Vegetarian Festival 2008 Photos in Phuket Town

So, on Monday after getting up early and seeing the piercing at Kathu Shrine, and heading out of Kathu Village with the procession (see Vegetarian Festival Photos Part 1), I headed into Phuket Town to pick up the procession again in the old town. The narrow streets mean you get very close to the Ma Song, and very close to the firecrackers! I was taking photos on Thalang Road close to my favourite little street in town, Soi Rommani.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - Swords

Ma Song (unpierced version, but certainly seems to be in a trance) Old Lady Ma Song with helpers

Tres Amigos

Vegetarian festival - Carrying the gods in Phuket Town

Allow me to introduce my favourite guy! I had a photo of him last year looking rather ghoulish with 2 big black rods through his cheeks. This year looks like he used even bigger rods! Some aspects of the festival are not for everyone. If you don't like scary things or blood or the idea of ramming 2 large rods through your face, look away now!

Phuket Vegetarian festival

Phuket Vegetarian festival

My favourite guy at the festival

This next guy is one of the entranced Ma Song who leap around the procession offering blessings to locals who have offering tables outside their houses. Some of these guys really are a bit spooky. The narrow streets meant that this guy almost bowled me over as he leapt around, thus the very close up photos!

Entranced Ma Song at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Ma Song at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

And here's another Ma Song blessing a local Phuket town resident as the family look on and wai.

Ma Song bestowing blessings at the Phuket Vegetarian festival

Meanwhile the procession of the gods continued in amongst the Ma Song.

Carrying the gods in Phuket Town - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Vegetarian festival - carrying statues of the gods

There seemed to be more female piercings this year.. no stats to back it up, but there were certainly quite a few.

Female Ma Song with pierced faces at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Last couple of extreme face assault photos for now... This year I had kind of intended to see more, but only witnessed one of the 7 street processions. Still, I think that's enough photos... next come the videos - will post in a few days - mostly some short snippets of the procession, the piercing in the early morning, Ma Song doing various things, and lots of firecrackers!

Vegetarian Festival 2008 in Phuket Town

Phuket Town - Vegetarian festival October 6th 2008

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - About the Festival
Vegetarian festival 2008 Part 1
2007 Photos

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2008 Pictures

Well this year I wanted to see something different during the festival. I admit to being a lazy boy sometimes, but today I was awake before dawn and headed to Kathu Shrine before 6am to watch the start of the procession to Phuket Town, and hopefully see some face piercing close up. Actually, the word "piercing" does not describe what happens. Something like "skewering" or "mutilation" might be better! I am not squeamish, but... hint, if you are squeamish, I suggest heading to a different page on this blog!

It was hard to see inside the shrine, but the "Ma Song" were coming out in various stages of trance, and faces were duly threaded with knives, swords, guns, all manner of odd shaped metal pieces. You'd need 20 pairs of eyes to see all that was going on there. I was with a friend, Phil, who is director of the Helicam company in Phuket, so he's a "pro" photographer, but this was new to him too! Thanks for Phil for lending me a Canon G7 camera. Some photos were taken with the G7, some with my trusty Powershot. Some photos taken by Phil. By next year, I would like to upgrade to a bigger, better camera. These small lenses have trouble in low light. Enough tech talk.

All photos below were taken this morning in Kathu Shrine or as the procession started out of Kathu Village heading towards Phuket Town. I also have some video (the Powershot has a basic video function) - this will be added later along with some pics from Phuket Town. This is very real stuff, no excuse for lazing on the beach and missing it. Well worth planning a holiday to Phuket around it. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival rocks!

Kathu Shrine, 6th October 2008

Suits you, Madam

Sword in cheek, photo by Philip Clark

Multiple swords, very ouch baby.

The right to bear arms?

In a trance... photo by Philip Clark.

Steel wire in face. Tell me this doesn't hurt! Photo by Philip Clark.

Getting impaled by multiple needles. Photo by Philip Clark.

No pain, no gain.

Multiple piercing guy. Photo by Phil Clark.

Close up. Pierced and ready to go.

Sword face. Photo by Phil Clark.

The procession left Kathu Shrine little by little. When people were ready, off they went. Once all the Ma Song had left, the gods were carried out and on the road to Phuket Town. Next photos are in Kathu Village.

You'd think one sword would suffice?

This guy had a 4 meter metal rod in his face. Photo by Phil Clark.

Another gun in the face

Procession in Kathu Village

We'll finish with the gods being carried out of Kathu as the sun rises and a thousand firecrackers explode creating a fog of smoke. Walking along with the procession you get pounded by sound. I won't say it again. Sit on the beach or wake up late if you want. But this is something to experience.

Carrying the gods in Kathu Village

Vegetarian festival procession, carrying the gods in Kathu

More Photos : Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2008 - Part 2

Food for the Soul ...

Yesterdays romp on the wild side was all about enthusiasm, determination and a fall.

Exercising demons and having a goal. 

Perhaps a wiser man would have lounged pond side, dampening his audacity and gall.

While feeding both the spirit and the soul.

