The smell of gasoline hits me hard, yet I am mesmerised. Before me a group of very small but well built Thai boys perform fire tricks I haven’t seen before in my life. Their tattooed bodies glisten in the dark and move to the music. It is a truly sensual experience....
I am in Haad Rin, on Thai island called Ko Phangan. This is the place to come if you really want to let your hair down and party until dawn.
I’ve been coming to the beach every night for the last couple of days not only to watch the spectacle, but also to meet people. Every person I meet brings new stories and new inspiration.
I don’t know if this is the bucket of alcohol I’ve just had or too much sun during the day, but I’m deciding to learn some fire tricks. I simply ask one of the guys about it. Without saying anything he handles me two chains with tennis balls attached and shows me how to move so they swirl around me. This seems easier than I thought.
The next night my new skills allow me to have a small conversation with one of the ‘perfomers’. They are all 30. They work for a local bar for food, accommodation and small cash. Their lives consist of sleeping, performing and drinking. There are no perspectives and no certain plans for the future. One of them, who calls himself Luke, is proud to have finished university. He’s also been to prison for beating up the son of the Thai prime minister. I’m guessing that he’s proud of that, too.
I’m enjoying their company.
I’m asking if they’re happy. ‘Yes, of course we are – says Num – We entertain people; make their time here even better. Other than that we are free to do whatever we like. We all have only one dream: to go to England and watch Liverpool play’.
We are interrupted by Cory, a scuba diving instructor I met on one of my sea trips. He came to Thailand for a holiday a few months ago and decided to stay for a while. He lives in a hut in the jungle with his dog. Does he regret his decision? No, and he will never regret it. There is nothing better than working outside in the sun. When I ask him what he doesn’t like in Thailand, he points out a 12 year old boy. ‘You know, this little guy comes here every single night and helps out in the bar. No one cares that he should be at school tomorrow or in bed right now. This annoys me here!’
Cory introduces me to Anthony, who came to Thailand from Manchester. Despite the fact that he’s 35, he doesn’t want to settle down anywhere. He thinks that everyone should live their lives the way they want to. He just needs to be in a constant move and see places everyone else is dreaming to visit. ‘If one thing is normal for one – he says – it doesn’t mean everybody needs to do the same. I just want to be happy and that’s how travelling makes me feel.’ We get into a long conversation about travels and commitments.
I am leaving Haad Rin tomorrow and I am truly sad. I’ve met people here who are so beautiful thanks to their freedom. I fell in love with their view of life, their happy, smiling faces. Lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, I know that all I want to do is to travel. And this is not only because of sceneries, exotic beaches and unknown places, I want to meet more people like Cory and Luke and hear their amazing stories.