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The Only Girl to Break My Heart In Asia

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)

  1. Never to males who are capable of working
  2. If to kids, small amount but never to large groups of them, as it gets out of hand
  3. I don’t like giving to mothers who use their babies as marketing tools… but I’ll be honest I have before
  4. Never in a non-third world country (these people are just lazy)
  5. …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!

siem-reap-cambodia-6-9may09-12 troy

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  • Lucy

    she looks so cute but sad at the same time… no matter what you say I really like this pic.

  • Lucy

    she looks so cute but sad at the same time… no matter what you say I really like this pic.

  • http://andivanis.blogspot.com ivan

    i like this picture so much. i can never forget my time in cambodia.

  • Marc

    Very cute picture…..very cute.

  • Marc

    Very cute picture…..very cute.

  • http://andivanis.blogspot.com/ ivan

    i like this picture so much. i can never forget my time in cambodia.

  • http://jackandjilltravel.com Jill

    I can see how she’d break your heart. Don’t be too hard on yourself… it’s a great picture!

  • http://jackandjilltravel.com Jill

    I can see how she’d break your heart. Don’t be too hard on yourself… it’s a great picture!

  • http://www.wayneontheroad.com Wayne

    A great post Troy. Thanks for sharing not only the image but your thoughts.

  • http://YearAroundTheWorld.com/ Matt | YearAroundTheWorld

    I have the same rules, and would have broken them in this situation too.

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    Thanks Matt and know what you mean. It’s been the only time in my travels where I just couldn’t say no. She didn’t hound me like most kids and the face she gave me just got to me for some reason. To be honest I have gotten a little to blind to beggars since being in India. I can’t walk more then 100m without someone asking me for a pen and I just about blew it one day but quickly realized that what I needed to do was just give some candy or something and relax some. So i got a bag of candy, some little coins and went for a walk for an hour… best thing I did that whole day! :)

  • Jean Wethmar

    T-roy.. amazing story.. thanks for going back today.. It reminded me of a drawing a little boy (5-7) in Delhi gave me, all folded up and in his dirty little shorts pocket, after I’d bought  him a macker instead of giving him the $s. I just felt he was being  used, and how right I was. I will remember his face.. I still have his drawing as well!
    When I went to Rajastan I took a huge bag of pens/crayons and the children all loved this.. but I was pestered ALL day in Pushkar by two little boys.. eventually I gave in, and they lead me to the store.. they weren’t after anything for themselves! Bought Chapati flour and lentils for their family! How bad I felt! Then there was the little boy who asked for my 1/2 can of coke! And the joy when I gave it to him.. so indeed, how blessed/spoilt we are for choice with so many provisions.
    This is why I love traveling.. how it enriches our lives!

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