Play with Fire and You’re Gonna Get Burned!

“Play with fire and you’re gonna get burned!” This was the message portrayed by a rather dodgy hip hop act I once had the displeasure of watching whilst waiting for The Streets to hit the stage in 2007. I was in Sydney and having the time of my life.

bucket neil barnes fireFast forward to 2010 and I’m on a beach in Thailand, again having a great time and, I’m not going to lie, I’m more than half cut (drunk). Along with new friends and old mates I am enjoying the splendours of Koh Phangan and sampling the delights of Sam Song rum served in a sandcastle bucket – both novelty and dangerous. We’d heard rumours of the affects the Red Bull served in the area can have; they all sounded a bit full on but I was definitely buzzing that night. Whether it was the Red Bull or just the high of travelling I’ll never know, but that night I did potentially the stupidest thing I’ve ever done (and there is a list).

For some god-awful reason, once upon a time someone somewhere decided that setting a giant skipping rope alight and jumping it would be a grand idea. I disagree; it is a shit idea.  However – I bet you can see where this is going – despite thinking it was an awful idea, on this particular night I thought it was brilliant!

Fuelled by booze, Red Bull and the buzz of backpacking I burst into the jumping square. I carefully watched the rope come over my head, bent my knees, held my arms out for balance and timed my jump to what I thought was perfection… and then hit the sand and felt the burn of petrol on both my right arm and leg.  My jump had not been well timed AT ALL; it was the most epic of fails and left me missing a lot of skin, and with the potential for some big scarring.  The rope was also not that far from my face and so, at least in that respect, I had a lucky escape.

fire thailand

I can’t deny that the flaming rope looks very pretty and, I’m sure if you manage to survive jumping it, there is a great sense of achievement but, having fallen at its flaming hands, I would argue it’s still not worth the risk. Health and safety in backpacker destinations around South East Asia can be somewhat questionable but, at the end of the day, it was my decision to take on the rope. And a good decision it was not.

I spent a lot of time in/underwater for the next day or so, trying to extinguish the dull burning sensation coming from my damaged limbs. I also found it hard to be around my new found mates and even my old school friends with whom I’d travelled to Thailand.

It wasn’t that they said anything or acted any differently; just I felt like a muppet and didn’t really want to show my face for fear of randoms recognizing me as ‘the guy that took on the rope and lost’. I had to visit the local chemist and buy strapping that would keep my wounds clean. Locking the wounds away from the (dirty) air meant that they couldn’t scab over, so they continued to weep for the rest of my trip. I couldn’t really win there: dirty wounds or weeping wounds; neither option is particularly appealing. I also purchased some rather strong painkillers.

I’m sure I wasn’t the first to fail at the skipping rope of death as I’ve now named it, and I’m sure I won’t be the last but, even two years on, I still look back on that moment and curse myself for being such an idiot. Yes, travel is about trying new things, but the decision to try and jump a flaming rope was not one of my brightest moments.

About the writer: Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds is a young (ish) London lad with a passion for all things travel. He got the travel bug having first volunteered as a sports coach in South Africa back in 2005. You can read his daily ramblings by following him on twitter @packsandbunks.