Ryan's Buffet - Fredericksburg, Virginia

I wrote in the Spring about a Ryan's that we were at in Hagerstown, Maryland. That Ryan's had made a significant change since I had been there previously (before the takeover by Buffets Inc.) to become much more an Old Country Buffet with little left from its former Ryan's identity. In August we returned to a Ryan's that we have been to probably more than any other Ryan's. This is the Ryan's

Victoria Bug Zoo

The Victoria Bug Zoo is genuinely freaking awesome, I was a pig in shit. Learnt an awful lot about insects and and got to hold a tarantula, a scorpion, a spiny stick insect, a praying mantis, a cockroach and wear a millipede as a moustache. Really very happy I did it. Brilliant.

There were only five visitors in the zoo, a family of four with children about four and five years old and it was all done by an informative guided tour. Looking at the leaf cutter ants the guide asked 'Does anyone know who the biggest ant in the colony is?'
I was straight in with 'The Gi-ant'. I waited for the round of applause but the others just politely pretended I'd said nothing as a tumble weed blew past. The guide carried on 'It's the queen' Well of course it's the bloody queen, who do you think you're talking to? Four year olds?... Oh. Right.

If you are ever in Victoria please, please, please go to the Bug Zoo. It's not even mentioned in the Rough Guide to Canada, I will be writing to them to make sure this oversight is corrected.

The rest of my time in Victoria was equally enjoyable, attended Rifflandia festival where Band Of Skulls were playing and The Flaming Lips headlined. Cracking.

That's the way I roll

Spent a day in Vancouver, quite nice, art gallery, park, saw a skunk. In bed by 6:30pm and slept through until 9:00am which made up for the lack of sleep on the bus.

Next day across to Vancouver Island and the pleasant city of Victoria. I'd planned for one night followed by exploring the island. I stayed for three as I liked it too much to leave.

Something I rarely note down is the walking I'm doing. Most days I just get up and explore until I'm lost. Being lost is my favourite.

Some Africans have to walk six hours to fetch some water and as the old joke goes "so why don't they move?". I think they don't move because they like the walk, think about it, the sun is always out in Africa from what I can tell and they don't have to worry about being home in time for Coronation Street (thanks to sky+) so why not snap up some of the cheaper out of town real estate and enjoy a good walk every day?

One of my days in Victoria began with me passing a flyer advertising Victoria's bug zoo. In my head I told myself to strap in because today would be a good day. Saw a nice bit of lawn in a park so I did a forward roll. Even though this behaviour isn't normal for the over ten year olds it made me smile so plplplplhhhlll you all (this is my word for the noise made when blowing a raspberry). That is just the way I roll.

Found a cafe by a marina with excellent service from the pretty server and free, efficient refills so I drank about four cups and had a long, amusing three way phone conversation with my parents that covered topics from Dad's fishing trip to Mum inadvertently going to a dogging site. Once again a caffeine hit that I'm not used to kicked in and the joyful French woman sat at the table next to mine was submitted to far too much of my talking. I spewed out a sentence too fast and without pauses 'It's a great day to be alive I'm going to the bug zoo next I like bugs maybe to the museum after that I hear it's very good but maybe I don't have time I suppose it depends how long I spend with the bugs I don't normally drink coffee excuse me for talking too much I think I have had enough coffee' so I paid the bill and left to see the bugs.

On my way I passed a father and son looking out at the departing water plane that flies between Victoria and Vancouver.
Son: 'Where's that plane going?'
Dad: 'Africa'
Being able to lie to kids has to be one of the best motivations for parenthood.

After this I saw a man and a woman catch a goose in a net then wrap it in a towel. I don't know if they were going to help it or eat it.

Visiting Rai Boon Rawd in Chiang Rai ...

