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Street Procession - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

The street procession on the penultimate day of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is certainly a must for me to visit, this was 2013Arriving early (5:30am) is something I like to do simply to embrace to atmosphere of the Shrine and be prepared. On arrival it was quite peaceful, but as I relaxed the noises erupted from the Shrine and the possessions began. On entering the Shrine I recognised the person from a previous visit who was one of the first put into a trance.

The man with the incredible tattoos over his upper torso. The pins seemed to be small fish hooks this year and each hook had a bell! The smoke was lit inside the Shrine and more people were brought in to be put under a possession.

Meanwhile the number of bells put on the tattooed man increased. Met Jamie outside and we wondered whether we would notice anything different this year - I indicated that I was going to steer clear of possessions and piercing because I had focused on these previously. There was I do not know how many Tai Pan waiting and how many people there were. People began to arrive and many of them walked in and waved their hand over the wood burning in front of the shrine - a common action.

The procession began with the Head of the Shrine beginning the procession - he came to the front, took the rice from his 'team' and threw it over the onlookers. He then took his sword and pulled it along the ground - once this was done he returned to the Shrine.

At this point he approached the first Tai Pan and gave out pieces of orange fabric which was attached to the wrists of the people carrying the sedan. People carrying flags and some possessed / pierced Ma Song left.

The most surprising possessed Ma Song was someone which crawled on the floor and at this time it looked very painful because his hands seemed to be pulled tightly together. Then suddenly he leapt onto a vehicle carrying another possessed Ma Song - a powerful act which I was not able to get a photograph of. 

At this time the fire crackers started and the Tai Pan were lifted and the teams began to leave.

Then the streets erupted - people with firecrackers wrapped around sticks ran to the Tai Pand and held the crackers over the Tai Pan and the effigy and then there was NOISE!!!!


(Video will come - but here is a quick burst)

The street was quickly covered in the fire cracker wrapping. 

What I found most fascinating was the possessed walking through the chaos and how many  accidents they did not have. It was at this point that I tried to have a conversation with Jamie and then got drawn into the chaos around me.

As the procession continued I realised that it was still early and the
 sun was coming up - lovely.

Then we started up the hill and I recognised another person - one of the 'three musketeers'.

We continued all the way to Central Festival and it was at this time that I noticed that the female Ma Song were not wearing shoes! I walked a little quicker for some peace and found it at the front of the procession - water was drunk at a rate which was too fast but I felt better...

People were lining the streets and waiting for the Ma Song to pass and bless their homes.

Such as this man but the possessed Ma Song did not want to go.

It was at this time that I noticed that the person with all the pins was very close and the bells all rang and shone in the sunlight - fabulous, but I was not able capture the true beauty of this on a camera.

There was a procession 'cart' which was holding what looked like 'Lustral Water'.

It was only when I got splashed by the water that I realised that it was hot!

 So much is focused on the piercing by media and me I tried to focus on people who were pierced by the pins which are at the Shrines all year and not the commercial guns, knives, poles etc - I would think that the needles had a name?

Phuket Old Town (I feel) is the best place to take photographs -  wonderful background.

See you next year?

Fire-Walking - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Fire-walking is something which I have seen previously in Phuket and am always ready to watch this spectacle. The fire-walking that I chose to attend this year was at Jeng Ong Shrine - this is a very old linkThe Shrine was busy when I arrived at 7:30pm so I took the opportunity to watch the people paying their respects to the Gods.

The burning coals were extremely hot - I was hot and I was not even close... yet.

There was a group of people caring for the coals by banging a length of wood on it and dragging it along it to flatten it, 

quickly returning to their tent to douse themselves in iced water! 

On the indication of the drums from the Shrine the possessed began to leave and wait at the entrance. 

I was ushered inside by the staff and I took a place next to one of the 4 small make-shift shrines set up around the burning coals.

The scene was set - a man, I think looking after the Shrine, that I had previously seen perform the same act at Bang Neow Shrine in Phuket Town in 2013 - who is he? After performing this he returned to the possessed and took pieces of the yellow paper with the red Chinese writing on it, returned to the burning coals and thrust pieces into it?

At an appointed time the possessed began to run across the burning coals - some of the possessed were a lot faster than others but a couple really did walk and this was met by cheers from the audience.

Yes I do believe that technically this can be done but I would not personally do this - but I could imagine doing it if I was chosen.

Then a number of predetermined  people were lined up and were all asked to cross the burning coals - I do not know what this was for but it was a lot of fun BUT very hot. The person in the picture above is carrying an effigy which we usually see in the Shrines or is carried in the Tai Pans (sedan) in the parade.

NOTE: next year I really must know how I should take photographs in this low light.

Body Piercing at Bang Neow Shrine - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014

Body piercing is something which seems to be one of the activities which draws the most photographers from outside Thailand to the Chinese Shrines early in the morning.

At 5 am Bang Neow Shrine was really quite peaceful - children were waiting at the front of the Shrine between the Tai Pian (sedans) playing with single firecrackers.

Some of the Tai Pan had an effigy already prepared in it,

some were empty and these were protected.

On approaching the Shrine it had only two Mai Song being pierced and this was the decorative piercing - the pins...

This was obviously started early because of the time that this must take for them to complete!

There was a child siting lonely whilst others prepared themselves.

At about 6:30am the Shrine was now busy with people watching the ritual of piercing. The parade started quietly with a number of Tai Pan leaving the Shrine.

People lined the road from Phuket Town to Sapan Hin and firecrackers were thrown at the carried Tai Pan - here were children practicing - only one firecracker was thrown! Returning to the Shrine it was immediately clear that there was a great number of people being pierced!

I believed that the standard way of piercing is with the effigy needles that are on display throughout the year in the Chinese Shrines.

Watching very carefully I saw this gentleman bless his needles before he used them, with the same yellow paper under the feet of the furniture in the shrine and put in the 'Lustral Waters'.

I wanted to focus on these but the morbid attraction of the 'modern way'
 I could not resist...

The guns, the garden clippers and so much more.

Of course there were the possessed cutting their tongues.

In the front of the shrine there was a very competent person piercing the Mah Song - even giving advice to people who asked.

Something was not quite right when this Mah Song who was pierced with a large knife and he was immediately asked to help.

He swiftly moved to the Mah Song - he covered him with the black flag and said words for a minute and then released him... ?

This man was reciting words.

This gentleman reflected a Chinese Spirit with his action

The rituals continued and more people were pierced - the only way to experience this is to make an actual visit OR get a serious video camera so that you understand the environment - but no 'smell-ovision' yet!

The piercings came to a close and the pierced joined the parade to Sapan Hin and then to Jui Tui Shrine - when the last ones left the parade which had left previously were back to Bang Neow Shrine!

People all dressed in white were lining the streets to watch this parade walk past - a fantastic experience.

But I really do think that the tourists coming to watch should wear white and take their shoes off when they enter into the shrine.