The crowds’ eyes are fixed. All mesmerised by the fire being mouldered skilfully by the performers. Two young boys, one 11 and the other not more than 13 years old are already masters at the art of performance and how to work the fire to their advantage. With ease, they play together creating a flawless masterpiece in front of our very eyes. Music pounding through our bodies reducing our world to this one moment, this one place and one time on the sand outside Lotus Bar on Koh Tao, unable to move, watching in awe.
The rest of the fire crew performers join. Impressed with the skills of the young boys, our minds are blown with the older members speed, agility and showmanship. Not knowing who to watch, my eye is caught by the one spinning a pole so quickly it is as if he is swirling a hula hoop of fire. In front of his body, to the side, above his head, behind his back, throwing it into the air before catching it between his legs the fire flies around him without faltering. Before you know it, the flames have gone out and while we are trying to get our heads around the amazing fire-filled spectacle we just witnessed, the young boys are back. Centre stage, using just their mouths, then throwing their fire twirling instruments into the air and catching them with their feet.
Before we know it the eldest of the crew is wading out into the water. Trying to figure out what he is doing we looked into the darkness and water that looks like black silk in the moonlight. He lit his fire twirlers. The fire began to dance. Flames spit out as if fireworks are exploding in circles around his body.
This big show stopper occurs every half hour. Each half hour is filled by dancing, never repeating themselves in the well-practised moves that give off a high air of improvisation and fun. With the fire spinning horizontally, the boys hold the chains between their teeth and the ground and play clapping games before parting and showing off their solo moves with swagger. So much swagger as if they know they’re awesome. And they are awesome.
As the show moves on, the crowd builds, hearts pounding to the sound of the music. But still motionless and silent until cheers burst out as the tricks get more difficult and what we’re watching almost seems impossible. Before long, they set up a large jump rope of fire. Many edge further away from the front, with hesitation a few step forward, then take the bold leap into the flames. With adrenaline pumping, I dash into the flames and make it. This wasn’t long lived as I was so stunned I forgot to jump by the time the rope came back round. A small sting but no burn, others come and inspect the outcome of being hit before deciding to make the leap themselves.
With no one else game to attempt the jump rope and the crowd thinking the show must surely be over, a flame fuelled limbo competition is set up. This everyone wants a go at; especially with the promise of a free shot on the other side. Going lower and lower we all bend over backwards, hoping we have not bitten off lower than we can chew. Safety in mind, the fire crew quickly restart the limbo when they think everyone has reached their limits.
Limbo and the show over, the crowds disperse as rapidly as they had emerged. We only planned to stay for half an hour, but we realise we had been mesmerised for a whole three and a half hours. It is time for a late night swim, pancakes and bed.
After several nights on Koh Tao it is decided that the Lotus Bar fire show is the best along the whole beach with Sunset Bar a close second and we always end up back at Lotus to have our minds blown each day.