Jamie's Phuket Blog

Vegetarian Festival Procession Photos

Well, the 2009 Phuket Vegetarian festival is now over. As normal, wish I had more time to see all the different events, visit more shrines, but work and family do just about come first! During the week I had no time, but on Saturday and Sunday woke early and headed to the processions. The street processions in Phuket Town happened every day from the 20th to 26th October. I cannot recommend enough that, should you be in Phuket during the festival, you should make the effort to see something... something that you will not have seen before!

I managed a full 9 days on the vegetarian diet, eating food only from the restaurants and stalls selling the "Jae" food, no meat, no dairy, no garlic (it's smelly). Oh, and no alcohol - 9 days without a beer is something of a miracle for me! There are still events that I have not seen, not photographed such as fire walking, and the final night (which was last night) in Phuket Town, where the streets are packed with people and the air is full of firecrackers. The local TV channel was showing live pictures, it looks mad. If going on that last night, ear plugs and a facemask are a must. Taking photos would be hard work - camera would need some protection too. And feet in sandals would maybe get a few little burns. Next year....!

Talking of cameras, my Canon lens screwed up on the very first day of the festival, stopped functioning on wide angle - exactly what I need for festival photos! Oh well, I did manage to get some pretty good pictures anyway. Maybe by next year will have upgraded the camera again.

All the photos below were taken on the 24th and 25th. On the 24th I was at Jui Tui Shrine by about 6:30am and chased the procession around town for a couple of hours. The Jui Tui shrine is I believe the biggest in Phuket, and the crowds were considerable. I hope this big farang did not get in too many peoples way :).. On the 25th I went to Kathu Shrine, also around 6:30, before they all started walking. Some participants were still being pierced. I stayed with the procession through the village, but did not follow all the way to Phuket Town.

For more general information about the vegetarian festival and links to many articles on the blog and photos from previous years see here:

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival - Introduction

Saturday morning - Jui Tui Shrine is just to the west of the market in Phuket Town, in the old town area. The area is crowded all week with foodstalls - we went on Friday night and it was a battle to get along the street! Similar scenes on Saturday morning. I could hardly get inside the shrine, so waited outside the main entrance for the Ma Song to emerge. If you are at all squeamish, look away now. Too late :)

How many swords in his face?

I am not normally squeamish, but...

I believe the guy above is regretting his choice of piercing. How the **** did he get those in there??!

Girls get in on the act too

There were quite a few females this year with piercings but others stuck with smaller items. This was the only girl I saw with something extreme. But the colour matches her dress, how lovely.

Skin piercing - count the needles

Entranced lady dancing along the streets of Phuket Town

There are many ladies like her, dancing along the streets. Many of them really do appear to be entranced.

Ma Song cutting his tongue with a sword

everything except the kitchen sink

The guy cutting his tongue was a favourite of mine. Good ol' fashioned purification by pain! The dude below him seems to be going for some kind of record. How many really sharp things can you stick in your face? Actually I think his record was beaten next day at Kathu :)

Children should keep away from fireworks

I am guessing that he might be in a little pain

Some of the metal rods were rather long

Some of the metal rods through faces were long - hard to move in a crowded space when you have a 2 meter long spike in your face. The piercings come in all shapes and sizes. I saw guns, model boats, a propeller shaft, bathroom fittings....

Entranced Ma Song

Piercing Buddies

That'll do for now - as I say, more photos on my Flickr page.

Sunday morning - Kathu Shrine is only about 1km from my house. We can hear noise from the shrine during the festival. Sunday was their procession day. They actually walk from Kathu to Phuket Town, about 5km. Try that barefoot with a sword in your head! This is why they start early - doing this in the midday sun would be foolish.... Yeh, maybe foolish already, but anyway...

At Kathu, the crowds were much less, still pretty busy, but easier to walk in the temple grounds. The rituals start very early. I was there about 6:30am. I think next year will try for 5:30am. Ma Song were being pierced in the temple grounds. Entranced mediums were exiting the shrine shaking heads and shouting. It's all a bit surreal. Another world.

Getting pierced

In a trance or just in pain?

Well, it is called the Vegetarian Festival

Maybe taking the name Vegetarian Festival too literally? The metal spikes and small knives are more traditional, but in recent years there is a tendency for more elaborate piercing. Bigger or weirder - more likely to get your photo in the paper!

I'm sure you can get a few more in?

More piercing buddies

Groups of friends often seem to do the procession together with similarly bizarre piercings. Would you like to see a close up? I thought not. But it's my blog, so...

Not for the faint hearted

Ah yes, this Kathu dude beats the Jui Tui dude hands down in the sharp-things-in-your-face contest.

The procession walked out through the village, the god statues being carried by groups of young men accompanied by thousands of firecrackers. You have to be right in the middle of it to appreciate the noise, the smoke, the feeling of tradition. This is something the local people believe in, this is no show, no tourist attraction. In Kathu, how many foreigners did I see? Just me and about 5 or 6 others with cameras - some were pro photographers. I would have liked to follow the procession to town, but of course had to go to work :(

Carrying the gods in Kathu village

Procession in Kathu Phuket

Don't think I will ever get tired of the vegetarian festival. Phuket has beaches, nightlife, diving, great scenery, 5 star resorts, but for me it's some of the history and traditions that makes Phuket something a bit special. Might upload some more photos later. Meantime, just a few days until Loy Krathong, which is on Monday 2nd November.

More Vegetarian Festival photos (Flickr)
More information about Festivals in Phuket

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