The Fire Dancers of Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi was the worst hit Thai island in the 2004 tsunami, the island was wiped clean, it’s hard to believe when visiting the island today because the vibrancy of the entire settlement is breathtaking, albeit catered to tourist’s with drinks offers and beer pong on the menu it’s difficult to tell that something horrific happened here just over a decade ago. The only evidence being an unfinished tsunami shelter raised a dozen or two feet above the ground on concrete stilts.
With beautiful views of sunsets with nothing but the surrounding island casting a shadow, calm waters and dense green hills with traditional looking bungalows housing an almost unlimited variety of food and drinks for by European standards; a reasonable price, there’s not much to dislike.
One of the highlights and a great reason to visit the island is the fire-dancers that provide nightly entertainment on the beach. Along the beach there are a few bars offering fire shows, the more professional and entertaining of the bunch were a group of guys working at Slinky’s bar at the far end of the main strip, they seemed to be much more coordinated than their competitors and always had somebody doing something whilst the next part of the show was set up. They would start setting up around 5pm, start the fire spinning around 7 which included aerobatics and dangerous stunts and would follow it up with fire limbo and flaming skipping ropes for the guests to dance with danger. After putting the flaming limbo bar away they would move to the beach and spin even more fire before moving inside and painting the guests with UV paint, these guys earn their pay.
If there were any smooth roads or parks in Thai cities I would expect these guys to be skateboarders but the in-thing to do is spinning flaming balls and sticks at ridiculous speeds, there were plenty of kids practising what they’ve seen their older peers do. These Thai guys were the coolest cats I’ve had the pleasure to meet in some time. If you’ve ever watched a skateboarder doing their thing for a crowd, you can see the concentration and enjoyment they get out of it, the same feeling seemed to be at play with the fire-dancers, working hard but with huge smiles on their faces soaking in the awe of the onlookers.
I was lucky enough to get a shot of some of them one on one, I used nothing but organic light opting not to take my flash to the beach which I think gives it a more authentic feel.













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