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enjoy a professional thai massage. pls note that the local ladies can do it at least same well as in the expensive spa places of big hotels.. e.g. at kamal beach you find a lot of choice
thai massage is very relaxing and healthy for all of your body when done well
Written Mar 27, 2011
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival started way back in 1825 when the governor decided to move the main town of Phuket to the Kathu district which was still mainly jungle with some tin mines and a lot of Chinese workers.
An opera group had come from China to perform for the miners and they all came down sick with fever. So they went on a vegetarian diet to honor 2 Emperor Gods called Kiew Ong Tai Te and Yik Ong Sone Te.
Amazingly they all recovered so the local people of Kathu wanted to know how they did this as fever and sickness was rampant among the local Thai's. The Chinese said that it was vegetarianism and all the ceremonies.
So from this the local population embraced the event and it has been held every year since starting on the first evening of the ninth lunar month and continuing to the ninth evening. People believed it would also bring good luck to the community and themselves.
A local man went back to China where he invited the sacred Hiao Ho-le (incense smoke) and Lian Tui (name plaques), which have the status of gods, along with some holy writings to come back with him to Kathu. The people of Phuket gathered together to meet him at the pier along with his precious cargo and this was the start of the famous processions which are held in the Festival.
The afternoon before the Festival a huge pole is raised at each Temple, it is called the Go Teng Pole and the gods are invited to descend. At midnight the pole is then hung with nine lanterns which symbolizes the opening of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Then at midnight the two Emperor Gods Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Ta are invited down to preside over the ceremonies.
Other ceremonies are the calling in of the gods Lam Tao, who looks after the living and Pak Tao who looks after the dead. Then there are the Ma Song. These are devotees whom the Gods enter during the Festival. These people show supernatural powers and let themselves be mutilated in the way of body piercings, pouring hot oil over their bodies, fire walking and climbing razor sharp bladed ladders.
They do this to bring good luck to their communities and to shift evil from others to themselves. Ma Song people are chosen by the Gods for their high moral qualities or can be people who want to extend their lives or have had a vision of impending doom.
The more noise during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival the better as it wards away evil spirits, so there is a lot of drum banging and loads of fireworks. The Festival ends with making merit ceremonies at every Temple and then the Gods are sent back.
The participants in the Festival also have rules to follow during the time of the Festival such as:
Cleanliness of bodies during the Festival, wearing white during the Festival, no meat eating, no sex, no alcohol, must use clean kitchen utensils and to use them separately from people who do not join the festival, behave physically and mentally, pregnant ladies should not watch any rituals, people in mourning should not attend the festival, women with periods should also not attend.
So there is a brief history of the Phuket Vegetarian festival, now where do we fit in all of this!
Our very good friends from Patong Tattoo, brothers Mit and Wat have been doing piercings at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival for many years. One day they asked me if we wanted to go with them and take photos. I didn’t really know anything about this Festival so I googled it. Yikes what did I get myself into, I was terrified and honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it. I don’t like blood and gory things!! Gary said he is not getting out of bed at 4am for anything so I went on my own.
The boys picked me up at 4.30am and we went to the Pa Sak Chinese Temple at Cherng Talay. First thing was breakfast, it was too early for me to start eating noodles & porridge type things so I stuck to one of my favorite drinks cold Thai tea with milk – Cha Yen. It is still dark but there are lots of strange noises here, which I would soon discover were the Ma Song working themselves up into a sort of frenzy, preparing themselves to be pierced!!
I was still scared as I did not know what to expect, so when the boys started the piercings I stood back taking photos. It only took me a few minutes & the boys telling me to get in closer and that was it. It was amazing and did not make me sick at all, I just could not believe what I was seeing. I will never look at a set of steak knives the same again after seeing them through the side of someone’s face, or a massive TV antenna poking thru cheeks.
I ended up as close as I could possibly get without being in the way. It’s so hard to describe how this all felt & what it looked like but you will be able to tell from the photos. Just a word of caution if you have a weak stomach don’t look!!
Once the piercings had finished we drove into Phuket Town to the Jui Tui Tao Bo Keang Temple where Wat took me through the various stages of making merit, not as easy as it sounds as there is so much smoke from incense etc I could hardly breathe or see! Then it was outside for tea & coffee. All of this is provided free outside the temple. I had little Chinese ladies coming up to me with plates of food, then laughing at me as some of it was wrapped so strangely I couldn’t open it.
After that Wat took me through the temple out into a side street, he pushed me to the front of a group of people, I had no idea what was happening. Then the noise started, well I was about to see my first procession of the Vegetarian Festival. I loved it, I couldn’t take the smile off my face, there were firecrackers going off everywhere, it was so exciting. It started raining but who cares. I couldn’t believe again what I was seeing. After that it was back to the hotel, tired, soaking wet but happy and it was only 11am!!
So 2 days later we are going with the boys again, Gary has decided to come this time. We had to buy white clothes to wear but that was easy as nearly everyone wears the white fisherman’s pants with a red dragon on one side, white tops and some wear a sash, the boys called it a Buddha belt. They bought us one each!!
