Full Moon Party @ Crowne Plaza

We all had fun at Crowne Plaza Hotel on the 30th of November.

The beach was under the light of the full moon, beer and cocktails were ready to be served on the beach - I stuck to beer at 150 Baht net and there was also a barbecue.

As we settled into a sun lounger they set up a stand for a bottle juggler - Jemma loved this - sparklers were then distributed (nice touch) and then the music started and people started to 'shake their thang's'.

We retreated to watch and to chase crabs - did think that Jemma might get up and join the Gangnam dance but she watched patiently. Spirit balloons were distributed throughout the crowd and the tide began to rise.

Lovely and a good idea - thanks.

 The next day was Halloween so we got Jemma's stuff ready...

Phuket News - October 2012

Jet Ski Problems almost solved 
Damages up to 50,000 Baht 
- amounts beyond the customer pays loss of earnings
almost is a little extravagant I think

Repairing a Patong Hill landslide - how many times?
when will they realise that this cannot continue...
the Patong Underpass will continue
which fails first?

Missed the Hungry Ghost Festival as it was at the same time as the Vegetarian Festival

A safer Phuket Vegetarian Festival 
but that's the excitement?
Health & Safety is a scary concept in Thailand
but it's worth 600 million Baht 

What's a Fossil Graveyard?
there's a Fossil Graveyard discovered in Phuket.

Land issues are hypocritical 
so that's normal?
Land issue investigators
start investigating

image from the Phuket Gazette - a reader
and it's High Season soon so
restaurants encroaching land are destroyed

The stall holders on the street pay their rent to the Chinese Shrine (Jui Tui)
no change - i approve of the merit system
Ferry accident off Pattaya 
the same week that we were there - spooky
all wore life jackets - because they can't swim?

Slo Loris raids to come on Bangla Road
Hurrah - but why tell everybody?

Empty bus accident 
near my home and glad that it was empty
a lot of onlookers for photographs  
2 parked buses explode
not taking a bus for a while...

View Accident black spots in a larger map

  The Transport Department are looking at accident 'black spots'
and doing what?

Man robs a 7-11 with a scythe 
and cameras and witnesses?

Phuket to get free WiFi hot Spots
but will they be simple to use and you don't need the card from the airport?
watch this space

Manage taxi prices...
but petrol price may rise...
so let's put up the prices
nothing to do with us...

Illegal taxi amnesty finishes on November 1st 
and what happens?
Well they have clamped down on the expansion of the taxi at the airport?
but 194 illegal taxis have been found on the first day
and the next day?

A police raid on a gambling den fails to come up trumps
Ha Ha!

Animal raids in Patong captures two Slo Loris 
but the text only indicates 'charged'
not real then?

Russian man buries some money and it is stolen 
why bury it?

Rare 'Hairy Leg Mountain Crab' seen in Phuket
we went to look but we went to the wrong Mangroves...

Kathu Shrine to Sapan Hin Street Procession Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

Getting up early was not a problem - as I arrived Kathu Shrine was a buzz with activity. 

The Mah Songs were clearly there in numbers and Kathu Shrine was like no other time of the year. The courtyard was ablaze with people all milling around. There were also a number of piercings taking place amongst this - amazing how there are no accidents!

I then saw the female Mah Songs - some pierced but many in a simple trance.

I immediately took myself into the shrine to watch the piercings take place. I recognized a number of 'piercees'? from previous years but I still marvelled at their control whilst the piercings took place. The intricacies of their piercings could almost be seen as art?

I was then approached by a tourist who then asked me what on earth was going on - I quickly replied that - haven't you read about it? Sheepishly she the informed me that she was recording a Japanese Tavel Show... I then told her the tale of the beginning of the Vegetarian Festival. I was then asked whether I believed and I indicated that it was up to the individual whether they believed, I was irrelevant, I then disappeared.

I met Jamie (which is always a pleasure) and we shared our views that the event was becoming more a media event - but not yet! We stood at the gates to Kathu Shrine and waited for the Head Mah Song to begin this Parade.

Unimaginable chaos is the only description - fireworks and crackers and smoke and smoke - wonderful. The parade from Kathu Shrine took us into Phuket Town past Central Festival, Bang Neow Shrine and finished in Sapan Hin - checking in on four square all the way!

In Sapan Hin the Mah Song and the entourage of shrines collected around the lake with the musical fountain - words were spoked and instruments banged - the parade started again and my feet hurt...

I stopped the parade in Phuket Town at Krieng Tin for Bubble Tea and then Coffee Circle for a cappuccino.

I encountered a Por Tor Turtle which was spraying water onto anyone who wished and my favourite which was the crazy 3 musketeers.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012 - Final Parade

I left Joshua and Amy celebrating on the beach at Cape Panwa Hotel and I walked to Jui Tui Shrine to see some of the preparations. The main street was like a traditional market with toys for sale but there was only Vegetarian Food for sale.

