Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2011 - Part 1

The 2011 Phuket Vegetarian Festival started 26th September in the evening and continues until 6th October. A few days into the festival now, and the street processions have started. I have not been to watch one of these early morning processions yet this year, might do that tomorrow, and will certainly be in town on Sunday 2nd October for the procession from Bang Nieow Shrine in Phuket Town. My parents are visiting from England and they want to see various aspects of the festival, though we also want to do other things in and around Phuket. The weather has not been to kind. Quite a lot of rain on the 26th and 27th for the first couple of festival days. And yet, the rain has a habit of easing off if you are brave enough to get out there. On September 26th we all went to Kathu Shrine (our local - about 2km from our house) for the opening ceremonies of the vegetarian festival.

At 5pm the Go Teng pole is raised over the shrine - a huge wooden pole on which is hung a bamboo branch and 9 lanterns. This is the "spirit pole" down which the Emperor Gods can descend into the shrine. Kathu is not such a busy shrine, so it's easier than the main Phuket Town shrines to move around and take photos. The pole was hauled up into place by ropes and by men armed with forked sticks. Lo-tech, human power, with anyone welcome to help pull the ropes.. I would help, but also want to take photos! Here's the Go Teng pole being raised and fixed in place... all a bit frantic, as it seems that the pole might be raised and then fall back the other way!

Raising the Go Teng pole

Go Teng Pole Raising

The rain held off for this part of the ceremony which was preceded by a village elder saying prayers at a small altar next to the pole. These early days of the festival don't have the bloody ceremonies that come later although one Ma Song was part of the prayers, coming out from the shrine and cutting his tongue with sharp axes. Maybe a little blood is needed to convince the gods to come!

Ma Song cutting himself at Kathu Shrine

Ma Song at Kathu Shrine

The guy below was leading the prayers. At the time of the pole raising he was dressed in more ceremonial clothes and dancing around kind of trance-like. Not really in a trance though, but it's all part of the ceremony. The very old man who I had seen the last couple of years leading the prayers was nowhere to be seen. I believe he may have passed on this year. Without being one of the community here I can't say how the tradition is passed down, or why certain people are chosen to pray or chosen to be Ma Song.

Kathu shrine elder

The rain did start again once the pole was up. A strong wind blew in too. Guy ropes were quickly checked and tightened. And people were coming in and out of the shrine all the time, praying inside and taking incense outside to bless the Go Teng Pole. The furnace just outside the shrine is used to burn the money for the spirits (not real money!). Umbrellas needed to use the furnace:

Rainy evening at Kathu shrine

I always enjoy spending a little time at the shrine and watching people saying their prayers. Have to remind myself that this is Phuket. The same Phuket that is full of tourists, hotels, beach chairs, bars, massage parlours, dive shops, tuk tuks and tailors. That is also Phuket - that's a new side to Phuket. Remember that the history of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival goes back to 1825. I find this side of Phuket to be far more interesting than the beach life. But judging by the numbers of foreigners that I see every year watching the festivals, I am in a minority - well, this blog is "Jamie's Phuket" - hope it can convert a few more people to the REAL Phuket! A couple of "people watching" photos:

Prayers at Kathu Shrine

Inside Kathu Shrine, Phuket

A photo below that says something about traditions and how they are passed on. Kids come to the shrine with their families from a young age, get scared by firecrackers, watch bizarre rituals, see and feel the respect afforded to the ceremonies by the adults. When the adults pray, the children pray. The eyes below I think hold a mixture of respect, fear, excitement and bewilderment... They were watching the Ma Song with the axes coming out of the shrine.

Worried eyes

These photos were all taken early evening between 5pm and 6:30pm. The Go Teng pole had been raised and hung with 9 lanterns for the 9 gods. I knew that something would happen at the shrine at midnight. I had not been at midnight before. Surely there would be some strange rituals, wild men in trances and bloody sacrifices for the gods? The rain was falling again as we drove into a dark an silent Kathu village just before midnight. Very dark and silent. Er.. maybe I was wrong and nothing happens at midnight? My parents came along with me and I am supposed to know these things! As we approached the shrine, the lights were on and we could see activity, but it was still very quiet. This midnight prayer turned out to be less dramatic that I had anticipated. No blood, no crazy possessed old men, just prayers, and for the most part these prayers were the quietest and most reverential that I have seen.