Pickup was just after 4.30am, it was hard getting up as we stayed out with friends until about 2am!! Oh well, quick shower and a few panadols!!
Back to the Jui Tui Tao Bo Keang Temple in Phuket Town. We soon realized when we arrived in town that we both had our dragons on the wrong leg, damn we had our pants on back to front!
This was a huge morning with many more piercings, even women and a 12 year old boy. As there were other piercers in the same room the boys pointed out a couple who they said were no good! They were talking about hygiene, no gloves, no sterilizing equipment etc, plus we saw a bad piercing from someone who did it to close to the Ma Song's mouth, needless to say he disappeared and probably ended up in hospital.
After the last piercing we started to help clean up and Wat said to leave it for his brother and family as we had to hurry and follow him. Gary was loaded up with Vaseline and oil and off we went. Straight out into the middle of the parade, Wat was running and we had no choice but to run after him.
We thought maybe he is running to get to the first piercings to grease them up etc. It’s like we are in a marathon, Wat is grabbing bottles of water along the way (and little cakes) and throwing them back to us.
Gary & I are ready to have a heart attack after about 20 minutes. We have no idea where we are or where we are going. All we know is Wat is in front of us, looking around and waving us on to hurry. I’m getting scared as there are hundreds of firecrackers going off around me, sometimes I just stopped, put my hands over my head and screamed. At one stage I was in front of Gary and looked around, he called me back to hold the oil etc, his fisherman’s pants had come undone and were falling down!!
After what seemed like a lifetime we finally stopped and Wat said we rest now. Gary & I are drenched in sweat, puffing and half dead. Now we found out why we had run all the way through the parade, across Phuket Town to Saphan Hin Temple, Wat wanted us to see the whole parade from beginning to end. If we had the energy left we would have laughed!!! It’s a long way to run in the heat.
After that Wat said he has organized the car to pick us up as he thinks we would be dead if we walk back. So from there it’s back to meet everyone at a local vegetarian restaurant for some amazing food and many liters’ of water.
I loved the Vegetarian Festival and saw things in a different way being with the boys. It is an amazing time in Phuket, not for everyone but I can’t wait for next year’s event. Apparently we are sponsoring so have to walk the parade with someone the boys pierce. Time to get fit now I think!!
Updated Mar 9, 2011
Captain Mark and his family were going to the Por Tor Festival in Phuket Town and asked if I wanted to come along. What a fun day it was, this festival is more commonly known as the Hungry Ghosts Festival.
This Chinese ancestor worshipping festival happens in the seventh Chinese lunar month as this is when the Chinese believe that the ancestors and spirits of the dead are released from the underworld to revisit their homes.
Food, sweets, fruits and drinks are all decorated beautifully and left for Par Tor Kong who is said to be the God of Devil, the purpose of this is to feed the hungry spirits.
One of the highlights and most popular offerings are the hundreds of beautiful red turtle cakes known as Ang Ku, the turtle symbolizes longevity so worshippers believe these cakes will also prolong their own life and also bring them luck and success. The turtle cakes are made from wheat flour and sugar dough.
The festival is a very important merit making festival but it is a very happy one with lots of fun and laughter, there are also many games for the children to play and win prizes, plus they are non stop stage performances.
One of the most popular events were the huge poles that had a flag at the top with an amount of money, we watched this for ages oh by the way the wooden poles were coated in a thick grease, the aim is too get to the top and grab the flag. So many boys tried this but only 2 made it. Very entertaining and it looked like so much hard work!!
Marks daughter Elise made us try a popular local dish, not sure what it was but it looked like dirty brown water with something floating in it, I found out later it was mango and papaya. The stench from this dish was so overwhelming; I tried it though but would never buy it!! I though Mark was going to vomit ha-ha. The next dish was another murky looking broth with hunks of pork liver floating around; needless to say I gave that one a miss!
Then I tried a quail egg, just like a normal egg but so tiny!
Now we were a bit of an attraction ourselves at this festival as there was no westerners there at all, except for us, so I copped it again with mothers following me with their babies and having to hold them etc!!
A lovely Thai man also gave Elise and me a red turtle each to offer, each turtle had a different saying and mine was for all my wishes to come true. I wrote our names on it and then we were given a perfect position on the table to put them.
After that the Thai man gave us all a bunch of incense and some candles and we had to go to various positions inside the shrine, wei three times and leave three sticks of incense.
Boy it was smoky in there and so crowded and hot.
My eyes were pouring, my arms and hands burning from ash falling on them lol but it was very special. Once outside (when I found my shoes amongst hundreds of others) the last stage is to place your arm on a mans shoulder who then pours oil into containers while chanting good things, its all for good luck etc.
Oh and then we had to burn the paper that the incense was wrapped in, more luck I think!
Elise and I also saw some real turtles, wont tell you what a couple of them were doing but boy did we laugh and of course I took a photo, not every day you see turtles getting up to mischief!!
The amount of food left here for the spirits is amazing, hundreds of cooked chickens and absolutely beautiful fruit carvings. There is a photo of a pineapple as well and it is made of shredded lottery tickets!!
