Vegetarian Festival gets under way
PHUKET TOWN: Phuket’s shrines were completing Lantern Pole Raising (Sao Go Teng) ceremonies this evening, the traditional start to what is anticipated to be a lively but probably damp nine-day Vegetarian Festival. Uthai Pimjaichon, the speaker of the Thai Parliament, formally opened the festival at the Jui Tui Shrine this afternoon. Theerawuth Sritulalak, Chairman of the Jui Tui Shrine, the largest shrine in Phuket, told the Gazette, “The festival should be more lively this year, but today the rain prevented the fireworks display.” Hotels in Phuket Town, the center of many activities, reported that occupancy rates were down a little on last year but various parades and ceremonies at the island’s shrines are expected to draw tourists from all over the island in spite of monsoon downpours. Over the next nine days, thousands of island residents will dress in white, renounce sex and alcohol, and eat only vegetarian meals. Vegetarian food stalls, invariably decorated in yellow, have sprung up along Ranong Rd and in Samkong as well as other spots around the island, while thousands of colorful Chinese banners have been attached to poles along major thoroughfares. Local fruit and vegetable markets are laden with fresh produce, which vendors say is as much as 30% below the usual prices because of the intense competition for customers. In some street parades, worshippers go into trances and pierce their cheeks with spears or an assortment of other items that can vary from fluorescent tubes to beach umbrellas. The festival dates back generations to itinerant workers who migrated to Phuket from China, where similar practices have virtually disappeared over the intervening decades. The festival ends on October 4, and usually concludes with an explosion of fireworks to drive the appeased gods away and allow island life to return to normal the following morning.
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