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No Photo; money

It's the universal language

sunny 23 °C

Travel guides and fellow globetrotters will tell you that you'll get used to the beggars and pan-handlers you encounter in all of the emerging countries. They've each got their gimmick to tug on your heart strings--gimmicks that can be VERY effective. There's nothing wrong with giving money to them, it's just that if you don't harden up to it fast enough, you'll find that you're handing out more than you'll expect. But how could you resist these little girls?


At first, we thought they might just have been cute little volunteers at the temple we had stopped to visit; the first little girl we came across was singing. Pictures were snapped of course, not just by us, but by the crowds walking by—the little girl even posed for Marvin’s camera. But by the time we were ready to make the trek back down the 306 steps from Doi Suthep we’d made the connection that the girls were doing it for money. In fact, for the unlucky photographers they caught taking pictures and not paying, they would trot on over and stand on the step below them, blocking their way down the mountain until they were paid.

Now onto their scheme, I told Marvin I still wanted a picture with one of these adorable girls and fished through my bag for a 10 baht coin. As I was fishing, another foreigner beat me to the picture and snapped a photo of the little girl I was standing beside. Dutifully, she skipped on over to him, stood in his way and reprimanded him.

“No photo; money.”

Not understanding her at first, he tried to dodge around her, but she blocked his path and repeated,

“No photo; money.”

I was ready with my coin by then and thought that it might placate her with regards to his stolen photo as well as allow me to take one of my own. I presented the coin to the girl, but she wouldn’t even look at me.


“No photo; money.”

She was fiddling with her little change purse slung around her shoulder as she chanted the recitation so I thought perhaps she hadn’t noticed my offering. I put the coin in her line of vision, but again,

“No photo; money.”

The fellow foreigner, Marvin and I exchanged bewildered looks. Didn’t she want her money? We decided to let the guy give it a try offering it to her – it was he who caught her attention in the first place. He accepted the coin from me and he handed it to her, making sure she could see it.


“No photo; money.”

He tried slipping it into her change purse for her. She pulled away.

“No photo; money.”

Her sulky words were both frustrating but adorable. We weren’t going to go away without giving her the money, but we couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t take it? Then Marvin had an idea: we would try giving her 20 baht.

I fished through my purse and found the appropriate bill and offered it to her.


  • smile*

Her chant stopped and she smiled brightly for the camera, allowing the other foreigner to escape and me to snap my picture.

Marvin also paused at the bottom of the stairs to snap another (paid) picture with the first girl who had been singing and who had given him the great pose in the first place. In a developing country, even if you’re only 4-years old with only 3 words of English – Money talks.


Posted by marvandmel 02:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand locals chiang_mai doi_suthep

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