It was all adults.. well maybe a few teenagers. Mostly men. And the men were the ones leading prayers and carrying incense and flags in and out of the shrine. Prayers were said inside the shrine in front of the altar:

Prayers at the Altar

A small temporary altar was set up outside with incense and burning wood. Prayers were said outside and the bowl of incense was surrounded with flags and taken inside by a group of very devoted looking men who formed something like a ruck around the bowl and rushed it inside. This was repeated a couple of times. Prayers were said at the temporary altar outside and then everyone moved inside.

Kathu Shrine after midnight

Only 3 foreigners there - me, Mum and Dad. Witnessing the quiet prayers was quite special. We crept around like mice. The shrine was so silent during the prayers. Only the sound of one voice and the sounds made when the "priest" knocked on a metal bowl or a wooden statue. We watched from the window. The inside of the shrine was pretty well packed. These prayers went on for about 20 minutes.

Kathu shrine after midnight

Kathu shrine prayers

Prayers in Kathu Shrine

And then .. everything moved outside again with more carrying of incense and flags in and out of the shrine. The photo below was taken at almost 1am. I had not planned to be up so late hanging around listening to prayers! But despite heavy eyes we did not want to leave just yet. On the other hand, this could go on all night ...

Kathu Shrine 1am

Finally the relative silence of these late night prayers was broken by firecrackers. You can't have a Chinese festival without firecrackers. At times during the vegetarian festival you might need ear protection. When the processions pass through town, long strings of firecrackers are held on bamboo poles over the statues of the gods as they are carried through the streets. Those carrying the gods certainly do need earplugs! Here at Kathu shrine, one long burst of bangs signalled the end of the ceremonies for the night.

Firecrackers at Kathu shrine

The festival is now in full swing. We plan to visit Sam Kong shrine in the north of Phuket Town tomorrow morning (30th) at 6:30am to witness some piercing and the start of their procession into the center of town, and tonight (29th) in Kathu village there is a procession around the village. The main street processions continue until 5th October. See you here!

Stein auf Stein

Festgemauert in der Erden,
 steht die Wand aus Karton geklebt.
Heut' noch muss die Mauer werden,
 frisch, Flatterbärchen, sei zur Hand


ja, ich hab's mit großer Literatur von Schiller versucht, um den Bau meines Erdbeer-Cottages voran zu treiben - hat mir aber gar nichts genutzt. Im Gegenteil, musste mich aufklären lassen, dass es da mehr um das Gießen einer Glocke ging - und so ganz richtig zitiert war's wohl auch nicht... *menno*. Und noch schlimmer, als ich versucht habe, Pfote mit anzulegen, gab's Ärger von wegen: Wenn Du Dich nun bekleckerst, das geht doch nie wieder aus Deinem Fellchen raus... *doppelmenno*

Musste ich also Birgit das Feld notgedrungen allein überlassen. Aber sie hat ordentlich zugemauert, die Gartenmauern meines Cottages sind jetzt fertig beklebt, Stein auf Stein eben (okay, okay, eigentlich Erdbeerschalenpappe auf MDF *flöööööt*). Fehlt nur noch der Farbanstrich und die Gestaltung des Simses. Aber es wird!!! Immer ein bisschen...

Einen schönen Rest-September wünsche ich Euch - diese Woche war bei uns richtig Balsam für das gequälte "Sommer 2011"-Gemüt. Hoffentlich macht der Oktober da nahtlos weiter!

Liebe Grüße
Euer Flutterby

The survivor in me

I am a survivor. I have always been.

Right from my childhood when I had to fight for kaj(batting time) in the play ground. I had to fight stronger, meaner kids to get my batting time.
"You said I can bat for one over if I fielded beyond the boundary. You better bowl or else..."
"or else, what?"
"or else I will tell mom."
Yeah..those stronger, meaner kids were my younger brothers.

