After settling into my mellow mountain bungalow, I stopped in at the Mountain Bar below for a Singha (Thai beer) around sunset. In an effort to start meeting people before the big party, I joined Molly and Sarah, two Australian girls from Perth. After talking for an hour or so, we split off and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant in town which was screening Green Street Hooligans.
Almost every restaurant in Haad Rin has at least one big LCD television with surround sound, and they screen movies from early afternoon through the evening. Usual suspects (during my visit) included Anchorman, The Beach, Transformers, and Indiana Jones 4. Meanwhile, other restaurants’ entertainment subsists solely on endless reruns of Friends, The Family Guy, and The Simpsons. But you’ll never see The Family Guy screened in a restaurant known for playing Friends (or vice versa).
After dinner, I followed the increasingly loud music to the Drop In bar on the south end of the beach. I watched guys and girls jump a burning rope. Plenty of people would fall over or get hit by the fiery rope, yet aside from a quick dance, dip or duck to get away from the heat, they all seemed no worse for the wear.
The fire jump rope soon gave way to a fire hoop which people began to dive through. Every now and then, someone would trip up, fall, and scatter away from the blazing ring. The Thai guys managing these activities were always quick to react to such inevitabilities. After 8 months of traveling, I felt no need to take part in these tribal games. I was in good company as there were far more spectators than participants.
More than the tourist-driven stunts, I enjoyed the amazingly skillful shows put on by the fire dancers (twirlers, artists, or whatever they’re called). I was usually sitting close enough to wonder what horrific scene would unfold if a fiery staff were to suddenly slip from sweaty hands and spear me in the chest. I admired them all the more for allowing me to experience their skills without such an outcome.
The Cactus Bar had the only fire high jump on the beach. Whoever could jump the highest without knocking down the pole would win a beer. Near the top setting, the pole was at least as high as my neck, maybe 4.5-5 feet off the sand. At that point, only the guys who could do a proper forward dive and roll were able to compete. As I watched the spectacle unfold, with as usual, the plenty of guys tripping up on the flames, I wondered how it was that people didn’t break their necks more often, seeing as how they’re hurdling their drunken bodies head first over the flames.
I met a few Israelis and an Irish guy on the beach, finally retiring around 2am. The psy-trance music from the Zoom bar was booming until sunrise at 6am, as I soon came to learn, it would every night.