Not only do I get to go to school five days a week learning Thai Massage theory, planning, and techniques, but the weekend before last a group of TMC classmates and I took a minivan to Pai, a town in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, to attend the Pai Circus School.
The Road to Pai (pronounced Pie) is a winding road of steep switch backs up and down the mountain with a reputation of making tourists sick to their stomachs. Pai is small town with great cafes, restaurants, shops, and a reputation for a place to chill out and relax. It was great to get outside the city during this hot weekend.
We stayed in dormitory style huts, literally hung out in the hammocks, and practiced circus tricks from 3- 8 pm. The collection of people that congregated on this hillside location overlooking the town of Pai represented every corner of the globe. We learned the basics of staff spinning, poi balls, the slack line, and stilt walking. As the sun began to go down we chowed down on a delicious meal with our teachers (a couple of young, shirtless travellers from other parts of the world who just oozed circus skills with a chill out vibe). We watched the sun set dramatically over the mountains amongst the clouds and then there was FIRE!
Yes with just an afternoon of training, we dipped our poi balls and staffs into paraffin fuel and lit them on fire. Of course we had the requisite safety talk first. The talk consisted mainly of telling us how safe the paraffin fuel was and how hard it really is to burn yourself. This came from one of our instructors with burn marks down the side of his body. He used the wrong fuel he said – let him be a warning to us – be sure to use paraffin not standard gas or other fuels. Good advice. Check.
We were instructed that if we mishandled the staff or poi balls during our turn, the best thing was to drop them and run. I figured that was sound advice. If by chance we wrapped the poi balls around an arm or leg, it was best to use your hand to quickly unwrap it, not panic and freeze. We would need to fight the instinct to not touch something on fire – the only way to loosen it was to remove it my hand, and the less time it is contact with any skin, the better. If we smacked ourselves in the head, we were told it is best not to have product in your hair. Hair isn’t so flammable unless it is full of gel and hairspray. So with that as our guide, each of us took turns in the fire circle at the edge of the hillside with Pai and the moon as our backdrop, to put on our show for the others we had spent the afternoon acquiring our new skills with.
We all encouraged each other, clapping, ooing, ahhing, and shouting. Some were fearful of the fire at first but everyone eventually took their turn, overcame their fear, and even went back to do more than one show! Nothing like twirling fire around your body to build confidence! A few of us hit ourselves, but the worst marks that were left on us were black soot marks. It really was hard to burn yourself. But hey, don’t try this at home without proper instruction just because you read it here.
After our fire show, many of us walked into town and ended up at the Rasta Bar for live music and a celebratory drink (or two) in celebration of our new skills and the fact that no one got burned. Later in the evening a group of local fire spinners/twirlers put on A MOST AMAZING show for us. It turned into a party that lasted all night. The next day we did manage to get ourselves back to Chiang Mai by late Sunday in order to be at Thai Massage school Monday morning.
Yet another skill learned in Thailand. I plan on setting up a slack line in my backyard when I return home to continue practicing. In only a day I was able to walk the length of the line, walk backwards and even turn around on the slack line. However, I don’t have plans of adding fire spinning as a technique within my Thai Massage.