Samui Wining & Dining
Calling Time
Khun Nam Waan, Manager of Samui’s AIS service shop,
tells us about herself and what AIS can do for visitors to Thailand.


Calling TimePut your hand up if you’re a visitor to Samui. Keep it up if you’ve also got a cell phone. And let it remain there if you’ve turned it off because you don’t want to pay exorbitant roaming charges whilst you’re away. OK, hands down now, everybody. I think it’s true to say that just about everyone now has a phone, even (especially!) the children amongst us. But the approach to phones and payment in Thailand is very different to that in most Western countries. And, on the whole, this will go in your favour, as you’ll find out in just a moment.


There are just three service providers (SP’s) in Thailand, unlike the mass competition you’re undoubtedly used to. There’s DTAC, there’s True Move and then there’s AIS (Advanced Info Service). And out of the three, it’s AIS that’s the biggest and, debatably, the most popular. But the secondary and often the most vital aspect of SP’s is the extent and quality of the service that’s provided. And in this case few would disagree that it’s AIS which has it all sewn-up. Firstly, their online (phone-line) service is superb, with technically-expert operators who speak first-rate English.


And the second aspect is the quality of the personal service you’ll get if you call in to any of the service centres, usually seen under the larger banner of ‘Telewiz’. There are several very useful services that they can offer visitors – things that most tourists aren’t aware of or don’t even realise exist. One such Telewiz outlet is in Tesco Lotus in Lamai. And the other is in Chaweng’s Tesco Lotus, towards the Homepro section, near Fuji, the Japanese restaurant. And that’s where you’ll come across Samui’s charming and capable Manager on Duty, Khun Ganyachad Wichaidit. But everyone knows her better by her nickname of Khun Nam Waan, which means, delightfully, ‘Sweet Water’.


She’s been overseeing AIS’s Samui operations since 2009. She’s intelligent, attractive, highly knowledgeable and speaks superb English, with just a hint of a soft American with an Oriental edge to it (an aspect which recently caused her an unforgettably-embarrassing moment, as shall soon be revealed!). But her early aspirations were a long way removed from her present occupation.


Khun Nam Waan grew up in the southern city of Songkhla, not all that far from the Malaysian border. She was born into a professional family, was the youngest of three children, and with an academic father who was Principal of the local Agricultural College. “Right from when I was a small child,” she confided, “my father would have us all speaking English around the house. Nursery rhymes or sudden questions in English. He knew how important it is to have a good grasp of the English language. And it’s certainly one of the main factors that’s led to my present position. But when I left school I had my heart set on firstly being a journalist. And then, as I realised the potential, a television reporter-cum-announcer. But it never quite came off!”


And neither did her subsequent applications to study in America. Her elder sister had already paved the way and a second home was waiting for her – but to no avail. For three years running, Khun Nam Waan’s frustration and disappointment grew as each new visa application became increasingly tangled in paperwork and red tape. And so, dejected and disillusioned, she made her way up to Chiang Mai University and notched up a Batchelor’s degree majoring in English, with Socio-Linguistics as a subsidiary.


After which she returned to Songkhla for an extended break. Then suddenly landed a post working as a customer service agent for the Bangkok firm of Sunbelt Asia, Thailand’s largest business services network. But during this period she was constantly on the lookout for a different job. Something that would suit her interests and abilities and which offered a solid career ladder to climb. And this opportunity occurred when the AIS section of the international telecommunications company, Shinawatra Computer and Communications Group (Shin Corp), took up her résumé and called her for interview. The rest, as they say, is history.


But what many of you are probably bursting to know is what exactly can AIS offer us ‘strangers in paradise’? This is Thailand, after all, and all the info or promotions are in the Thai language. How can I benefit when it comes to phone calls, or even using my Blackberry or iPad with the internet?


“Well the easiest thing by far is to buy a local phone – Tesco Lotus is selling them from around 500 baht now,” Khun Nam Waan explains. “Then you can get a SIM card with a Thai number for 50 baht and simply pay-as-you go – any 7-11 will sell you a top-up and put the money on your phone for you and we can set you up painlessly to start with. You won’t be able to use this SIM in your own phone if it’s locked to your overseas SP. But you can simply text or email your friends with your new Thai number. Anyway calls abroad are only about 3 baht a minute; it’s not expensive.”


She then went on to explain that, for a few dollars more, she could point you to phones which will accept two SIMS – your existing one plus your new Thai SIM card, too; your own one for calls coming in from family and the (much) cheaper AIS SIM card to make calls out. And then went into detail about data packages for internet access and even weekly packages exclusively for Blackberry owners …


“But,” Khun Nam Waan continued with an innocent smile, “things aren’t always straightforward. I had an elderly German couple last month who came in to complain that they were receiving constant promotional text messages – spam – via their AIS SIM. They kept having urgent and worried whispered talks to each other. The problem was my slight accent; I kept saying ‘spam’ with a long ‘a’ – ‘spahm’. And the poor old couple couldn’t work out why I kept on insisting that I could remove the ‘sperm’ from their phone!”


Today, local manager of AIS. Tomorrow, area or regional manager? And then? Well, better make the most of Telewiz and Khun Nam Waan. Because now her long-term ambition is to one day become a child psychologist. But it won’t happen overnight. So get yourself down to ‘Tesco’ and sort your phone out. Good things don’t last for ever!


Rob De Wet


Copyright 2020 Samui Holiday Magazine. All rights reserved Siam Map Company Ltd.