The young Thai girl selling red balloons, and her unknown dreams

In All Topics by Ryan21 Comments

There she was, one small Thai girl holding 99 red balloons. Well, not 99, but quite a lot of balloons. I had just escaped out of the throngs of shoppers in the Chiang Mai Sunday walking street and shuffled, relieved to be free, into an intersection.

There she was, this unknown girl in a dark plaid shirt clutching strings that were pulled upward by the night sky. It was still a busy intersection, one with people flowing from all four directions in a blur of prospective customers, but not one stopped for a bright red balloon. It was like another dimension, one where she was suspended in a parallel plane with life whizzing by her all around; all she could do was pivot slowly as if she was standing on the spinning wheel of a music box. But no happy melody played.

There she was, this young Thai girl grasping red balloons which all seemed to ache to defy gravity and float away into the blackness — so many balloons she clutched tightly that it seemed they could float her tininess away too.

There she was, her name unknown, and I wondered as I saw her pivot to the silent song of night if she would go with those bright red balloons if they could pull her aloft to some faraway place. I wondered if she knew of a far away place, or if she had a fantasy place in her head that these balloons could float her away to.

There she was, a seemingly sweet young Thai girl with her eyes flicking from one corner to another, one person to another. I wondered what went through her head — maybe she dreamed of that faraway place? Maybe she dreamed no dreams? Maybe she was selling these bright red balloons, ones that rebelled against the monochrome night and defied gravity, to help support her family? Maybe her dark brown eyes that worriedly darted back and forth at passerby’s betrayed an anxiousness of something watching her, observing her, using her, or making sure she sells those bright red balloons. Making sure she doesn’t float away to some faraway dream she has. Making sure the strings always stay attached.

There she was — that young brown-eyed and seemingly innocent Thai girl, with the bright red balloons struggling to flee into the sky, standing alone in the night market with a blank expression on her face. Who knows what was going through her head, what dreams she did or didn’t have, what her name was, why she was selling these red balloons, and what she wanted to be when she grew up.

But I wondered.


This photo I took is one of my all time favorite captures. I feel like it has a powerful yet unknown emotion to it, one where you wonder.

What went through your head when you saw the photo?



  1. Hmmm I have no idea what she was thinking…but she was probably hoping more people were buying red balloons. Did you stop to buy one and help her get that much closer to whatever place she may (or may not have) been dreaming of?

    1. Author

      Yes, probably hoping, but I was wondering deeper past the balloons what might be going through her head. And no, I didn’t buy a balloon…because buying things from young kids in Thailand at the moment is a very grey area. On one hand, I’d love to be helping out a kid make money, but on the other hand at least half, if not more, are being forced to sell these things by an outside party because people will buy from children. And by buying from them, if they are being used by someone, will help that cycle keep going and allow whoever might be forcing them into it to give them more drugs. So, yes I wanted to, but I didn’t because I was wondering if that was the case or not.

  2. Wonderful image albeit sad to me. Felt the same way I felt when I watched a young girl standing on a street corner in Acapulco one evening selling Chicklet chewing gum. So sleepy her eyes were half closed. I imagine both she and the girl with the red balloons longed to be tucked away in bed and safe.

    1. Author

      I guess these things happen so often around the world in countries like this. A lot of child labor, or child exploitation to get them to sell things because people will feel sorry for them. I’m sure they would love to just be bundled up in bed…

  3. Love the photo, love the story even more.

    I never buy anything from children either – it’s hard, but you’re right, it’s not clear if it actually does any good.

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  5. thats a great photo. To me, her mind just looks blank… like she has done this a million times and now she does it without thinking. Thats pretty sad to think of!

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