and we all jumped into the water with snorkels and fins. Then we went to another island and everyone jumped out and took pictures on the beach. Well, maybe it wasn’t that different.


You don’t find many foreign tourists on Thai Tieows like these so the language was 100% Thai all the time. It’s a great way to be immersed in the Thai language. I thought that I might share some touring and traveling type words for this post just in case someone might want to try to do like we did and “Tieow” Like a Thai.

เที่ยว /tîeow/ – “make a pleasure tour; promenade, wander, roam, stroll about”

This is a catch-all phrase that can mean just about anything from going to the mall, to going to a nightclub, to going on a vacation. You use it when you don’t want to elaborate on what you will really be doing.

But there is another meaning to the word เที่ยว. It means “to go back and forth”. It is often used when referring to a bus, train, or airplane schedule.

เที่ยวแรก /tîeow râek/ – “first trip of the day”, as in the first bus to leave the station, แรก = “first”.
เที่ยวสุดท้าย /tîeow sùt-​táai/ – “last trip of the day”, สุดท้าย = “last”
เที่ยวเช้า /tîeow cháao/ – “The morning bus (train, flight)”, เช้า = “morning”
เที่ยวค่ำ /tîeow kâm/ – “The evening bus (train, flight)”, ค่ำ = “evening”

And then there is:

เที่ยวบิน /tîeow-​bin/ – “flight number _”
… as in เที่ยวบิน TG001 – flight # TG001


When do you return?
kun glàp mêua rài

I’m taking the last flight, TG350.
เที่ยวสุดท้าย เที่ยวบิน TG360.
tîeow sùt-​táai tîeow-​bin TG360

Tour (sight-seeing): ทัศนาจร /tát-​sà~​naa-​jon/. This is one of those formal words. I like it because it has so many syllables. Below are the ones used more often.
Tour: ทัวร์ /tua/ (loan word, can be noun or a verb)
Tour: ท่องเที่ยว /tông-​tîeow/ (sometimes just shortened to เที่ยว)


Where are you going?
bpai năi

I’m taking a tour of Japan.
bpai tua yêe-​bpùn

or: ไปเที่ยวญี่ปุ่น
bpai tîeow yêe-​bpùn

Tourist: นักท่องเที่ยว /nák-​tông-​tîeow/ – นัก is the prefix meaning “a person who …” So a tourist is a person who “tieows”. If you are like me and love those multi-syllabic words there is นักทัศนาจร /nák-​tát-​sà~​naa-​jon/. Both work well and you won’t sound too fluty using the longer one.


Chiang Mai has lots of Chinese tourists.
chiang-​mài mee nák-​tông-​tîeow jeen yúh (mâak)

Up and down…

In English the difficulty is whether to use “getting on” or “getting in” or “getting off” or “getting out of” something. In Thai it is either “up” or “down”. But the rule is clearer for the Thai.

If you have to go up a bit to get in or on something (car, bus, truck, van, airplane) then you use ขึ้น /kêun/ which means “to go up”. If you have to go lower to get in or on something (boat, raft) then it is ลง /long/ which means “to go lower”.


He got in the car (on the bus, in the truck, on the airplane, in the van).
เขาขึ้นรถยนต์ (บัส, รถบรรทุก, เครื่องบิน, รถตู้) /kăo kêun rót yon (bàt, rót ban-túk, krêuang bin, rót-​dtôo)/

He got on/in the boat (raft).
เขาลงเรือ (แพ)
kăo long reua (pae)

And then the opposites:

He got out of the car.
เขาลง (จาก) รถยนต์
kăo long (jàak) rót yon

He got out of the boat.
เขาขึ้น (จาก) เรือ)
kăo kêun (jàak) reua

Note: Sometimes “airplane” can be เครื่องบิน /krêuang-bin/ – “flying machine”, ครื่อง = “machine”; and sometimes เรือบิน /reua-​bin/ – “flying boat”, เรือ = “boat”.

Historically the first airplanes to come to Thailand were flying boats which landed in the rivers here. That is how and when they created the word เรือบิน. Now it is sort of archaic just as the term aeroplane would be considered today.

It would be logical that if we used the above rule about up and down then “Get on the aeroplane” would be ลงเรือบิน /long reua-​bin/ and ขึ้นเครื่องบิน /kêun krêuang bin/. But NO! It would be nice if language was always logical, but it isn’t. In Thai you always use ขึ้น /kêun/ for getting on an airplane and ลง /long/ for getting off.

Here are some other useful traveling words…

Airport: สนามบิน /sà-năam bin/; ท่าอากาศ /tâa-​aa-​gàat/ ท่า = “landing”, อากาศ = ‘air”. ท่า /tâa/ is also used for ship and boat landings (warf).

Bus station: สถานีรถเมล์ /sà-tăa-nee rót may/; but more often heard are the initials บ.ข.ส. /bor-kŏr-sŏr/ which stands for บริษัทขนส่ง /bor-rí-sàt kŏn sòng/ – บริษัท = “company” and ขนส่ง = “transportation”. If you want a taxi or tuk tuk to take you to the bus station you can say บ.ข.ส. or simply ขนส่ง.

Train station: สถานีรถไฟ /sà-tăa-nee rót fai/

Guide: ไกด์ gái or the almost never heard มัคคุเทศก์ /mák-​kú-​tâyt/

Resort: ที่พักตากอากาศ /têe-​pák-​dtàak-​àak-​gàat/ which literally means “the place to stay where we can sit in the air” but today everybody and his uncle would use the loan word รีสอร์ท /ree-​sòt/.

Vacation: หยุดพักร้อน /yùt-​pák-​rón/ – “taking a break from the heat”.

Hotel: โรงแรม /rohng-​raem/ although โฮเต็ล /hoh-​dten/ is an accepted loan word but be sure to pronounce it with a final ‘n’ and not a final ‘l’.

Guesthouse: เกสเฮาส์ /gáyt-​háo/

Guest: (at a hotel or guesthouse) แขก /kàek/ which also means “visitor”. แขก is also used to refer to the people of India, and there is also แขกขาว “white colored visitor” referring to Arab people. Have no comment on the political correctness of these terms.

Here are some actual questions that I needed to ask on my last tieow:

Is breakfast included?
ruam aa hăan cháo măi

รวม /ruam/ – join together
อาหารเช้า /aa hăan cháo/ – breakfast

How much is a room for the night?
kít hông keun nèung tâo-​rài

คิด /kít/ – to reckon (as with money)
ห้อง /hông/ – room
คืนหนึ่ง/keun nèung/ – one night
เท่าไหร่ /tâo-​rài/ – how much?

Is there an airport Shuttle bus service?
mee bor-rí-gaan ráp sòng têe sà-năam bin măi

บริการ /bor-​rí~​gaan/ – service
รับ /ráp/ – pick up
ส่ง /sòng/ – send, deliver
รับส่ง /ráp sòng/ – to shuttle (take to and pick up from one place to another)
สนามบิน /sà-năam bin/ – airport

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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