She's only nine but she's already doing a grown-up's job. Strictly part-time, though, and there's no pay involved because she's a volunteer. When I first saw Intira Kasemsri, standing there on the sightseeing boat with another girl of about the same age, my eyes were drawn to the Thai lettering on her white T-shirt. Highlighted by the fetching pink of her traditional jongkraben pants, the text read, "A youth guide from Wat Bamphen Nua School". Every weekend and most public holidays, Intira and her classmates are to be found at Bangkok's latest attraction, the Kwan-Riam Floating Market in Min Buri, holding forth on the history of Saen Saep Canal.
"I like being a guide. It's fun," she piped up. Although she looked rather tired and sun-frazzled _ it was pretty hot out that day _ she still managed a big smile.
To boost self-confidence and public-speaking skills, her school recruited pupils from Prathom 3 to 6 to work as tour guides. These nine- to 12-year-olds take turns giving a running commentary about the origins of this man-made waterway and snippets of information about things passengers can see along its banks. Although there's precious little of interest along this 2km stretch of Saen Saep, nothing more than the walls of Bang Chan Industrial Estate and rusty, corrugated-iron fences around the houses of local residents. Three wooden boats, each with seats for about 30, ply this route, taking market visitors on short pleasure cruises. And the boats are nearly always full, apparently. Perhaps it's because the fare is so low _ adults pay only 10 baht and children ride for free _ or maybe it's just the novelty value.
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