Today I sat back as Cookie drew swirling, hypnotic patterns on the mirky surface of our bog. 

Hopelessly pursuing tiny leaping fish completely unaware that she is not an otter, but a dog.

Alas today I’m wiser and not that other guy.
So here is to the mellower me and a look at my evening sky.

Village Farang “hits the road”...

Cocked and fully loaded.  Ready to hit the road.  Stopped by Mother Nature as she dumped her Mother-load.  Wind and rain came calling, blocking out the sky.  I still wanted to ride but should have asked myself why. 

I was topping up the tires when I felt a sudden gust.  I turned to see a curtain being drawn across the mountains as we rushed indoors to batten down the hatches.  Safely in the house we watched the drama unfolding.  As suddenly as it appeared, it was gone.  With calm restored there was an unseasonal chill in the air and low white clouds hung like snowdrifts on the mountains. 

A wise man would have called it a day and enjoyed the amazing views from the pond.  Feeling a bit full of myself, it struck me that by cleverly skirting the edges of the storm, with a slight course change, I might be able to avoid Mother Nature’s full wrath.  The cool air and sunless sky promised a speedy ride with less than normal effort.  I chose the right direction and my confidence grew with every kilometer that passed. 

Nearing the halfway point, or perhaps a little beyond, the earth suddenly rose up before me.  Topping the mound my head and heart dropped slightly, as a chasm opened up before me.  Feelings of déjà vu, and memories of my ride with Jubby.  Given a running start, no doubt I could have found purchase upon the other side.  What then of my bike?  I could not, or would not, throw it from one side to the other.  As the inevitability of the situation settled upon me, Mother Nature decided to mock me further.  The rain that I had been outrunning, caught me as I proceeded to retrace and retreat in defeat.  Easy dry trails on the way out, quickly turned slick and muddy on the way back.

Smarting slightly from the need to retrace my path, I was steadfast and defiant, determined that I would not be defeated on the day.  Getting dirtier with every turn of the wheel I still navigated all obstacles with ease.  I turned it into a race and sped toward the finish line.  With perhaps less than three kilometers to go and safely onto village lanes I felt the glow of victory.  Nearing the corner where the rubber wood nursery lay in disrepair, I glanced to my left to see a small herd of cows, heading home from a day of feeding in the fields. 

Suddenly there were strange sounds, and pain in my elbow, hip and knee.  I found myself on the ground viewing the world from an unfamiliar perspective.  Having navigated the hills, rocks, sand and slick wet clay, it was deflating to be defeated by a rain slicked, concrete village lane.  A quick check, and the bike seemed fine.  As happens, I was yet to feel the full effects of the fall.  Except for torn shirt and some blood, I seemed little worse for ware.  So bloodied but unbowed, I finish off my ride while preparing myself to weather my wife’s reaction.  She worries about me enough as it is and hardly needs more ammunition to worn me off my mostly solitary adventures. 

While the wounds heal I’ll gladly remain on a shorter leash but with time my memory and hers will fade.  The call of the wild will slowly increase in volume and the only way to silence it will be to “hit the road.”  Hopefully, next time it will not be with my body, however.

Jui Tui Shrine (Phuket Town)

Yesterday afternoon I took a walk around the streets near Jui Tui Shrine, one of the largest Chinese shrines in Phuket Town. It's just along Ranong Road road from the old market (which has now been demolished and a new building looks like it will be complete sometime soon - great! No more smelly old market!) - easy to find, and certainly worth a look if you are in Phuket Town. Ranong road near the market is busy enough at the best of times. The local buses leave from and arrive at Ranong road. From here you can get a bus to most parts of Phuket island.

During the vegetarian festival, much of the road is packed with food stalls and little restaurants selling Jae (vegetarian) food. I parked a couple of blocks away and wandered along Ranong road. Half close your eyes and ignore the mopeds squeezing through the people, and the road has a very old feel...

Ranong Road, Phuket

And if you look the other way ... a traffic jam. I mean, these people must know what's going on down here. There are plenty of other roads to drive on!

Traffic on Ranong Road

When the vege festival is over the road still has plenty of interest with all the market stalls and local buses, but it's not this crowded! A couple of food stalls...

Cooking up some vege food, Phuket Town Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Ranong Road, Phuket

Ah yes, the shrine. Jui Tui is somewhat hidden behind all the food stalls, but follow the smell of incense and you can find it! Yesterday was the day before Jui Tui's street procession, and there were many people heading to the shrine to pray. These shrines are fascinating, very colourful with amazing displays of Chinese gods, a very heady smell of incense in the air, combining to make something you just don't find back home!

Prayers at Jui Tui Shrine A prayer at Jui Tui shrine

More prayers in Jui Tui Shrine

And yet more prayers...

I have tried to take a couple of short videos too... Practice for tomorrow. I want to take some video tomorrow morning for the Kathu shrine procession to Phuket Town.

