Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fire Dancing on Koh Samed

Just two hours’ drive from Bangkok can be found the sleepy and idyllic island of Samed (or Samet). Here visitors can relax in the sun whilst staying in quaint bungalows ranging from 1 to 5 stars. Some are no frills, cold water and fan, others have 24hr hot showers and air-con; with most including some sort of spartan breakfast. Most beaches have clear blue water, white sand and plenty of touts (sarongs, ice-cream, fruit, etc). You can also get active with a plethora of water sports like jet-skiing, kayaking, surfing, snorkelling and hiking. Or, just sit back, relax and soak up the rays.
One of the highlights of any visit to the island is catching an evening fire dancing show, prominent at many of the larger bars on the east side of the island (e.g. Sai Kaew Beach). These shows are free and absolutely amazing! This spectacle has become almost synonymous with partying in Thailand, especially down south on islands like Samui. Up north Samed (and nearby Koh Chang) is one of the few places you can catch a performance as well.
But what exactly is this thing I hear you asking. Well, fire dancing, also known as "fire twirling", "fire spinning", "fire performance" and "fire manipulation", is a group of performance arts or disciplines that involve manipulation of objects on fire. Typically these objects have one or more bundles of wicking, which are soaked in fuel and ignited. Some of these disciplines are related to juggling or baton twirling (both forms of object manipulation), and there is also an affinity between fire dancing and rhythmic gymnastics.
It most certainly should not be forgotten that this is a very dangerous performance art. Which kinda makes it all the more spectacular to watch in truth. You sure as hell don’t want to get your hands, arms, face, legs or any other part of your delicate body in the way of those twirling and spinning fire bombs! In fact, if you stroll past the bars during the day you can quite often catch “novice” devotees practicing the art. We hear they will even give you a lesson for a beer or two. So, if you planning an up-coming trip to Pattaya or Bangkok, consider spending a night or two on Samed to catch a show and see for yourself. Our hotel travel agents can easily help arrange transport to/from.
Getting there: From Bangkok the easiest way to reach Koh Samed is to take an air-conditioned mini-van from Victory Monument. These leave every half hour and are quick ‘n’ easy, costing only Bht 200 and dropping you direct at Ban Phe Pier (Rayong). From here you can take a local ferry, Bht 40/40 min, or speedboat, Bht 200/10min, direct to whichever beach you like. Travel “packages” including return speedboat ticket are also possible for Bht 400 if you haggle hard. This is actually a good option as it includes your National Park entrance fee (Bht 200) anyway; if you take the ferry you’ll be forced to pay this amount by the guards who’ll pounce on you as soon as you set foot on the dock.

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