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Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai

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Breathing in Chiang Mai…

If you live anywhere in or near northern Thailand you probably can’t get the smog out of your head – both physically and figuratively. I live about ½ kilometer from the base of Doi Pui – Doi Suthep National park. Today I can’t see the mountains less than 500 meters away. This week four airplanes were diverted from Chiang Mai International Airport because of limited visibility.

And now I’ve had my first head cold here in almost 10 years. Is it a co-inky-dink that it has happened just as the smog rolled in?

I don’t go into town much unless I have some business to take care of. Yesterday we did the paperwork to get our tax refund for the last three years. That’s the good news. The bad news is I was thinking too much about the bad visibility as I was driving that I missed my turn to the bank.

The air pollution is as bad as I have seen it in many years (three times beyond the safety limits in nearby Chiang rai). It has me almost thinking about a move to Beijing.

Thai Language

With all this going on we thought it might be a good time to work on Thai vocabulary to describe the current situation. After, we’ll construct Thai dialogs using the vocabulary, just in case you want to talk with a Thai friend and you are like me and it is the main topic on your mind.

Thai vocabulary for breathing (or not) in Chiang mai…

Pollution
มลพิษ /mon-​lá-​pít/ (พิษ = poison)
or
มลภาวะเป็นพิษ /mon-​paa-​wá-​bpen-​pít/ (ภาวะ = a condition of being poisoned)


Air pollution
มลพิษทางอากาศ /mon-​pít taang aa-gàat/ (อากาศ = air)


Water pollution
มลพิษทางน้ำ /mon-​pít taang náam/ (น้ำ = water)


Smog
หมอกควัน /mòk-​kwan/ (หมอก = fog, mist; ควัน = smoke)
also
ควันพิษ /kwan-​pít/ (poison smoke)


The English word “smog” is a combination of “smoke” and “fog”. Thai does something similar.

Mask (nowadays ubiquitous)
หน้ากาก /nâa-​gàak/
also
หน้ากากอนามัย /nâa-​gàak à-​naa-​mai/ (อนามัย = hygiene)


Lung
ปอด /bpòt/


Lung disease
โรคปอด /rôhk bpòt/


Asthma
โรคหอบหืด /rôhk-​hòp-​hèut/
or
หืด /hèut/


Allergy
โรคภูมิแพ้ /rôhk-​poom-​páe/ (to have an allergy)
or
แพ้ /​páe/ (to be allergic to something)


Cough
ไอ /ai/


Phlegm
เสลด /sà-​lèet/
or
เสมหะ /săym-hà/


Burn
เผาผลาญ /păo-plăan/
or
เผา /păo/


Garbage
ขยะ /kà-​yà/


To burn garbage
เผาขยะ /păo kà-​yà/


Fields (rice)
ทุ่งนา /tûng-​naa/


To burn the rice fields.
เผาทุ่งนา /păo tûng-​naa/


Forests
ป่า /bpàa/


To burn the forest.
เผาป่า /păo bpàa/


And here’s some phrases for burning in Chiang mai…

Let’s use what we have learned. At least it will be somewhat cathartic.

A: How’s the weather today in Chiang Mai?
วันนี้อากาศเชียงใหม่เป็นยังไง
wan née aa-gàat chiang-mài bpen yang ngai


B: The smog is really bad.
หมอกควันไม่ดีจริงๆ
mòk kwan mâi dee jing jing


A: What causes all that smog?
หมอกควันมีสาเหตุอะไรบ้าง
mòk kwan mee săa-hàyt a-rai bâang


B: They are burning the fields, and garbage, and the forests.
พวกเขาเผาทุ่งนา เผาขยะ และ เผาป่า
pûak-kăo-păo-tûng-naa păo-kà-yà láe păo bpàa


A: Are people getting sick from the pollution?
มลพิษทำให้คนไม่สบายหรือ
mon-pít tam hâi kon mâi sà-baai rĕu


B: Yes, especially people with lung disease, asthma, and allergies.
ครับ โดยเฉพาะคนที่เป็น โรคปอด โรคหอบหืด และ โรคภูมิแพ้
kráp doi chà-pór kon têe bpen rôhk-bpòt rôhk hòp hèut láe rôhk poom páe


They will cough and have phlegm in their lungs. It’s best to wear a mask.
เขาจะไอ และ มี เสมหะ ในปอด ใส่หน้ากากดีกว่า
kăo jà ai láe mee săym-hà nai bpòt sài nâa gàak dee gwàa


There’s too much burning in Chiang mai!…

So here is my plan. I’m thinking of taking that tax return that we just got and buying two tickets to Bali and then taking one really, really deep breath. And pray for rain.

But before I go, here’s an iOS app by Thailand’s Pollution Control Department: Air4Thai. And if you are like me and don’t use apps, here’s a useful website: City Hall, Chiangmai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI).

Breathing in Chiang mai audo download: 1.2mg zip
Note: The audio files are for personal use only.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
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Hugh Leong loves explaining things. And during his 40 plus years of trying to learn Thai and its culture, he learned to love the cross-cultural aspect of living in a foreign country and speaking its language. His series, Thai Language Thai Culture, covers various aspects of learning Thai, and how the Thai culture influences how we say things.

5 Comments

  1. Same in Geneva today (19.3.2015): rubish collecting plant on fire near the center of the city. Smelly smoke

  2. That’s awful – how long has it been burning?

  3. Karla Pengsagun

    March 20, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    This is the official government site which goes with the app: http://www.pcd.go.th/ – the data does not match up with that other site (which I think originates from China?). All I can say is, so glad I no longer have to live in Chiang Mai during this time of year!! Hope it rains very hard, very soon, for a long duration….

  4. Thank you Karla. It’s been a real challenge being here through this. Last year was a breeze, this year, a strain on the lungs.

  5. Air quality today is rated “Good”. after two rain storms, lots of downed trees and a morning’s cleanup we deserve it. These are sometimes called the “Songkran Rains” because they always come just around Songkran, or Thai New years. They are also referred to as the “Mango Rains” because the mangoes are flowering and just about to have fruit. The Thais refer to them as ฝนชะดอกมะม่ว (ชะ = to cleanse) “The rain which washes away the Mango flowers.” The rain and wind will clean out the mango flowers leaving just the fruit behind.

    Whatever they are called, they are just wonderful – 28 C (82 F) and smoke free. And it looks like more rain this afternoon. No complaints here.

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