Written Nov 17, 2009
Songtran (Thai New Year) is celebrated every year on April 13 to April 15.
Nowadays Songkran caters to tourists with the throwing of water. This is done with hoses, water guns, hoses, buckets and at times can be quite dangerous!
But this is not how it use to be, or still is in non tourist areas.
Back in the early days the Thai people started this festival to teach their families the following:
They must respect their families and the elderly, so during this festival the children would come home to visit their families bringing gifts. They would also visit neighbours, so this is why the real meaning of Songtran is about paying respect.
It is also a time for cleansing and this is traditionally done by puring a small amount of water into someones hand, not the drenching that happens today. Many elderly Thais still practice this the old way.
Thankyou to KAN WIN for allowing me to use his beautiful Photo's.
Updated Mar 18, 2009
If you are planning to visit a Buddhist temple, dress conservatively and take your shoes off when you enter the temple.
Women are not allowed to touch monks and the monks cannot accept anything from a woman's hand.
Rear seats on buses are for the monks and other passengers have to vacate these seats if necessary. You will also see a couple of seats reserved for monks in the departure areas of some airports.
Never lose your temper or raise your voice no matter how frustrating the situation is.
Only patience and humour will get you any results.
Thais believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body, so never touch or pat anyone in Thailand on the head.
The feet are considered the lowest part of the body, so don't ever point at things with your feet. When sitting down, make sure the soles of your feet are not facing towards anyone.
Written Mar 18, 2009
People and Culture
Thais believe that life should be enjoyed, the Thais are tolerant and hospitable and are very easy to get along with.
Good manners, common sense and a smile are necessities in Thailand.
The Royal family and religion are extremely sacred in Thailand, and it is against the law to to defame them or make fun of them, this is punished by imprisonment!
The national language is Thai. English is spoken in most tourist places.
95% of the population of Thailand practice Buddhism, 4% are Muslim and the remainder are Christians, Hindus or Sikhs.
Updated Mar 18, 2009
Tangomango is right on. Phuket is not the place for topless sunbathing, and the locals would almost definitely frown upon this. The Thai's are pretty (very) conservative about this despite Thailand's reputation and a western perception. I have seen this in Pattaya, but even there it was rarely done. There are secluded beaches if you want to look for them, but even those will have some locals at them from time to time and they would also be offended should you be seen.
Bottom line, RESPECT THE LOCALS, The CULTURE and their CUSTOM.
Written Jul 30, 2008
Ok so those suit salesman are pretty annoying. They constantly harass you, they are insistent on getting your attention. You can't be at all assured as to the quality of the suit you may receive so even if you want to buy a suit you have to do so nervously. I would say the suit salesman in Bangkok are more obnoxious because of the tricks they play by involving the tuk tuk drivers into their games. However in my four days in Phuket, and after two days of telling the same damn suit salesman "NO FREAKING SUITS!" he finally let down his salesman gaurd and he and I got to talking. I learned that a lot of these gentleman come from Nepal to Thailand, where they can make instead of like 1$ a day, they can make 5$ or so. A lot come from very poor areas of countries like Nepal and are trying to make a better life for themselves in this world. I acknowledged that their sales tactics are more acceptable in their cultural backgrounds as opposed to mine. Regardless of how much more human these men became to me it was still not easy to not get irritated with their antics. But I thought I'd tell you this story so you may have that perspective when you have to go deal with them first hand.
I found that it was very fun to take picture of all the suit salesman as it caught them very much off gaurd and they seemed to stop harassing me to buy a suit afterwards.
Updated Jul 6, 2008
Buddhists deem feet to be the lowest part of the body, they are unclean and as such, there are certain rules to observe.
1. Always remove footwear before entering a temple or a Thai person's house. Place them neatly at the door. Some other places also require footwear to be removed before entering. A good rule of thumb is that if you see shoes at the door, take yours off too.
2. Never use your feet to point towards anything, particularly people.
3. Never sit with your legs outstretched in front of you.
4. Never have your feet pointing towards any statues of Buddha.
Updated Jun 6, 2008
In Thailand the people "wai" in greeting. Wei is pronounced "why". You put your two hands together like in prayer and hold them just under your chin and bow your head slightly at the same time as you greet someone. The higher you hold your hands, which can be held as high as your index fingers against your forehead, the higher the show of respect. If you are wei'ing to a monk for instance, you would use the latter position.
The greeting if you're a female (speaking) is; "Sawatdee Kha", and if you're a male (speaking), it's "Sawatdee Krup", no matter whether you're addressing a male or female. It is considered impolite not to wei to someone that wei's to you, so be polite and show the Thai people that you are interested in their culture.
Young children are not supposed to be wei'd to, as it is a practise of respect, and respect is largely based on seniority in Thailand. Children should wei and greet an adult first.
Do not touch a Thai person on the head either, as the head is sacred and it is offensive to a Thai person. Only people who know eachother really well (as in family) or someone who has a much higher position is permitted to touch a Thai on the head. Touching a young child on the head is not considered inappropriate.
It's a shame I caught this little girl just as she was finishing wai'ing to me, but she was so gorgeous I had to put her picture up.
Updated Jun 6, 2008
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