But my surviving skills reached its pinnacle in my battle with a worthy enemy - testosterone. I am talking about college days. You would be surprised how much I was prepared for the phrase, "Let's just be friends".

"Hey, Smrithi!"
"I.. I.."
"I want your notes."
"Who are you?"

That was brutal. I felt like the army of Djibouti in the world war II. They were ready for standing up to and getting annihilated by Germany. But Hitler said, "F*** Djibouti. Who wants it? Take a bypass and go for France." Four years of the same class and she asks, "Who are you?" I needed every bit of my surviving skill, all right.

Not impressed! Okay, I will tell you how I fared in the ultimate test of survival skills for a metro-sexual man - fighting bad Internet connection.

I sensed something was amiss late last night. I wasn't able to connect to Internet. My survival skills kicked in immediately - I went to sleep. Today morning, I got up and it is the same. Clearly the situation called for fight and not flight. So I power cycled the laptop couple of times. Nothing happened! Then I took the battle one notch higher and reset my wireless router couple of times. Nothing, Nada, Zilch.

I remembered what Anthony Hopkins did when he saw the bear in 'The edge'. I tried calling my wife for help on phone.

Suddenly I got connected to Internet. But I couldn't get to Google. You all know how much I need Google . I need it for tasks ranging from checking the spelling of survivor to see whether any people had dropped in on my blog (The usual answer is NO). But it just wouldn't go to Google.

Can you guess what I did? I went to Bing. I am a survivor, baby! Yeah, that's what I am. I asked Bing , "Is Google down?" and that she threw up her hands and gave me lot of vague links. Boy, Ask a woman a question!

And then my ISP went down again.
I called my ISP. 'MayDay! MayDay! Internet is down. Houston! we have a problem.'
'No sir, everything is fine here.' The ISP guy stonewalled.

I kept the phone down and assessed the situation. There is some problem, somewhere. And someone has to solve it. My survival skills went on the overdrive. I disconnected from the internet, powered off the router and fired the notepad to start typing this post. I will wait for that someone to bring me back on line.

I don't know! Maybe the world likes and needs people like John McClane of Die Hard when there is a crisis. But I am a survivor of different type. I am more like a polar bear that hibernates during winter. If my office is going to be taken over by terrorists, I am going to lock myself in the bathroom. That's how I survive.

And I am a survivor. I have been. I am. And I will always be ,I mean, till the time I die.

Quote of the day:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going - leaving you behind.

From Funny Side Of Life

Liked the post? Find out what do I do when I am not surviving.

Retirement ---Rerun--- Why Thailand ?????

Nu and A and Nicky Boy
fishing at one of my favorite spots
Taking a bath and ride on my friend Moll-Lee
Our home the first time we saw and bought it in 2003
A couple years later after the remodel and  adding a few plants and flowers

 We call this our long room
Our home in 2011
fresh chicken and chicken parts
lots of salads to take home
Me and My Girl
I love this
Sunset from the porch
Wang Pho train station
Our church family  Hope of Kanchanaburi
Taking off for a little tripn with folks from our village

We were in town the other day and we saw a friend or two  that was here in the LOS on a holiday and thinking about retirement, and they ask us the same question many have ask us in the past as to why we chose Thailand as our retirement home and country. Well , it will be 7 years in October that we moved here from America," lock stock and barrel "as the ole saying goes and I thought it would be good to repeat a post I posted about a year or so ago , it might help to answer that question, Hope you enjoy the older post and pictures.

                                                             Why Thailand

When we travel on vacation or we are out and about, one of the most ask questions is "Why Thailand."In order to really answer that question , First, you have to know that I am married to a Thai lady , and one of my main concerns in my marriage was what could I do to make her happy .We came to Thailand in 2003 on a vacation and a chance for me to meet her family and kids. I saw at once ,how happy she was to be in her home country with friends and family , and yet have the security in knowing that she had a husband who could and would do anything she needed , with-in reason to make her happy. Not only could I see how happy she was , but I at once fell in love with Thailand , there was lots of things that attracted me to the LOS , BUT the most important one was how happy Ciejay seemed to be .

