Monday 30 October 2006 – Phuket Town and Singapore
Rose early-ish to head out shopping. Breakfast was an excellent roti cannai at a little place where no English was spoken, in the same street all the textile shops are. I purchased a number of batiks and Malay-style fabric pieces.
People had been gathering along the sides of the street, so having completed my purchases I joined them. Soon a major parade, part of the Vegetarian Festival, started to roll by. Groups waving flags were followed by vehicles decorated with floyers and carrying drummers. Then the ‘mediums’ – people apparently in a trance-like state. Many of those had pierced their bodies – cheeks, arms, torsos – with knives, swords and other sharp implements. Others cut themselves with axes and blades, with blood running down their chests.
Then groups bearing statues of varies deities came past, accompanied by loud explosions and smoke as thousands of the firecrackers I’d seen being sold everywhere were set off, creating a deafening din.
The festival is celebrated mostly by Chinese Thai Buddhists, but bears similarities with some Muslim and Hindu celebrations (there is conjecture that Chinese immigrants in previous centuries were influenced by a similar Muslim celebration in northern Malaysia at the time). With its clear theme of mortification of the flesh and abstinence from meat, I humbly conjecture that it also has a deal in common with the Catholic Carnival and Lent. A memorable morning, and all before 10am!
After a little more shopping I returned to the hotel to catch a taxi to the airport and my flight to Singapore. The Lion City was still covered in haze as I checked in at The York just on dark and as I went out to re-acquaint myself with the town. Dinner was an old favourite – claypot rice with port at the hawker centre in Lucky Plaza, on Orchard Road.