Having made plans for the day, I took it as a none-too-favorable omen, to find first thing in the morning a flat tire on the truck.  I had little option but to get out the bicycle pump and get to work, hoping the tire would hold air long enough to get to a shop.  The first hundred or so strokes seemed to produce no results but as the number exceeded five hundred I knew I was getting close to being able to drive the twelve kilometers into Phaya Mengrai to a repair shop.  Later in the day I found myself wondering why my neck and shoulders were so sore.

Back on target for a family day out, we picked up her younger sister and found her niece had decided to join us as well.  At the tire shop they found a tiny piece of metal that could only be removed from the inside as it was not even visible from the outside.  Patch in place, we were good to go and heading to town.

Rai Boon Rawd was to be our first stop for lunch and a little sightseeing.  Boon Rawd Brewery, the maker of all things Singha, is known for purchasing large parcels of land around the country with some of its excess cash.  Since it is not on our route to town, we had not made the side trip necessary to get there, previously.  For us it makes more sense to take the main highway out of town to the White Temple, taking that road across to the old Chiang Mai Road where the entrance is easy to find. 

Though open to the public for less than a year, this property of over 8000 rai, has been around since the early 80s.  Aside from the restaurant, the surrounding tea plantation and reservoirs are the most picturesque, but there is also rubber, rice, strawberries, flowers, barley and tomatoes, depending on the season of course.

The four of us had a lovely lunch with a mix of Western and Thai food, which everyone seemed enjoy.  Before heading to our next stop, we decided to take a drive out through the hills and to inspect the tea plantation up close.  The dirt trails were better suited for a mountain bike but we all survived our bumpy ride in the truck and got some great pictures.  A screaming kid does seem to add to the trill ride effect of an off road track.
The view out front in the parking lot.

Front view.

Inside view of the restaurant.

Back view.

Back view.

The far mountain is Doi Chaang of the coffee fame and visible from the restaurant.

Finding our way to our next stop was not as easy as we had hoped.  It took several phone calls and roadside stops before we found our way to a small resort my wife’s friend is developing, on what turns out to be the fringes of Rai Boon Rawd.  We even found there was a dirt trail that led directly back out to where we had been just minutes before.

After showing us around her place, our friend took us back out into the tea plantation to a hilltop view and a reservoir we had missed.  All the while she explained that the area is also being developed for both argo-tourism and mountain biking, with plans to host and international mountain bike race in the not too distant future.  With a little tweaking of the trails I can see it being a very good venue for such an event.

An inside view of the dining area at our friend's place.

Looking back at her place from their pond.

As a special treat our friend took us to where she works, for a tour of the grounds at Pa Sak Tong, a resort which bills itself as a luxury six star villa with breathtaking views and an all inclusive package that ranges north of 40,000 baht per night for two people.  They have yet to open for the winter season so the buildings were not open but the grounds were impressive enough to keep me busy shooting pictures for some time.  For better images and more complete information on what they provide, please visit their website at http://www.pasaktong.com.

In spite of the inauspicious beginning to the day, we ended up having a lovely time and got to explore even more of this beautiful place we live in.

Another Greyhound, Another Nutter

Leaving the Rocky Mountains was like leaving a girlfriend, I was going to miss them but I had to do it if I was going to see some more sights. I was taking the overnight greyhound bus to Vancouver and even though there were only a couple of free seats left some people were still spreading themselves across two seats or were sat in the aisle seat with their bag next to them. This pisses me off. Surely it is common courtesy to leave an empty seat accessible and play the lottery of who is lucky enough to get the double. If I was on a short trip I'd have picked the seat next to the person who was making their spare seat least convenient. As it was a twelve hour ride I decided to be a pacifist and took the one free aisle seat. It was next to a small man (result, more space) who was fetally curled up, gollum style, muttering to himself (hmm... not such a result, we'll see how this pans out).

Definite nutter.

