During our weekend on Koh Samed we spent the evenings down on the beach, eating Thai food, drinking “buckets”, and watching what has become the standard evening entertainment at all the beachside restaurants along the bay: fire dancers. These are kids — some teenagers, others even younger — moving from restaurant to restaurant to perform about a 20-30 minute show using flaming batons, hoops, and something a bit like a ball and chain. All are dipped into a low-temp burning fuel (likely kerosene), lit up, and spun around in the air with rather impressive speed and skill. There is often a bit of flame blowing as well. In the background, the bars provide music to the performance. Techno works rather nicely.
At the end, the boys go around with a tip jar. The youngest kid — you can see him at the very end of the video — told us he is 10 years old. It makes me think of the old TV ad in the US: “Parents, do you know where your kids are?” Sure, it’s 10 pm, they’re down at the bar on the beach playing with matches and kerosene. So what?
Depending on island salaries, these 10-year-old boys may be pulling in more baht than the typical adult working at the resorts. Consider a starting salary of 8000 baht/month (not unlikely) and a work week of 6 days and you have 333 baht/day. (Some hotels divide up service charge for the month among employees which can make quite an increase, even doubling one’s wage at a slightly upscale and high-occupancy hotel.) The 3 boys made about 200+ just at our table. I can’t say how well people tip, but 20 baht slips easily out of the hand it seems. If they do three shows up the beach, they may be doing pretty well (relatively speaking) in under two hours. We passed them on the road sorting the bills in their bucket, and it was surprisingly full.
I wouldn’t want my kid doing it (if I had one, that is), but I’d refrain from judging a parent in this part of the world. Most work prospects in Thailand are rather bleak.
Read more about getting to Koh Samed and where we stayed (plus some photos) over on my blog.
The song in the video is “Children” by Robert Miles
Get the MP3 on Amazon: Children (Dream Version)
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