firespinning in thailand

Fire dancer on the beach in Thailand

I had first witnessed fire spinning during our first trip to Thailand in 2000. I had never seen anything like it before and over the years I have watched it grow.   I had seen people in Toronto practicing twirling these baton like things on the streets, but I never really knew what they were doing.

fire-dancing-poi thailand

Fire Dancing is called Poi

fire spinner in thailand

Fire Spinner performs poi in Thailand

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For years I thought that Fire Spinning  originated in Thailand, but in actual fact, it is from New Zealand. Known as Poi, it comes from the Maori People. It is a rhythmic dance done with weighted balls that are attached to the end of cord and spun around the body.  The traditional Poi is not done with fire but over the years fire has been added melding Hawiian Fire Knife Dancing with Traditional Maori Ball Dancing.

poi dancer spinning fire

Poi Dancer Spinning Fire in Thailand

Firespinner on the beach performs in Thailand

A Firespinner performs poi in Thailand


The fire spinning takes it one step further attaching metal balls to chains. Or they use an aluminum staff and twirl it like a baton. The balls are filled with Kevlar and dipped in kerosene. When the fire is lit, it creates patterns and shapes in the black night.

It is practiced throughout the world today, but I always associate it with our times in Thailand.

Poi performer spins fire

Spinning fire in the dark Thailand night

It is a nightly ritual in Thailand’s Southern Beaches. Professional fire spinners put on shows and wow the backpacker crowds each night. They bravely face the fire, shirts off and no protection from the heat.   They make sure to keep the crowd a safe distance back and as the music plays they spin their magic.

During the day you will see tourists practicing themselves with hopes of becoming experts themselves.  It is harder than it looks and there is an art form in finding the right weight and balance. There are also different gases for different venues and it is evolving each year as it becomes more popular.

Fire Spinner in Ko Lanta

Professional Fire Dancer in Ko Lanta, Thailand

It is something that I definitely think that I could get into. Laying on the beach gets a little boring for us after a day or two, but maybe if we have the chance to take a poi lesson, we may just turn our sun and sand time into an adventure.

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11 Comments

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  3. Nora Dunn

    Fire spinning is great fun! I’ve taken it up since landing in Australia, and I spin poi as well as staffs. If you want to have fun with some practice poi, then get a pair of long socks or kids’ stockings, throw a tennis ball in each toe, and have fun!

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  6. Vimal Ajay Prabhu

    Hi, I am so glad you see the beauty in the Fire Spinner. Just for your information this act is done on th beaches of Goa and also in Srilanka (Unawatuna beach)… that is where I have see them :)
    Fantastic pics. I will be in Thailand 13th to 18th April 2010 hope to see the fire spinner there too :)

    1. davendeb

      Very cool Vimal. I didn’t know that they had fire spinners in Unawatuna. We absolutely loved Sri Lanka. We didn’t see them in Goa either, but we were at small and quiet beaches this time around. Maybe next time. Have a great time in Thailand, we are here right now and heading to the beach next week.

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