I christened him Rainman because he spoke like Dustin Hoffman's character in the film, repeating the first part of a sentence at the end of the sentence. 'There should be a sign, I can't see a sign, there should be a sign'. It was hard to tell when he was talking to himself, me or the world in general. He was very jittery, intensely staring out the window and with some sort of sign fetish from what I could work out. Occasionally he calmed down after popping some pills from a little orange bottle, I liked these times as they allowed me to rack up a full eight minutes of sleep.

Come morning, about 4:00am his discomfort escalated. He was leaving Winnipeg for the first time in his life and hadn't quite worked out how the world functions. The idea of the earth spinning was definitely something he hadn't got his head around. He said 'We're three hours behind Winnipeg here, the sun should come up now. We're three hours behind Winnipeg'. 'It comes up at seven thirty there, it should come up at four thirty here, it comes up at seven thirty there'. This was too big a conversation for me to have at this hour in the morning. I figured he'd see the sun come up for himself.

Come 7:00am still with two hours left until Vancouver Rainman became worryingly agitated.
'I can't see the fucking sign, I can't see it, I can't see the fucking sign'. And my particular favourite of his eruptions: 'Fucking look at those road works. They're fucking standing there fucking doing fuck all the fucking fucking fucks' all I could reply was 'yeah, bloody roadworks eh'. Seconds later Rainman leapt up and shoved out past me in to the aisle to try and get a view out of the front window saying for the hundredth time 'I can't see the fucking sign'.

By now everyone on the bus was aware of Rainman and looked to me as if I was his carer. I decided I would try to help and asked him a few questions trying to understand his obsession with seeing the signs. From what I could work out he only had an address on a scrap of paper for a contact in Vancouver, not having traveled much he thought that he would be able to see the street name on a sign and get out there to find the address. He thought that the bus stopped for each individual passenger and when I told him that's not how it works, there were just a few designated stops he looked perplexed. How he had managed to get on the right bus with such a limited knowledge of public transport God only knows.

In a final panic Rainman leapt past me again at the stop before Vancouver downtown thinking it was time to get off. On discovering it wasn't the Vancouver stop the tirade of expletives, well just fuck and fucking repeated over and over, was awkward.

Rainman's final sentence to me before getting off was 'I need a fucking lager, I gotta fucking get off, I need a fucking lager'. I knew how he felt.

I like Being Kidnapped

Woken by Julien throwing up/dry wretching in the loo. Showered, put laundry on and headed to a chocolate shop for a coffee date I had arranged for 10:45am with a girl I met in a bar. She never showed up. The day hadn't got off to the best of starts but it turned in to another reet good 'un.

It was the day of the Banff triathlon so I stood by the side of the road in the sunshine and cheered strangers on, earning myself a bag of goodies for my enthusiasm. All the goodies were power-bar related and tasted horrible. Back at the hostel I went to cook myself some lunch but in the kitchen there was a crazy hunch-backed woman mumbling to herself so I ran away to hide in my room for twenty minutes. When I returned she was still there, still talking to herself but now there was another normal person who I could share sympathetic scared eye gestures with so I made my super noodles while crazy lady shuffled in and out of the kitchen cursing at fridges and cupboards and kettles.

Rented a kayak for the afternoon which is the perfect way to spend time in Canada. On the river two girls in an inflatable dingy said hello to me and we hooked our boats together for a bit of a float, chat and... what's this? A beer from your cool box? Don't mind if I do.

Michelle and Jenny are most excellent people. Seeing that I had a pen they said we should draw pictures for each other. Not a suggestion I've had before, but a good one. I drew a goofy cross eyed man waving, wearing women's underwear. Michelle drew a river and mountains and Jenny just hung on to the handles trying to decide if she was enjoying herself. Jenny can't swim and has a fear of water.

