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Thai culture: Bizarre Phuket customs...
You could be forgiven for thinking some of the culture and customs here in Phuket, Thailand are a bit bizarre.
Last week kicked off with a bang (well, a lot of bangs actually) as the Phuket Vegetarian Festival got underway.
Ten days of merriment follow.
That’s the customary lighting of fire-crackers at every opportunity. The beating of drums as loudly as possible. And everybody dressed entirely in white clothing.
Unsurprisingly, people also stop eating meat.
It’s true that the festival can be pretty noisy.
But the noise is nothing compared to the gruesome antics of the Ma-Song (‘entranced horses’ - well they are called horses but they’re actually people)...
The Ma-Song claim that during the days of the festival they are possessed by The Gods.
The Gods apparently give them supernatural powers and force the Ma-Song to perform acts of self-torture.
This is supposed to move evil spirits from the Ma-Song to the Gods.
I’ve seen Ma-Song with all sorts of strange items piercing their bodies...
From a canoe paddle to a garden spade.
And on a smaller scale - a pineapple stalk still attached to the pineapple seems to be a popular choice.
If you don’t believe me take a look...
This fella has clearly opted for bananas instead of pineapples.
As if that were not enough, the Ma-Song climb bladed ladders, walk over hot coals and bathe in hot oil - usually with their piercings still intact.
They appear to be in a trance - I suppose you would too if you had a pineapple or garden spade piercing your face.
But this is not to be taken lightly...
Last year one devotee was severely dealt with for piercing a pigs tongue and trying to pass it off as his own.
The good news is the festival brings in around 200 million Baht from tourism.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival has been held every year since 1825.
And it always falls on the first day of the 9th month of the lunar calendar.
Maybe next year you might think about joining in?
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