Alphabet soup

The Thai alphabet bristles with accents, underscores and umlauts. The letters are often rounded, and clusters and phrases are conjoined to make long single words - sentences roll across the page like a legion of wriggling, hairy little caterpillars.

The Thai language, like all the tongues of Asia, is enormously complex. Because of course, you not only need to know the words and the sentence construction and the characters, but also the musical tones in which they are spoken. Saying something with a rising inflection at the end of the sentence for example, can mean exactly the opposite of what you wanted to say.

There are points where all languages sonically and unexpectedly overlap, however - overhearing the guide and the driver talking to each other on the way down to Bangkok, for example, I distinctly heard one say to the other: 'handicapped dog'.

And a moment later, his companion finished one statement with the phrase: 'She's a minger.'