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Phuket Old Town festival to showcase Chinese heritage

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Old Town festival to showcase Chinese heritage | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The annual Phuket Old Town Festival will begin on February 15, ushering in the three-day celebration of the town’s historical origins and unique ethnic mix of cultures.

To announce this year’s festival, leading Phuket dignitaries gathered at Queen Sirikit Park on Thursday night. Joining Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana in announcing the event were representatives from Phuket City Municipality, Phuket Provincial Police, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office, Peranakan Association, Phuket Old Town Association and Jui Tui Shrine.

The festival will be held along four main roads in the heart of the Phuket Old Town: Thalang Road, Soi Rommanee, Krabi Road and Phang Nga Road (map here).

“The Old Chartered Bank on the corner of Dibuk Road [and Thepkrasattri Road] will showcase an exhibition highlighting HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej visiting Phuket in 1959, as well as traditional costumes and food from Phuket Town’s yesteryear,” Mayor Somjai said.

Traffic will be blocked from using the streets hosting the event’s activities from 3pm to midnight so people will be able to walk around the Old Town area and enjoy the activities, she added.

“The festival is one of the most important events for local residents, government offices and private businesses to all join together. The festival has been held for 13 years – this is our fourteenth,” Mayor Somjai said.

“The main purpose of this festival is to preserve our beautiful culture, our art and traditions by urging Old Town residents, youths and other local people to take part. Our goal is also to promote cultural tourism in the Phuket Old Town area for tourists to see how beautiful our cultures are,” Mayor Somjai explained.

Scheduled to provide some of the entertainment will be “Leng”, known for his award-winning antics on Thailand’s Got Talent 2012 (view here) and “Looksorn At Ten”, renowned for his singing on the popular television show At Ten (view here).

Also performing will be artists from mainland China, providing a magic show (view here).

“There will also be many stalls selling traditional Chinese dishes and desserts,” Mayor Somjai said.

The festival will kick off with the opening ceremony and a parade and at about 5pm. The parade will start from Jatujak market on Phang Nga Road, turn left onto Montri Road, head toward Surin Circle to Phuket Road, turn left onto Rassada Road, then right onto Yaowarat Road and end at Queen Sirikit Park (map here).

From 11pm to midnight on the final night of the festival, February 17, Phuket City Municipality will hold a candlelight ceremony to pray for good fortune in front of the “dragon” featured as a statue in Queen Sirikit Park in Phuket Town is called the Hai Leng Ong Sea Dragon.

“Everyone please be assured that police and other relevant officers will take the best care of you, so you can enjoy the festival,” Phuket Provincial Police Commander Choti Chavalviwat.

“The Royal Thai Police rates the safety of tourists in Phuket very highly as Phuket is second only to Bangkok in terms of the income generated from tourism. Although more than 300,000 tourists will be attending the festival, we will look after everyone’s safety,” Gen Choti added.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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

Phuket

Phuket’s bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Phuket has been given the “okay” to move forward with the annual Vegetarian Festival from October 17 to the 25, as long as the organisers enforce Covid-19 prevention measures like social distancing. For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.” He didn’t give any additional information, or if that means a mah song will have to cover their mouth and nose.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's bloody vegetarian festival gets the green light | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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Phuket

Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort

Maya Taylor

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Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

After coming in for some negative online attention recently, the land title deeds of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort have been investigated and found “to be in order”. The 5-star hotel first attracted the attention of netizens when its owner, Vorasit Issara, publicly criticised anti-government activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, calling for her arrest. He also claimed she wasn’t Thai, a factually wrong and inflammatory statement.

His Instagram tirade prompted outrage from those who support the current protest movement, with netizens calling for a boycott of his property and leaving several negative comments on various review sites. Trip Advisor suspended the hotel’s account due to the online attack.

Shortly after, the Civil Society for State Welfare called on the Social Security Office to clarify its investment in the resort’s trust fund. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

Responding to the land rights issue, the Phuket Land Office has issued a statement to say the hotel does not occupy state land. The resort stands on 56 rai of prime real estate, overlooking Phuket’s south-eastern coast. The land office has confirmed its paperwork is all in order.

Meanwhile, it’s understood Charn Issara Development, owners of the property, have threatened to sue the resort’s critics for defamation.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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