We pulled over to a wee beach so that Michelle could get in the water for a wee and as the clear water looked so inviting I stripped down to my flowery underwear and dived in (upstream of Michelle). An initial feeling of 'this is perfectly relaxing' was replaced after three seconds with 'f--- me it's cold'. The girls invited me back with them by Michelle asking Jenny 'Can we kidnap him?'. Spontaneous days out are exactly what travelling is all about so I popped back to the hostel to get showered and changed and then they took me to Michelle's house in Canmore, a beautiful house with large wooden deck and mountain views. We sat round a fire, toasting hot dogs and doing conversations very well, mostly about serial killers!

I only returned to the hostel two days later having had a great weekend, playing frisbee golf and making some great new friends. So yep, I like being kidnapped.

Banff Hostel Fun

Spent a couple more days in Banff, walking and making temporary friends. Entered a quiz on my own and finished a not respectable seventh out of seven. In my hostel room in Banff was a Quebecois called Julien and one morning at twelve (I know it's not the morning but it was only just after I woke up) his first action was to offer me a beer. Those who know me will know my answer, I rarely have the in-head debate anymore. It is both polite and fun to accept a beer and so Julien and I ended up going through a box on the patio.

The amateur alcoholic part of me is not one that I am proud of but it is a key part of what makes me Glyn. Without this side the majority of people I would meet would be well adjusted, decent members of society and my decisions would be based on logic. And where's the fun in that.

Julien was a character I never fully worked out. He kept asking me about the BNP and I said I was ashamed that they had any following in Britain. His opinion was a little more pro BNP and right wing in general. Julien is shaven headed with black goatee with a number of tattoos all linked to being proud of his cultural background. He reminded me of Ed Norton in American History X in appearance. I'm pretty sure one of his tattoos is a cross that was used on the helmets of the Nazis.

Thankfully Julien's views were only of the mild racist nature and he didn't push his opinion and allowed me my own. It was more about not losing the culture, particularly the French-Canadian culture of his youth. As we drank that afternoon it would appear that Julien had been on a session since the early morning, he became slury, swaying and irritating. I made my excuses and left. When I saw him several hours later Julien had a protective dressing on his arm - another tattoo. There should be, and probably is, a law against letting someone drunk get permanently marked. Worried that he may have a swastika under the dressing it was a relief to see some ugly Greek symbol, something to do with his grandfather.

Joined a couple of other guys in the hostel in the evening, found ourselves invited to a fortieth birthday celebration. In the hired room there was a noticeboard with post-its for people to sum up the birthday boy in one word. He seemed like an excellent sort so I chose 'Gentleman and legend' because I can't count. One of the others from my room chose 'blowjob' thinking no-one would know. He was caught in the act but the people at the party saw the funny side and took no offense. Finished the night in town playing pool (badly) and dancing (very badly) in an empty nightclub. Good times.

Old Country Buffet, Alexandria, Virginia

I have not been to an Old Country Buffet in another state for quite some time. We were in Virginia and decided to try the OCB there outside of the city of Alexandria on a Sunday night. We frequently eat at OCB locally on Sunday night so I knew I would have a good night for comparison.Locally, the OCB is generally crowded on a Sunday evening - around 6:30 pm. In fact, we tend to arrive later after

A Tale of Two Rides ...

It was a bright sunny Monday afternoon, when I set out to check on the conditions of my go-to short trail of about 21 km.  It is a good mix of road, dirt, flats and hills but was a muddy mess the last time I rode it.  As you can see in the pictures below the red clay had dried out and the deep ruts had been filled in with rubble.  That made the ride a bit rough in places but no problem I thought.

Midway through the ride my front wheel started making some rather ominous noises.  I stopped a couple of times to see if it were something external but it soon became obvious the bearings in the front wheel set were the problem.  I managed to limp home on my noisy bike but it was clear a trip to Northern Bike, in town, was urgently needed before I would be riding again.

There can be not better excuse for upgrading your wheel set than blown out bearings, so I added to my recent list of pricy upgrades.  I have now spent more on upgrades than the bike cost to begin with.  While the bike was in the shop we met with friends at Central Plaza for lunch, coffee and a little shopping. 