I knew it was about time for us to start thinking seriously about where we wanted to live out out retirement years , I had always thought about somewhere close to my Brother and Sister, out Tenn. way , and we went for a visit to check things out before coming to Thailand the next year on Vacation , and somehow it just didn't feel right to both of us. Before we came over to the LOS we had mentioned to each other if the opportunity and time arrived that we would look around and maybe think about Thailand (of course it was my first visit ,so much of the decision would be on my shoulders. We looked around and then on the last day when we came to Kanchanaburi and our small village of Whang Pho , We looked at each other and smiled, and knew this was the place. We had little daylight left for this visit to her Older Brother and the next day it was off to Bangkok to catch the plane and head home , Would you believe we found a little house and piece of land and bought it in the dark of night , saying that we would be back next year when I retired and make it our home , Everyone laughed and thought to themselves that they would never see us again, but we fooled them all and you can read about the move and remodel and moving , in a older post , just go back and start from my first ones .

Now that was a long story to tell you the main reason for choosing Thailand. Some of the others are as follows and in no order of importance , all of them to us are important reasons for choosing the LOS.

1.--My small SS check is enough for us here in Thailand.

2.--We were able for Ciejay to buy a house and small piece of land with what little money we had in savings.

3.--The weather is the kind of weather I always thought I would like about a place, when I retired.

4.--The food is out of this world tasty, healthy (spicy mind you ) but plenty and fresh, and growing everywhere , even in your own backyard.

5.--The Thai people,( our neighbors and village folks) even tho it took a while to get use to their way of life and culture and their way of thinking , and for them to get use to me -ha ha ha

6.-- The almost crime free village and area we live in .

7.--Lots of things to see and do , and a lot of it not far from where we live .

8.--Our Thai family

9.--Our dogs(our kids ) that can run free and wild .(we have since lost Bok ), but Sabu is alive and well, and a everyday source of fun and companionship

10.--Our home, our yard with all the plants and flowers and the wonderful view of the mountains from our front porch , all these things make up our little  piece of paradise

11.--Our village and the town folks .

12.--And our neighbors

13.--Our Dr's., and health care

14.-- Our church and church family

15.-- The difference in our health since moving here to Thailand

16.-- And the big difference in me and my thinking about life and living.

17.-- The happiness I see in my wife ,Ciejay,(thai nickname Toon)

That's not all the reasons , I could go on and on , and you might say "well couldn't you find that in your own country ", maybe so , But we didn't. and we have found it here in what we call our little piece of paradise, that , we believe the Lord had saved just for us and all the blessings that go along , with being Retired in Thailand and Loving It .

Kaffeeklatsch (Nr. 68)


heute durfte ich endlich auch einmal in die Sonntagsnachmittagskaffeeklatschtasse klettern - und irgendwie passt das auch, denn wir haben heute herrliches Herbstwetter. Die Sonne scheint so warm wie den ganzen Sommer über nicht... und mein Fell passt doch schon ganz gut zu den sich langsam bunt färbenden Blättern an den Baumen... *grins*

Ich hoffe, Ihr habt genau so schönes Wetter wie wir und genießt den Tag - vor allem solltet Ihr aber nachher leckeren Sonntagsnachmittagskaffee und oberleckeren Sonntagsnachmittagskuchen genießen... Als bekennender Toffifee-Liebhaber frage ich mich gerade - gibt es eigentlich auch eine Toffifee-Torte? Hmmmmm, muß mal Birgit interviewen - im Zweifelsfall könnte ich mir eine klassische Marzipantorte garniert mit Toffifee schon mal seeeeeehr gut vorstellen *kicher*.

Ich wünsche Euch eine wunderschöne letzte Septemberwoche - viel Spaß bei allem, was Ihr so vorhabt!

Liebe Grüße
Euer Toffee

Nipa Palm--have you ever seen????

