Speaking Thai will get you lots of smiles and better deals while on your holiday in the Land of Smiles. But, you can get by knowing just a few words. The traditional greeting in Thailand is Sawasdee (pronounced Sa-wat-dee) and a polite article is added to the end. For women, ka is added. For men, kharp is added. This is not required but is used 99% of the time. So the typical greeting would be Sawasdee khrap (or ka) to say Hello. Typically after saying hello, or sawasdee, you will be asked one of two things. Sabai dee mai, or geen kow mai. It is normal to be asked if you are fine or if you have eaten. You may also be asked where you have been or where you are going – bpai nai mah or bpai nai.
The Thai language is not that difficult to learn and there are many resources online. There are also paid programs like Pimseleur or Berlitz. Many sites also have downloadable mini-dictionaries in English, Thai and phonetics. This way you can try to speak the word or phrase and as a last resort, just point. You can also download files so that you can hear how words are pronounced. I have had both bad and good experiences speaking Thai. Some people like the fact that I can speak enough to get by and can understand more. Some tell me that “I know too much” and I take this as a compliment since that means that they can’t rip me off.