While the wives visited my friend caught me up on the wild stories and malicious gossip spreading about me at group events in town.  Unable to point to their own accomplishments some individuals find it easier to make emotionally charged and disparaging remarks about others.  As stories are told and retold they take on a life of their own, with no resemblance to the truth, having the same effect as the tabloids, influencing the weak minded to become true believers.  People who don’t know me now spin the most lurid of tales as if they were my most trusted confidants.  Guess that is the price one pays in the karmic balance of things.

Eager to tryout my new wheels, Wednesday I hit the trail again on what ended up being a 45 km route.  The high mountain reservoir which has been a mere puddle on my last two visits was once again at its full glory and beautiful to behold.  This time I only had to dismount once on the 2 km uphill slog which is by far the best I have done.  Subjective or real, I felt like the bike was performing much better, but I still had to cope with the hottest conditions I have ridden in for some time.

There was some serious green on the ride yesterday, as you can see form some of the photos.  Finding myself out of the mountains and back on the flats, surrounded by rice fields, I came upon a bit of an accident with a truck on its side in a ditch.  This was conveniently where I often stop under a tree for a drink and a picture or two.  A backhoe was arriving just as I rode up and it struck me that this might make a nice little pictorial to share on the blog.

As cables snapped and early attempts failed to budge the truck, it became clear this was going to take them a very longtime to sort out.  I was rested and had my pictures so said my goodbyes and hit the trail again wondering if they would ever find the angle and leverage needed to salvage the truck.

I'd Give A Badger A Good Kicking

After the indulgences of the weekend in Canmore I went for a long, tough hike up Mount Rundle and came back down it parlty on my bottom. I was knackered and got the best nights sleep I'd had in months. It felt like two full days had passed because of the clarity of the dream I had. The dream started with me waking up in the U.K. ready for the first day back at work (which it was for my ex-colleagues) and the dream turned almost to a nightmare.

Despite the school being a cross between the school I went to and Hogwarts I was convinced this was reality and my travels had ended abruptly. I was supply teaching and all the worst parts of the job were there: Kids embarrassing their school, being rude to visitors, ignoring staff and generally acting up like like all normal little gits should. I became panicked which is normally where a dreamare would end but instead it carried on for a full two days of teaching and extra curricular activities. There was football with the students and I got tackled by a twelve year old letting him go on to score the winner against my team. I had a house and family with an ex-girlfriend and dozens of screaming children, I was in hell and because I wasn't waking up I figured this was my actual life now.

When I eventually stirred awake I still felt like I was in my own bed at home and the sound of a man pulling up his jeans with the belt jangling was disturbing. The total immersion I'd had stayed with me all day, not something I'm used to from dreams. Normally it would just be one or two weird moments that I'd remember like when I kissed my friend but he had bicycles for hands and was thirty feet tall. I'm not sure I liked the feeling of remembering my dreams that vividly, hopefully this doesn't happen again.

Went for some bird watching and bear hunting. I didn't see a bear but the trail was marked as high likelihood so I ran through what my defense strategy would be if one was to attack. You're supposed to talk calmly so I'd tell it the joke 'What cheese do you use to get a bear out of a tree?.. Cam-on-bear.' If it didn't leave me alone I'd get my penknife at the ready with the corkscrew out - as that one's easier to pull out than the knife. Then I'd get eaten. I wondered what the toughest animal I could take down bear handed would be. I'm no Legolas against the oliphant but I reckon I'd give a badger a good kicking.

Being alone with my thoughts, I enjoy my mind on days like this. And still with all the glorious scenery as a backdrop that I can't imagine tiring of. And even better, now school is back in I can really appreciate the feeling of 'I'd be going to work right about now'.


Yesterday, I closed the sale of my beloved home and moved into an apartment.  I had never intended to sell my home, but nearly a year ago, several circumstances conspired that made it necessary for me to sell it.

