Veg Fest Parade Photo Album Above
EXCITEMENT is building as Phuket awaits the big parades through Phuket City to Phuket Town this week. Be prepared fror dancing in the streets, fireworks in the air . . . and traffic holdups.
As the Vegetarian Festival warriors prepare for the vibrant days to come from Monday onwards, we joined one of Phuket's first and newest parades on Saturday, from the Choot Su Gong Naka Shrine, south of Phuket City.
This was the shrine's second parade, with three warriors - some of the larger parades to come this week will have hundreds and take perhaps 40 minutes to pass any point along the route.
Perhaps it's just us, but judging by the first street procession, the warriors do seem to be getting younger.
And there was one young admirer, taking it all in, who must have been somewhere between two and three years old. This was probably her first real parade, too.
While the piercing can be confronting - the warriors are actually aiming to absorb all the pain and suffering of the world - the spiritual aspects are sublime and sincere.
Spears and swords will be waved, but the festival is non-violent. For Phuket families, it's a highlight of the year as the tourism high season comes closer.
Some visitors to Phuket inevitably find the festival too exotic. They will quibble about almost every aspect: the piercing, the food, the noise.
For those whose notions about human behavior are already locked in, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is certainly not going to change anything.
Media coverage always struggles to get past the sensational, as if 365-days-a-year body-piercing is not now more widely accepted in the West than it ever has been.
The piercing on Phuket last for nine days, and there's a lot more to it.
The fact that the ceremonies now attract more tourists to Phuket at this time of the year is of little concern to participants, who are upholding a long-standing Phuket tradition.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is unlikely to ever become ''commercial'' any time soon. And that's why people will continue to come.
This week sorts out those who are committed to nine days of healthy eating, no alcohol and no sex, and those who find abstinence too difficult.
And if 'Eat, Pray, Love' can become a popular movie promoting spiritual tourism to Bali, then perhaps it's time for someone to consider making a potential Phuket blockbuster entitled 'The Whole Nine Days.'
Three days is considered to be a good effort for many.
Next Phuket Parade
MONDAY'S Phuket Vegetarian Festival Parade is from the Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine in Sam Kong down Yaowarat Road to Phuket Town and back. It starts about 7am.