I think if you travel very long in Asia that at some point something will get you that you can’t say no to. It might be some wood carving you saw at the market, that you knew full well that you didn’t need and paid way too much for but couldn’t help yourself. For a lot of farangs it might be that devil of a woman that you know is all wrong for you but you always go back to. Maybe it’s something simple as a local dish that you can’t pass up without buying some. For me it was a little girl at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
After visiting about 6 temples that day, I was hot, tired and about done. We had a few more to hit before calling it a day. Cambodia over all for me was a great place and found the people fun, talkative and helpful. I think sometimes you stereotype certain countries before arriving and I had heard about the beggars and kids there. I sometimes give money out to beggars but I have some strict rules: (I know some will disagree with these but everyone is different I guess)
- Never to males who are capable of working
- If to kids, small amount but never to large groups of them, as it gets out of hand
- I don’t like giving to mothers who use their babies as marketing tools… but I’ll be honest I have before
- Never in a non-third world country (these people are just lazy)
- …and to be honest I prefer to buy them a meal than give money
That being said you will undoubtedly, while in Asia, meet kids who aren’t begging but trying to sell you trinkets that are worthless. This is a work around from just asking for money and in most cases I never do it. I don’t buy souvenirs much and the ones I do are usually well thought out, as I have to pack them with me for no uncertain amount of time. I understand why the kids do it and can’t blame them but I just try and stay clear from it, if at all possible.
Then you meet one that you just can’t say no to. We were walking a long path to the temple that was about 300m long. All day you kept getting hit with things from touts like “Mister you look hot, I think you need some water. I have at good price!” Guys wanting to sell you books, towels, sandals, postcards, ice cream, smokes, statues…you name it. After a while you just go into invisible mode and start tuning them out.
She was about 6-7 years old, barefoot and selling bracelets. “Mr Mr, please please buy my bracelets I made for you. 5 for $1 please!” I look down and knew I wanted to get a picture of her as she had such a cute face. I didn’t want bracelets and said “No thank, no need.” but then instead of giving me some follow up response she just looked at me with this sad face… so sad that it broke my heart. I couldn’t say no to her, I didn’t want the bracelets but I wanted a picture and found myself in a dilemma. I wanted to buy her an ice cream or something but nothing was around. There were a lot of kids around while this was happening and didn’t want to break rule #2. But I couldn’t say no.
So I rationalized and said they would make great gifts for the aunties back home and pulled out my dollar. I quickly added that I had to get a picture though too. She seemed happy enough with that and nodded as she stood still for a few seconds while I snapped away. The picture isn’t that great. The focus is out of wack, the detail doesn’t do her justice, the lighting sucked, I had the wrong lens from what I would normally use and to be honest I didn’t react fast enough. I only got a few quick shots before she ran off happy to go play again. Sometimes you only get a few seconds to get that one shot and I missed it that day. Although the picture isn’t technically sound it’s still a great picture I think and I decided to convert it to B&W because it makes things timeless. For me I don’t think I will ever forget her face. Like I said, at some point in Asia you just can’t say no to something so beautiful. Thank God she wasn’t selling refrigerators!