On the corner of 278 and 51, in front of a Pagoda lie two bars: one orange, one green. They are the start of a street filled with restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops that cater to foreigners. Many start their time here on this block; others passing through barely leave it. I spent many of my first nights here at the orange bar… watching… learning… The street is lined with tuk-tuks and motos waiting to overcharge some unsuspecting tourist, or simply take someone who lives here anywhere for 50 cents. While waiting, men and boys lounge in the tuk-tuks playing cards, commenting on the tourists, and just talking.
Near the corner, a boy, perhaps 14 or 15 years old, sits in a black button down shirt in a tuk-tuk with 2 friends. He laughs easily. You can imagine him at home or at school or playing soccer. As the night moves on, he lounges in the tuk-tuk, gently pushing the younger boys out of his way.
Abruptly, he leaves the tuk-tuk and takes a space sitting on a motorcycle near the orange bar. From there he can see down the whole road and out to the main road. But he is alone. He sits watchful.
Three small children descend on the block, each have a handful of flowers. The youngest, a boy of perhaps 6, only has 2 flowers left. None have on shoes. They are dirty and sometimes they are bruised. They go from table to table trying to sell their flowers or simply asking for change or food. The children target the foreigners, rarely asking locals for money. At times, they are chased off by waitresses. At other times, they are given food by the customers. They never talk to the kid on the motorcycle.
After 15 minutes, like clockwork, an old man on a motorcycle pulls up across the street. The kids run over and jump on the back. They are gone. The boy returns to his friends. Life continues.