Jui Tui was busy with people with joss sticks praying, people putting firecrackers into 'cracker towers', a group of people reciting words and 'boys' tossing firecrackers at one another - fascinating.

I left Jui Tui and walked past the roundabout, through Amulet Alley and popping in at Siam Indigo (but I was not allowed any alcohol) - passed the On On Hotel where many people had set up tables and had the offerings ready for the Mah Song but it seemed that every 3rd person had some sort of fireworks - in a bag. I remember the road being quite busy.

I reached the Clock Tower Circle - which looked resplendent with a Chinese Dragon around it and the noise was suddenly enormous. The number of fireworks being thrown was doubled and the Metropole Hotel was letting off the more traditional fireworks.

After watching a number of people 'playing' in front of the Metropole Hotel my interest was suddenly shifted to the other side - in front of Mee Ton Poe restaurant. At this point my heart began to race - the Mah Song were here with their sedans. Wonderful. 

The chaos was actually quite mild but my adrenaline was pumping now - I let the parade past and made my way to my friends at Clinic Kong, next to Bang Neow Shrine. In approximately 15 minutes the parade was back and was making it's way past.

The camera was out and shots were taken but at this point I had no idea of what settings I was using. I was loving it - pandemonium.

At this point I decided to try to run along with the sedans and hold my camera up on a stick whilst shooting backwards...

As I approached Sapan Hin I set myself up at the circle and waited for the procession to walk past me - the adrenalin was seriously pumping - Bang / Ouch - trod in something wet and hot...

As I walked away I realised that it was my foot itself that was hurting, since I had a burn already on one foot I assumed it would go away - it didn't. I decided to return a little way to have a look (got an App for the iPhone but not now) in some light. I got some water and a wet cleansing cloth - my foot and trouser was soaked in blood.

At this point a young man approached me and indicated that he was with the ambulance and would help - I left with him to the ambulance. Wow there were two serious cuts - Phuket International Hospital beckoned. The ambulance drove quickly and noisily through the streets.

Phuket International Hospital were wonderful - thank you.
I returned home stinking of smoke and limping.
Same time next year!

Fire Walking and Fire Running - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

After visiting Bang Neow last year I was prepared - water, extra batteries, tripod and memory card. 

Jeng Ong is a smaller shrine in Phuket Town but I did want to see more of the Vegetarian Festival this year, so this was my choice.

I arrived 40 minutes before the event was scheduled to start and Jeng Ong Shrine looked beautiful against the dark sky - it was resplendent in colours lights and noise - again an intoxicating environment. It was also lovely to see so many people dressed in white, as wished for and I disagree with the 'visitor' not to show respect by wearing white.

I entered the Shrine and was surprised to see two young men in grey cloth chanting and one of them was banging a stick against a wooden block, is this something significant?

After a while I graduated to the framed off area and the burning coals - immediately I was struck by the fact that I was not sweltering - last year at Bang Neow it was. The men from the Shrine then began to flatten and enlarge the coals.

Four smaller shrines were set up at each corner and were tended to by a member of the shrine staff and then a member of the Mah Songs. A Mah Song came from the Shrine to 'discuss' with the Shrine staff whether it was ready - meanwhile the possessed left the shrine and waited.

Beautiful - until I realised that the the burning coal area was ready but it was only a small square, I had been used to the long track of burning coals at Bang Neow Shrine.

The Mah Songs suddenly began to run across the burning coals and run is the operative word here. Two steps and the run is finished - there was only one person who actually walked over the coals and I applaud him for that. Logically this can be done - maybe I will have a go next year? Who do I contact to have a go?

After the running over the hot coals the Mah Song returned to the Shrine to be released from the Chinese Spirits and bless any of the onlookers.

Lost my white baseball hat - it was not there when I left the Shrine - but this will mean that I have been released from my bad luck for this year - thank you. I had some lovely Vegetarian Street food on the way out but still don't go for Tofu much...

Street Procession in Phuket Town

This was certainly a different experience for me - I was taking guests of the Cape Panwa Hotel with me. Some of them had been with me previously so they do know what to expect but I am never sure what people think of the festival the first time.

We arrived at approximately 7:30 am at the Clock Tower circle in Phuket Town. The roads were already strewn with an audience of people wearing their white dress and the possessed walking the streets.

The atmosphere was tense and excitable - I do not know what time these people arrived!

I noticed immediately the number of people in the procession who were carrying an effigy that I usually see inside a Chinese Shrine, with the red frames which were empty in Kathu Shrine previously.