Kathu Shrine

Well Friday night was a bit disappointing! I guess I should have checked local sources (like the schedule posted on the wall of the shrine), but instead believed the festival schedule on the "official" vegetarian website that I copied on this blog.. but there was no bladed ladder climbing or oil bathing at Kathu shrine on Friday night. And there were lots of other similarly confused people there too! I met a big group of tourists who'd come over the hill from Patong. Well, hope you at least enjoyed the local atmosphere. I like Kathu village. I just posted about a walk in Kathu village, now a few more pictures of the shrine.

Compared to the big shrines in Phuket Town like Jui Tui and Bang Neow, Kathu is much quieter, yet it's an impressive building for such a small local community. You have to remember that Kathu was where the festival originated, and it seems the whole village takes part. Hardly anyone around not wearing white, young and old. Kathu village and shrine is worth a visit any evening during the festival...

Entrance to Kathu Shrine

Prayers in Kathu Shrine

Kathu Shrine

Kathu Shrine

And a little video of Kathu Shrine too...

Next entry... Jui Tui Shrine - I took a walk around that area yesterday evening. Oh, and the scary bloody face piercing photos will come later. I will drag myself out early tomorrow morning for the Kathu Shrine procession.

Thank You for the Feedback...

Without getting into who said what, and repeating the good stuff while leaving out the bad, I just want to say thank you to all those who wrote in.  I not only learned of why you read these pages and what relationship you have with Thailand, if any, I also became more aware of my own motivations and biases.  I am particularly impressed with those who return often but do it in spite of what I sometimes say, and not because of what I write or how I write it.  An open mind is a precious thing and not to be taken lightly.

This online persona has come upon me quite by chance.  There was no conscious decision to be this or that, or to write in any particular style.  While some prefer a written word that more closely resembles the spoken word, I most obviously do not.  Not only am I generally unimpressed with peoples verbal skills, mine included, I don’t believe such language translates well to the page.  Without all the additional nuances of voice like tone, cadences and a bounty of nonverbal signals, the written word relies entirely upon itself.  Without extraneous visual aids, the words must paint a picture full of meaning, color, texture and mood.  I found myself lacking the ability to do that with the limited vocabulary and phraseology of daily conversation.  That is not to say it cannot be done by one more skilled than I.

My choice of words are not meant to lift me above my readers or intimidate those for whom this is not their native tongue.  Quite the contrary.  I seek to lift up those around me.  To transport visitors to a world of sensory experience and mental imagery, and to stimulate thought, reflection and perhaps a little soul searching.  Realizing that I have spent most of my life as a minority, surrounded by those who do not speak my native tongue, there need be no fear or shyness about expressing yourself in a language that is not your own.  At least not in this space. 

I was pleased to find that not all who return regularly to these pages are western men with Thai wives living overseas.  There are more women than I expected and more Thai women than I dreamed.  Not all respondents have visited Thailand, but among those who haven’t, there seems a strong desire to explore this distant land.  Clearly absent are those seeking a how-to guide to cheap airfare, cheap hotels, cheap beer and accommodating females.  That is as it should be, for I seek not to cater to prurient interests.  More blatant self promotion or pandering to these needs might garner more hits upon my page.  I, however, would not welcome a daily viewing of that person in the mirror.

My lack of helpfulness comes not from malice or arrogance but from concern for those so easily victimized and led astray.  Living in a foreign land is richly rewarding for some, like myself, but fraught with hazards for many.  That is why I think it should not be made too easy to put ones self in harms way.  There should be hurdles and difficulties that must be overcome along the way.  If someone does it for you then nothing is learned.  If one cannot navigate the simple logistical hurdles without someone holding your hand, that should be seen as a sign of things to come.  Fear should never hold one back in life but one needs understanding, self-reliance and competence to succeed.

Once again, thank you for the feed back.

The Vegetarian Festival: An evening walk in Kathu village

Kathu village is one of those quiet backwaters of Phuket that barely seems touched by tourism and development. Yes, there are some new houses and appartments around, yes you can see Mercedes and new pick up trucks outside some of the houses, but this is old Phuket. The Kathu area was the center of the tin mining industry which started in the 18th century. Many of the miners were Chinese, and they settled in this part of Phuket. And it was in Kathu that the vegetarian festival started many many years ago.

At this time of year, walking in the village in the area around the Chinese shrine, you can get a real time warp feeling. The firecrackers, the white clothes, the old shophouses, the shrine... I do recommend a visit. I took a walk around this evening with my wife to buy some vegetarian food and take some photos too! Tomorrow will be interesting as there will be "bladed ladder climbing" and bathing in hot oil at the shrine. See you there! Tonight I did not see any other foreigners. Hard to believe in Phuket, but as I said Kathu is a little off the beaten track, and yet the village and shrine are only about 5 miles from Patong Beach!

in Kathu village

Local shop in Kathu village

Local shop in Kathu village

(above) local shops in Kathu village

Kathu shrine and fireworks

Fireworks over Kathu shrine

Vegetarian things for sale - spring rolls and fried tofu

The shrine was busy with devotees. We made a donation, kids were throwing mini fireworks left right and center, people were heading into the shrine to pray.. everyone wearing white. See you again tomorrow!

Kathu Village shrine, 2nd October

Kathu shrine looking towards the lantern pole