I received this e-mail and pictures from my Thai friend ,Aom who is owner and operator of the local computer and video game store in our village. I had gone to add minutes of time to my cell phone and she had this strange fruit that she was chopping open and feeding her son and anyone that wanted to try, and she gave me a few pods to take home and try , she also sent the e-mail and pictures  for me with information  about the plant and fruit. What a interesting plant , and one of many uses for the Thai folks in the villages where it grows . Take a look at the pictures and video and see for yourself  a very interesting plant that most (me for sure ) have never seen or heard of in our lives.Thailand (the country and the people) never lets a day go by that I don't see or hear about something new and interesting to me and I hope to those that read my little blog.Things like this and friends like Aom(who also owns and operates a beautiful resort(family style -kid friendly) on the Famous River Kwai here in Wang Pho, are just another one of the reasons why I'm Rretired in Thailand and Loving It. You can E-mail me if you're ever in this area and would love to stay in a real Thai (house) resort for you and family and there is  enough rooms in the house to bring along your friends too.Thanks for the read .
E-Mail from Aom

Sawasdee ka ,malcolm และพี่ตุ่น

Nipa Palm make thai sweet food ลูกจากลอยแก้ว

Leaves nipa palm can be taken to wrap the sweet food.

ใบสามารถเอาไปห่อทำขนมได้เรียกว่า ขนมจาก

To be able to remove the leaves to make the roof.


VDO cilp Nipa Palm

Bamboo Forest Saiyok


Naiharn Temple at Naiharn Beach

Phuket is big enough that after living here for more than 10 years there are still unexplored corners. Naiharn beach is right in the south of the island and actually I don't reckon I'd been down this way for maybe a couple of years. It's not "our" part of the island, as we live in Kathu near Phuket Town. My wife and I when we first met would often come to Naiharn and Rawai beaches, stopping off at the viewpoint between Kata and Naiharn or carrying on to Phromthep Cape. So much nice scenery in this part of Phuket and yet still so very quiet compared to the main beach areas. The road from Kata to Naiharn twists and turns until it finally drops down into the trees passing by quite a lot of recent development in the area. Lots of restaurants and bars and small hotels. The Naiharn area is popular with expats who like the quiet side of life.

It's certainly much busier than 10 years ago but in some areas still feels like an English village! It's very neat and tidy and there is no ugly urban sprawl here. Now why is that ... ? It has to be partly down to Naiharn temple. The beach is about half a mile long and most of the land behind the beach is owned by the temple which sits right behind the beach. Also there's a big lake behind the beach and you can't build on a lake! So hotel development at Naiharn is very limited. You have the The Nai Harn (previously the Yacht Club, All Seasons and that's about it near the beach! The land has got to be worth huge sums of money! But Naiharn temple remains occupying a large area of prime beachfront land. And so Naiharn remains quiet.

Naiharn Temple

I called in to the temple one evening in August. This was the first time I had ever stopped at this temple! Which is surprising as I do like temples! It was one of those perfect low season evenings with the sun setting late (about 6:45pm) and that evening light is always nice for a photo. I parked next to the lake and was happy to hear prayers coming from the prayer hall.

Naiharn Temple

That's the prayer hall above. There's a fair size Buddha statue inside and the walls are covered in paintings showing the life story of the Buddha like this one:

Wall at Naiharn Temple

Prayers were being said by a small group of monks. There is something about the sound of the prayers that is slightly hypnotic and dreamlike.

Monks Praying at Naiharn Temple

A few people poked their noses in the door including an Italian couple who tried their very best to get in all my photos. No noise from outside. Naiharn is quiet. I can imagine this being a very peaceful place to be a monk.

Monks Praying at Naiharn Temple

Monks Praying at Naiharn Temple

I plan to be back at Naiharn the next time I get a sunny evening for a walk on the beach. I'm not suggesting that Naiharn is an untouched paradise... indeed I know that in high season the beach is packed despite the lack of nearby hotels - that's due to so many websites saying that Naiharn is "the quiet beach", so lots of people come from other areas to visit and so you have lots of beach chairs and sunbathing tourists, but it's still quiet - no busy road near the beach and if you are there at the right time the sound of chanting monks may reach your ears.

Hotels around Naiharn Beach