Five Asian Places Surprisingly Difficult to Pronounce

Adapting different languages into a romanticized alphabet can be tricky. Many places in Asia, especially countries with the more squiggly alphabets, are difficult to translate into English. Obviously something like”Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit” is a bit of a mouthful, but you can get into linguistic difficulty with far fewer syllables.

Here are five places more difficult to pronounce than you might guess.

Hspiaw, Myanmar




Looks like: Hiss-pi-ah
Actual: See-Paw (or Tee-Bor) !!!

Myanmar has a lot of places that are tongue-twisters for most westerners, but Hspiaw with two distinctly different pronunciations is an easy choice.

Ubud, Indonesia




Looks like: Oo-bud or Uh-bud
Actual: Oo-bood

The culture capital of Bali, where you can pay good money for plenty of “authentic” dances is a little tricky to say for a four letter word.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom penh

Phnom penh


Looks like: Fu-nom Pen or Pa-nom pen
Actual: Nom-pen or P’nom (one syallable, aspirated p) pen

This sexpat capital is full of middle age blokes adding needless p or f sounds, but at least their linguistic crimes are not as momentous as their moral ones.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

A water buffalo in the water

A water buffalo in the water


Looks like: Si-han-ook-ville.
Actual: Say Hack nook wheel

Cambodia earns two entries with this dire seaside resort that few travelers know how to say. Most Cambodians will understand it’s the one that isn’t Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.

Pie, Thailand

Slice of Pai

Slice of Pai


Looks like: Pie
Actual: Bye

Almost every westerner says “pie,” which fits because this little town is so sweet, but in the Thai langauge it is pronounced “bye.”


5 responses to “Five Asian Places Surprisingly Difficult to Pronounce

  1. Pie Pie Pirdy.

  2. Heh. I’m not sure you can extrapolate it like that.

  3. Funny post and GREAT photos.

  4. Pingback: New Year sees tourism boost ⋆

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