PHUKET: It's time for the warrior spirits of Phuket's vegetarian festival to ''invade'' the leaders of Phuket's tourism industry to tell them what a wonderful opportunity they are allowing to go to waste.
Phuket's Vegetarian Festival is unique. And it really is time it was sold to the world as an outstanding piece of Phuket culture.
There are certainly those who turn a shade of puce at the body piercing and the noise from the fire crackers.
Yet for thousands of potential visitors to Phuket with the slightest interest in anthropology or photography, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a knock-your-socks off event.
Each year we find ourselves more entranced with the spirituality and the sincerity of the Phuket locals who turn out in their thousands to the daily parades and the vegetarian feast to be enjoyed at Phuket restaurants.
What's needed in time for next year's Phuket festival is an attempt to make Phuket the centre of the vegetarian world.
More people all over the world are turning to meat-free dining. More people all over the world are watching and learning from television cooking shows of all kinds.
Now's the time for Phuket's tourism leaders to create international interest in the world's leading vegetarian festival.
Bring some of the world's top chefs to Phuket. Let them create the world's best vegetarian food, right here.
Go into the universities and colleges. Tell the photography and anthropology students that they can be guided through nine of the most extraordinary days of their lives at the Phuket Vegetarian festival from 2013.
Then stand back and watch as Phuket's most amazing cultural event gets the detailed analysis and the attention it deserves, beyond the piercings and the parades.
Sunday sees the beginning of this year's festival in which adherents wear white and renounce meat, alcohol, cigarettes and sex for nine days or longer.
Most of the action centres on daily parades through Phuket City from Phuket's taoist Chinese temples, scattered all over the island just like the Buddhist wats and the Muslim mosques.
Hundreds of people were at Juitui Temple in Phuket City today, cleaning the statues and preparing the brass for Sunday's start.
Huge amounts of vegetables are on the move to Phuket. Visitors have packed the 5000 hotel rooms in Phuket City almost to capacity.
From next week, newspapers and television stations all over the world will be doing what they always do - publishing photographs and projecting images of Phuket's pierced warriors.
It really is time that the Phuket tourism industry went beyond the superficial and educated the world about Phuket's wonderful but still largely secret and unexplained vegetarian festival.
Cooking contests, guided tours for photographers and for students of anthropology . . . that's just the start of selling Phuket's Vegetarian Festival to the world.