I wrestled with the loss for a long time before putting my home on the market.  For me, my home was everything.  I loved it so much. It was the place to feel settled and content and where I felt I belonged.  I cried for months.  And months. And then, I cried for a few more months.  Nothing would stop the crying…  except traveling.

When I traveled, I felt terrific. I felt solid, stable, confident, light hearted and just like my regular self.

Then, I would come home, and cry again! I started to dread coming home.

As the time to move out drew near, I had to find an apartment.  One Saturday morning, I went online, found one apartment, called up the leasing office, visited and signed the lease.

The apartment was nothing like my home. It felt like a four-star hotel, and that’s what I liked about it.  If I felt good while traveling, maybe I would feel better living in a place that felt more like a hotel rather than trying to replace my home.  “It feels like The Fairmont,” I would tell people, matter-of-factly.

A week before moving out, in-between tears, my friend asked me for my new address, noting that my unit was Unit F.  I hated that it was F.  After all those tears, why couldn’t it be A?  Or, at least B+?  But F?!

“F is for Forward,” she said.

“It is?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And, Free and Fun and Fabulous.”

“And Fantastic and Family and Feminine and Feisty!” I added.

“Exactly!” she acknowledged.

“Oh, Faaaaankyou!” I sighed.

Maybe things would be okay, after all.

Yesterday, after the movers had moved everything out of my home, I went back to do a final clean up of my home and leave my key locked inside for the new owner.  I braced myself for what I expected would be a torrent of tears.

As a last momento, I bravely took a picture and waited for the tears. 

And, I waited.

But… nothing. 

“Huh,” I thought. 

I looked around the room and realized, “This isn’t my home.  This is just a boring, empty place.”

I left my key inside, picked up the last of the mail that had arrived that day, closed the door with the key inside and skipped down the steps, taking my home with me and happy to be free of the tears.

Sorting through the mail on the way to my car, I found a postcard.  From The Fairmont.

“Of course,” I thought as I rolled my eyes.

“F is for Fairmont!”

© 2012 Lisa Ann Edwards 

p.s. You can’t make this stuff up.  Here’s a picture of the postcard from The Fairmont.

Por Tor (Hungry Ghost) Festival in Phuket

The Por Tor festival (also called the Hungry Ghost festival) was something that I'd not even heard of until a few years ago, and last year was the first time I went to see what it was about (see Por Tor Festival 2011). Phuket has a mixed population of Buddhists, Muslims and people who lean towards old Chinese beliefs die to their ancestry - about 30% of the Phuket population is Thai-Chinese, due to large scale immigration mostly in the 19th century. Many mainland Chinese headed to this part of the world - some ended up in Phuket, some in Bangkok, some in Penang or Singapore. Phuket celebrates a number of festivals based on Chinese beliefs such as the Phuket vegetarian Festival (which starts October 14th). The Por Tor festival is based on the belief that the spirits of ancestors are released from the spirit world during the 7th lunar month. And they are hungry!

Offerings are made for the spirits, with the most common offering being a red turtle cake called an Ang Ku. These come in all sizes - more about them later. On the weekend of September 2nd the festival was based around the main market in Phuket Town. I had meant to get to this event last year, but seems the Por Tor festival is so local that even some locals don't know the details and we went on the wrong day! This time, I was at the market on the right evening and it was busy! Tables full of food, drinks, whole roast pigs, huge turtle cakes and people saying prayers...

Por Tor Festival Phuket September 2nd 2012

Por Tor Festival Phuket September 2nd 2012

Por Tor Festival Phuket September 2nd 2012

These pictures were taken in the market around 6:30 - 7pm. Firecrackers were being set off up on the roof and there was incense burning all over the place and bells being rung as people said prayers at makeshift shrines.

Por Tor Festival Phuket September 2nd 2012

Outside, the road was packed with foodstalls and there were several small stages set up where dancers and singers performed. The crowds are always quite large at these events, or seem to be as so many stalls are packed into narrow streets! the photo below was taken from the 2nd floor of the market looking at the street below.

