Asia is a wonder-filled place full of vibrancy, amazing people and life-changing experiences. But sometimes even the most seasoned vacationer needs a little help with the language, especially in some important areas of traveling. So here are five phrases that will help you get by better in Asia, and maybe even save your life!
Thailand: “Mai phet khrap/kha”
Thailand is infamous as a mecca for spice lovers, but not all travelers get on with the explosion of heat that many of the most delicious dishes provide. In most traveler-friendly areas, chefs will usually dumb down the ferocity of their dishes naturally if they know it’s for a farang (foreigner), but it won’t hurt to add the above phrase just in case. “Mai phet” translates to “not spicy” and if you’re a man you make the request polite with a “khrap” or “kha” for women.
Vietnam: “xin vui lòng đưa tôi qua đường”
If you’ve ever been to Vietnam, one of your most prominent memories is probably of the first time you plucked up the courage to cross the street. If you’ve not been to Vietnam before, that might sound a little odd, but the fact is that even for the most experienced traveler, Vietnam’s traffic is a scary prospect. Rarely a quiet moment on any street in the big cities, there’s very little aid for the untested road-crosser. If you need a hand, don’t be afraid to ask a local if you can tag along with them as they go by saying: “xin vui lòng đưa tôi qua đường”.
Laos: “koy tong garn larb sook boh man larb dip”
Larb (also spelled ‘laab’) is a delicious minced meat salad made with ground beef, pork or chicken mixed with roasted ground rice which is flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, chili and mint. It’s a dish that’s regularly found on menus in Thailand and Laos, but is regarded as the latter’s national food. Commonly the meat is cooked, but there are some who prefer the taste of raw larb…which isn’t for everyone, especially in a country where refrigeration techniques can vary. To make sure you’re served up the cooked variety, stress as much by saying “koy tong garn larb sook boh man larb dip” when you order!
Japan: “Fugu wo dasanaide kudasai”
One of the most celebrated dishes in Japan is delicious but deadly. Fugu, which literally translates as ‘river pig’, contains lethally poisonous sections due to a high infusion of tetrodotoxin which must be separated by a highly skilled chef. Although a license is required for any chef that serves fugu, the chefs are still human and anyone can have a bad day in the office! You can avoid the lottery of eating the deadly fish (whose poison has no antidote) by saying “fugu wo dasanaide kudasai” to your waiter, just to make sure.
Indonesia: “Saya alergi dengan kacang, tolong jangan taruh di makanan saya”
While Indonesian cuisine is renowned as one of the best in the world, it’s also famous for using nuts in a large percentage of the dishes – something that can be deadly for anyone suffering from a tree nut or peanut allergy. Iconic signature dishes such as satay, karedok, pecel and gado–gado all use finely chopped roasted peanuts, and peanut oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils throughout the archipelago. So, even if you think the dish doesn’t contain peanuts, don’t be afraid to say “saya alergi dengan kacang, tolong jangan taruh di makanan saya” to the waiter/waitress – it might just save your life!
Of course, we don’t expect anyone to have any serious life-threatening problems while on holiday in Asia, but as we have offices and Travel Specialists based in all the countries we tailor tours to, we can provide local 24-hour support to anyone taking a Backyard Travel tour – just one of the many benefits we have of being local!