What’s wrong with the above picture?
Well, yes, many things, I’m sure, but let’s not dwell on my lack of photography skills. Let’s focus on the content.
What we have here is a couple of farangs – of unidentifiable nationality – selling postcards on the street in the Siam neighbourhood of Bangkok.
We’ll call them Dick and Fanny.
Dick’s sat down on the kerb while Fanny’s facing away from the camera opposite him.
You’re probably thinking, “Big deal! Nothing new about that.”
While you’re right, let’s think about the wider situation for a moment.
These guys, and I don’t just mean these specific guys, but all guys of their ilk selling their wares on the street, seem to be a permanent fixture around Bangkok nowadays.
Just this Sunday, I walked past three separate groups between MBK shopping mall and Siam BTS station all selling handmade postcards with a cardboard sign scrawled in both English and Thai (is someone selling the translations on Khao San Road?!) explaining how they are on a very unique world adventure.
Now, I like to think that I’m pretty open minded.
Nothing wrong with alternative lifestyles and I’m all for funding your travels creatively. I totally respect those funky-smelling dudes who hitched their way to Kuta from Istanbul back in the 70s. In fact, I’m such a hippie that I even made my own tie dye t-shirt when I was 18.
By all means, get hustling and sell your wares – in countries that have decent social security systems in place.
But in Thailand? I’m sorry, but this is not the right place for it.
One thing I’ve always admired about the Thai people is their generosity to those in need. I’m forever seeing people giving spare change and generally helping out wherever they can.
The Thais are also fond of the odd ‘funny farang’ or two. And this is where the problem lies.
Notice the Thai lady selling peanuts in the photo? She’s just behind Dick’s expensive camera. Looking on as he takes a break from browsing his iPhone to engage a young passing Thai in conversation.
That lady has probably been there for a decade.
And she still will be there once Dick and Fanny have inevitably made their merry way to Koh Tao.
I don’t know if anyone would have given a satang for her without them there, but I’m certain there’s a number who will have made a beeline for the farangs with their briefcase of photography that they found on Google Images; and ignore the lady who is genuinely in need of cash.
If Dick and Fanny happen to be reading this, I suggest you make the most of that lovely iPhone and research some of the myriad ways to make money online.
And if you really are taking those postcard photos yourself, I suggest you try Shutterstock. You’ll reach a much wider audience and can leave the street selling to the less fortunate souls who actually rely on it.