While we were eating lunch one day in Siem Reap, in a typical open-to-the-street restaurant, we noticed a man setting up outside. He set up a tripod with a ring on the top. The ring had knives attached to it, pointing inward. After a few adjustments, he lit a match and ignited a bowl of gasoline or other flammable liquid that was perched there, causing a large whoosh of fire. He backed away and gave it a few minutes to calm down, then took off his shirt. The man was super skinny and super cut, with the most defined muscles I’ve ever seen, and with several scars. He backed up a little farther, and we realized that our suspicions were correct—he was going to jump through the burning ring.
Jeff and our friend both got up to take pictures. Our friend is a dedicated amateur photographer, and his camera has a setting that was perfect for this event; he snapped a series of pictures with a single click. Jeff had the video camera and was going to record the entire event; however, someone got in front of him at the last minute. Here is one of the pictures taken by our friend:
We decided that it would be worthwhile to pay the man to do it again, so that Jeff could capture it on camera. The man responded by putting on a full-out show, caught on video by Jeff. For your entertainment, here it is, in three parts:
For those of you who don’t want to watch the video, or who get this blog via email without embedded video, here’s a synopsis. (As Jeff was videotaping, and I was watching while also keeping a hand on Alexa, and we haven't figured out yet how to capture still photos from the video, all of the following photos were taken by our friend.)
First, he jumped through the fiery ring again. Then he did a backward somersault and stood on his head for a moment before converting it to a handstand. Then he lit a torch and--using gasoline or other flammable liquid that he put into his mouth--he blew fire, held the fire up to his skin on his arms and chest, and put the flame down his throat.
Next, he lifted the tripod with the ring and placed one of the crossbars in his mouth. He held the tripod and ring in his mouth for several moments.
Finally, he relit the torch and balanced it. First on his nose. Then on his tongue. Yes, his tongue.
After a couple of tries to get the flame size and the wind right, he then extinguished the torch with his mouth and passed his hat.
Jeff paid him more than we’d offered, and I hope he collected at least as much from the other onlookers. I’m not sure that’s the case, though, as one of the most notable things about this performance was just how little attention passersby actually gave to him!