Yes, I know I am bad. I should post more often, but it's not that I am a slacker, I have been busy - really ! I mean, well, sort of.
Toby came to visit and we did a week in Singapore (Pulau Ubin, Newton Food Court, Deepavali and Little India, Geylang Serai, the Divine Society, etc) and a week in Phuket (laying on the beach, visiting the temples, eating delicious meals at small food stalls, soaking in local flavor and culture). We were very lucky to be in Phuket for the Vegetarian festival (or Jia Chai in the local dialect).
The Vegetarian Festival is unique to Phuket Island and unusual in the extreme. It is a ten day Buddhist event for the cleansing and purification. Devotees refrain from eating any meat, and other earthly desires. They wear all white, bring offerings of food and drink to the temples, pray and light incense. They cleans their bodies and their spirits (as well as their households) and in doing so bring good fortune to themselves and their community. So far it all sounded pretty good to me. But it's the lengths that some of the devotees go to that makes this festival different and that can be a bit disturbing to the faint at heart.
Special devotees, called Ma Song, have the gods Lam Tao (who keeps track of the living), and Pak Tao (who keeps track of the dead) enter their bodies. This enable the Ma Song with supernatural powers and enables them to evade physical harm perform great feats of self-tortures. These feats shift the evil from other individuals and onto themselves, and thus the Ma Song bring the community good luck and fortune. The Ma Song come in two categories: those people who, have had a vision of their impending doom, and want to extend their lives; or those specially chosen by the gods for their moral qualities. The performances include bodily abuse like bathing in hot oil, climbing bladed ladders (made of sharp knives and swords), fire-walking, coal eating, and body piercing.
The ceremonies performed at the Phuket Vegetarian festival are similar in nature to those performed by Hindus at the Thaipusam (or the festival of purification) - Which (BTW) is now only celebrated in Kuala Lumpur(Malaysia) and Singapore (other countries thinking it too extreme)
Well, enough talk about body mortification. (Alamak ! I could not even watch the bladed ladder climbing - freak me out).
The Island of Phuket is very beautiful and the beaches are like out of a movie. The town of Potong is where most of the disco party going tour-i hang out so we avoided it. Preferring to get out and see a little more of the island we rented a car and toured about. We rightly surmised that it was the only way we were going to find really good Thai food and see most of the island. Renting a car was well worth it. Toby had secured us a free room at one of the resorts (with her millions of Starwood points) so each day started out with a luxurious complementary breakfast and then in the afternoons when we'd finished our excursions we laze around on the beach. Complementary cocktails served from 5:00 to 6:30, and then back out in the evening to explore and have dinner somewhere. Now if we could just figure out how to retire and do that all the time.
To see our pictures check