A year or so back ‘I wouldn’t get out of bed for that kind of money’ were spoken words that could often be heard in conversation here in the UK. One year on and the beds of many UK households are creaking as the occupant endures another sleepless night worrying as to whether their interview went well enough to secure the menial, minimum wage post they applied for. Recession and depression are nowadays the perfect rhyme.
Very few of us pursue a career path that is one of intention. For most the perfect occupation never materialises. I always wanted to be a sports journalist but….the kids watching the polo matches and eating the strawberries and cream on centre court used words far more descriptive than mine. ‘ The referee’s a bastard,’ was the adjective and objective in the school of thought I was dragged through.
In Thailand survive and alive are more common found rhyming partners. Shirk your work and there’s no social benefit payments to feed the hungry mouths of your family or patch up the hole in your roof before the rainy season closes in and swamps you.
Looking through my growing archive of Thailand photographs I couldn’t help but notice the amount of pictures that featured ladies working the streets and roads of Thailand. Working in extreme temperatures for a wage that probably beats many but one which wouldn’t withstand too many holes to a hot tin roof.
I’m unsure if the top photo is of a man or woman but I can assure you the day won’t arrive when they can dump their food cart in the nearest klong (canal) and retire to a villa in Phuket. The riches will be above Thailand’s minimum wage but also achieved through close to maximum effort.
The lady pictured on the right dodges and weaves trough the traffic each day to sell her lucky flower garlands (phuang malai) to motorists sat waiting at traffic lights. An occupation that is rich in pollution but offers no real solution to the grander trappings of life but boy did she know how to smile.
Seeing ladies working on building sites and in road gangs comes as a surprise to many western visitors to Thailand but the sightings quickly become commonplace. Thailand’s high number of single mothers make competition for the countries more arduous jobs just as gender competitive as London or New York’s search to fill its office and IT vacancies. Equal rights may be the way of the west but in Thailand a lass can expect to get paid a little less than the males of the road gangs.
Streetwalkers selling their wares…those words add music to the ears of the cynical outsiders to Thailand. Isn’t Thailand only about sex. The streetwalkers of Thailand are the vital cog that keeps the Thai economy churning. Streetwalking in the Land of Smiles reads street walking.
For some of the street peddlers their wares are what they carry across their shoulders. Street sex to them is the cool shade and refreshing breeze that a soi (street) can offer. The baskets can contain many a thing from sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves to honeycomb straight from the bee hive. The occasional vendor has a little moonshine hidden under it all. There’s no hiding the fact of it being a long hot day with little money at its end.
The wheels of the Thai economy are turned and churned by the feet on the street. Food vendors, shoeshine boys, lottery ticket vendors and trinket girls peddle their goods in their bid to survive and keep their own small modest dream alive.
The western world can be won with the aid of benefits secured with the use of a government pen fastened tight and anchored to a counter with string. Unemployment in Thailand is for the unhealthy and wealthy.
Getting out of bed and hitting the streets to make your living in Thailand involves long hours in extreme weather. Facing blistering heat and heavy rainfall is rewarded with a wage that’s meagre or modest at best. Thailand is a tough country in which to earn a living and in a strange, bizarre twist …a working class girl has to get into bed to earn the big bucks everyone hungers for…if she’s lucky.
© 2009, Martyn. All rights reserved.