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?