Por Tor Festival Phuket September 2nd 2012

After an hour of smoke, bells and crowds and an extra 10 minutes wasted as I had originally parked the car, walked almost to the market and then found that the memory card for my camera was in the camera bag (in the car), a cold drink was called for. Happily bumped into Tim who also blogs about Phuket and we managed a few cold beers at the Phuket Backpacker hostel, which seems to have been remodeled and has a nice bar downstairs on the road near the market and on this evening a little escape from the crowded street and a place to watch the festival goers pass by.

A few days later on September 8th (Saturday) I was back in town with the family - my wife and kids plus 2 brothers in law and an uncle in law. Now, one of the brothers in law is from a very Chinese family in Bangkok, but I was surprised to hear that he'd not heard of the Por Tor festival. Do they not do it in Bangkok? We split into 2 groups. My daughter and I wanted to visit the Kengtin bakery which is well known for making lots of the Ang Ku turtle cakes during the festival. They make plenty of other Chinese style desserts and cakes too, but it's the red turtles we came to see!

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

(above) Making Ang Ku at the Kengtin bakery - applying red dye and adding decorations. We bought a small (100 Baht) turtle, but some of the big ones sell for thousands of Baht!

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

A couple of doors down from Kengtin - more red turtles, and some big ones! The one in the photo below had a price label - 5,000 Baht, and was still being decorated...

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

They seemed to be making cakes in their front room. I am fascinated by the detail and the mix of sacred objects and pictures if you look closely at some of the shrines in people's houses. There are Chinese gods, family photos, a photo of an old monk and of course a picture of the King. If you just have a quick look through doors as you pass, almost all houses in Old Phuket Town have shrines like this.

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

We then walked down to the Por Tor Kong shrine, which is the center of the celebrations.. a Chinese shrine that I did not know existed until last year, hidden away on a small side street near the much bigger Bang Neow shrine. Lots of street stalls around the shrine, and inside the shrine itself .. organised chaos. Crowded, and it's a small shrine. There was not much room to move. We gave our turtle to someone who placed it with many others at the entrance to the shrine, and in turn we were given a little bundle containing incense, candles and "hell money". And we joined the queue to pass through the shrine and say a prayer. First, light our candles and incense...

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

Inside it was hot and very very smoky - you have to hold your incense up high out of people's faces, but I tell you it was hard to breathe and the smoke was in our eyes. Let's go say our prayers...

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

(above) Holding my incense up high. The walls of the shrine have some amazing decorations showing Chinese stories. But no time to stop and look, keep moving with the queue ...

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

I'd not done this last year and normally the kids and I would have my wife to guide us but we could not find her and the rest of the family in the crowds, so we copied other people and a guy told us to put 3 lit incense sticks in each place...

Por Tor Festival 2012 in Phuket

It was a non stop stream of people and incense. Quite a "cultural rush" and I think my daughter enjoyed the experience.

Por Tor Festival 2012

Por Tor Festival Phuket 2012

Having lit candles and left incense in the shrine, we still had our hell money to burn. Hell money is specifically made to be burnt as offerings to the deceased as it's believed that the spirits need money in the afterlife.

Por Tor Festival Phuket 2012

Por Tor Festival Phuket 2012

I love these local festivals. This is the real Phuket. I am not sure what to think of this, and I know a few foreign residents who did also go to the shrine, but that evening I did not see any tourists or anyone who didn't look like a Thai local. And on the other evening in the market I saw only Tim and a photographer who I think was probably Japanese. Does this mean tourists have zero interest in local traditions and events? Or nobody knew it was happening? Or knew about it, but found it difficult getting from the beaches to town and finding the right place to go? It really is worth making the effort to see and experience something like the Por Tor festival!

Ah well - next big event is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, which is my favourite thing in Phuket!

Por Tor Festival - Map of Locations

View Por Tor Festival in a larger map