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Call for Phuket Vegetarian Festival “gods’ to carry ID

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Call for Phuket Vegetarian Festival “gods’ to carry ID | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The organizers of the upcoming Phuket Vegetarian Festival are calling for Chinese shrines taking part in the annual rituals to issue identity cards to their spirit mediums.

The move to issue the ID cards to the mediums, called mah song (literally “Horses of the Gods”), is to preserve the integrity of the spirit-medium community and to stop “fakes” from taking part in the festival, Prasert Fakthongphol, president of Phuket Shrine Association, explained yesterday.

“I am the organizing president at Bang Niaw Shrine, where we have issued identity cards for every mah song – a total of 350 mah song – since last year.

“We started here first. We would like to set an example for others to follow,” he said.

Each identity card will state the mah song‘s name, which god possess that particular mah song, a unique ID number and a head-shot photograph of the mah song clearly showing his or her face.

“This will be useful for the mah song as well because they can use the card to prove that they are real mah song. It is convenient for officials too, so they can differentiate which mah song are real and which ones are fakes simply by asking for the card,” Mr Prasert added.

There are about 2,000 to 3,000 mah song in Phuket, he said.

“We need identity cards to control them. We want to have information of each mah song recorded on the registration document.

“We are concerned that other people may misunderstand spirit mediums. They might have the wrong perception that spirit mediums are just a joke – or worse. We don’t want our long heritage to be destroyed by fakes,” he added.

Mr Prasert called for help from the public in identifying imposters by taking photographs of any mah song joining the festival pierced with unusual objects.

Piercings must use weapons stated in the legends only, such as swords and bladed staffs. Examples of unusual piercings were guns and umbrellas, Mr Prasert said.

“Younger mah song might do this without thinking. In years past, we took photos of them [with unusual weapons] and called them up so we could explain the legends to them so they would understand the significance of what they were doing,” he said.

“We do not have enough time to keep an eye on all mah song joining the festival, so we would like to ask anybody with cameras or mobile phones with cameras to take photographs of mah song with unusual weapons and let us know which shrine the mah song was representing,” said Mr Prasert.

Mr Prasert cited the example of Paitoon Khopwej, who joined a temple parade as a medium in the 2006 festival but skewered a pig’s tongue placed in his mouth instead of his own.

Mr Paitoon was beaten and arrested and then jailed for 15 days for ‘deceiving the public’.

“I have no idea what he wanted [from doing that]. Maybe he intended to destroy our culture,” he said.

“People can report mah song with inappropriate piercings to shrine committee members. We will then report them to the police,” Mr Prasert said.

See Phuket Gazette archived stories ‘Fake mah song beaten, arrested‘ and ‘Fake mah song jailed 15 days‘.

The annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be held this year from September 27 through October 5.

— Janpen Upatising

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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