There were a number of Mah Song who were pierced and were followed by an entourage  who were carrying bits and pieces for them. Then there were the dangerous Mah Song who were carrying a cutting tool and hitting themselves with it or swinging it around them.

Then there were Mah Song who were not pierced or abusing themselves - they were simply patrolling the streets with their entourage, distributing sweets or blessing people with their flag.

Many Mah Song were being welcomed to offering tables which had been set up by families in front of their properties - actually the banks also did this.

Actually I do not recall seeing many of the female Mah Songs which I have seen in the processions last year?

Then came the explosions and the effigy carrying sedans. These wooden sedans were usually loaded with firecrackers and clearly when there was a spark the chair would explode in a mass of smoke and red paper. There were also a number of properties where there were poles which had a large cracker on the top and then a string wrapped around the stick.

These 'sticks' were usually held by a member of the audience who held it over the sedan until there was an explosion. Some sedans clearly relished the attention that this brought  them and it seemed as if there was a 'runner' who would encourage onlookers to join in. Some sedan 'drivers' would jump up and down as the crackers ignited or have friends 'fan' the explosion as it was occurring - maybe to reduce the length of time the embers were on those carrying the sedan?

I do have to add that the banks which are numerous in Phuket Town seemed to relish this - maybe the bigger the bank the more prosperity?

This seemed to continue through the streets - I followed the procession from the Clock Tower to the roundabout in Phuket Town and then took a diversion (instead of going to Jui Tui Shrine) - and subsequently met a lot of pierced Mah Song walk the bank streets - past Siam Indigo and The On On Hotel (newly renovated).

I followed the procession to Bang Neow Shrine where the sedans were rotating themselves 360 degrees (again leaping up and down) before entering the shrine. I then found that it was odd that a number of the pierced Mah Songs were being asked to 'pose' for a photograph - strange.

It was at this point that I was aware that there were a lot of pierced Mah Songs who were no longer pierced.

On venturing further I noticed that there were a number of Mah Songs who were having their piercings removed under the Lantern which was raised on the day before the start of the Festival.

This was fascinating - one Mah Song in particular had no blood leaving his small cut - what is in the bottles of vegetable oil? There were some who were suffering a bit more pain but this was not common.

After the piercings were removed the Man Song were brought into the shrine where there was a procedure of the spirt leaving the Man Song - some possessed looked a little worse than others.

But what surprised me was the possessed Man Song who high-fived his mother after leaving the trance??

Thank you to everybody who joined - same again or more next year?

Street Procession in Sapam Villlage

As we approached Sapam Village the roads were being cleared and people were already set up by the side of the road waiting to receive the Mah Song - there was an electric atmosphere and fireworks were already being released. I was immediately shocked that the parade had started already.

The atmosphere was electric and extremely noisy - I think that there were only approximately 6 Sedan Shrines but they made up for that with their enthusiasm.  

Strangely I watched the explosions in front of a Shell Gas Station and never once worried that maybe this was not a good idea!

As I watched the Sedan Shrines approach I was intoxicated with the smoke and the noise, swiftly these Sedans which were covered in smoke turned off the main road and down a side street - possibly to Sapam Shrine?

It was at this point that I returned to the car, my daughter Jemma loves to visit Chinese Wats and Buddhist Temples with me - the demand was so big that I did relent and took Jemma to the Hot Water Bathing at Choor Su Gong Naka Shrine previously - her response - about the possessed people

 "those people are funny". 

So I took her to the fireworks at Sapam Village - clothes were put on, mask was adjusted and ear plugs put in. Jemma loved the atmosphere, we found a local family who readily embraced a 'farang' and his beautiful daughter....

The procession began and Jemma did not like the noise - hiding behind me - as the group approached Jemma disappeared into the shop.  The noise was simply too much for her and I promised her that I would never take her again - thank you to the family for taking care of us.

Worship and Propitiation of Gods - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

This meant that Kathu Shrine was peaceful - the calm before the storm which was going to follow on Monday morning.

Visiting Kathu Shrine early in the morning meant that I could get up close to all of the items that are present for the Vegetarian Festival.

The first thing that I noticed was that all of the effigies at the front of the temple were missing - it was beautiful but the red frames were all empty.  

There are a plethora of different effigies normally in the temple but they were clearly out with the Sedan Chairs for the week (I really must find out if each effigy has a meaning).

The next thing that I noticed was the beautiful colours of the robes that were going to be worn by the Mah Song and 'possessed' during the ceremony. (There is a shop in Phuket Town that sells these if you are interested).

Then the next thing that I noticed was the rope whips which the Mah Song use during the parade - some have a handle which is a snake (a Cobra?) and ones which resemble a dragon.

The inside of the shrine itself was very calm and there were people milling about calmly - lovely, well worth a visit even when there is no festival.