One Phrase Every Visitor to Thailand Should Know

Thailand is a beautiful country but it has a trash problem and most of the people here do not respect the environment.  I think this is slowly starting to change though with the Trash Hero movement.  There is also a local chapter in Ao Nang that I participated in a few weeks ago when they went to Koh Poda.  It’s nice to see locals and tourists working together to keep the beaches clean.  The amount of plastic, styrofoam, and other garbage picked up just this one day from the beach was staggering.  I think it was over 1000 Kilograms.  It’s not just the beaches that have problems though.  Many roads are littered with trash.  I think most people don’t really see it because almost nobody walks along the road so it’s not seen as a problem.  Most of the trash is plastic bags, water bottles, straws, and styrofoam containers used for takeout food.

I’m not sure why but Thailand really loves plastic bags.  I’m no environmentalist and thought the plastic bag ban in Seattle was silly but even I can see the use of plastic bags here is excessive and damaging to the environment.  It’s not uncommon to see somebody buy a bottle of water at 7-11 then have the cashier put the bottle in a plastic bag with a few straws then as the customer walks out the door throw the plastic bag and straws in the garbage can then drive off on their scooter.  That plastic bag was used for about 3 seconds.  Such a waste.

So I’ve started refusing plastic bags every chance I get.  I also got this sweet stainless steel food container that I use when I want to bring food back to my room to eat.  So, before the cashier has a chance to put your items in a plastic bag say this: Mâi sài tǔng ná kráp / ไม่ใส่ถุงนะครับ.  It means “Do not put in a plastic bag”.  Note that women should say ká / คะ instead of kráp /ครับ. When the cashier looks at your like you are crazy (because nobody ever asks for this), you can say: Mii tǔng léao / มีถุงแล้ว.  It means “I already have a bag”.  Then the cashier will probably smile and happily let you put your items in your bag.

It’s not much but I’m trying to be more mindful of the amount of plastic I use.

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