Phuket’s vegetarian festival takes to the streets with no face piercing



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PHUKET: The first street procession of this year’s Phuket Vegetarian Festival was held this morning (October 7) as Ma Song devotees and spiritual mediums from Naka Shrine in Wichit traveled to Saphan Hin at the back, straddling the backs of pickup trucks and the backs of flatbed trucks.

The procession started from the shrine on Chao Fa Luang Rd, north along Chao Fa West Rd, right on Wirat Hongyok Rd and into Phuket Town, where the procession continued south to Saphan Hin.

Unlike in past years, very few people lined the streets to watch the procession go by.

In line with requests from provincial Ma Song officials and their devotees to adhere to COVID prevention measures, the shrine urged all Ma Song to avoid wearing piercings, such as those who had previously made the Phuket Festival vegetarian. famous around the world, with spirit mediums sporting umbrellas, bikes and even handguns protruding from their faces.

The traditional practice of facial piercings involves wearing sacred items, such as blessed scepters, rods, and sometimes swords.

Of the four or five Ma Song who participated in the street procession this morning, none wore a face mask, unlike all of their assistants.

The street procession scheduled for tomorrow, regardless of the heavy rains and high winds across the island, is for devotees and Ma Song from Bang Khu Shrine in Koh Kaew to move through the streets of the city of Phuket.

Spectator participation is expected to be very low again, as the Vegetarian Festival has suffered its worst attendance in years this year.

The atmosphere around many participating Chinese shrines across the island has been calm, and few people have even ventured out to sample the special vegetarian dishes sold by the vendors during the annual festivities.

Following the example set by the Jui Tui Shrine on Ranong Rd in Phuket Town, which is one of the busiest shrines during the festival, many shrines participating this year have asked vendors not to even set up stalls along streets in front of shrines as a precaution against the appearance of a cluster of COVID infections.

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Over the years, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival has inspired a host of similar festivals now held across the country for Thai-Chinese communities elsewhere to watch, including in the Yaowarat area of ​​Bangkok.

The “vegetarian festival season” had previously been a key event in the national tourism calendar and “has always been a major engine of economic growth,” the state-run NNT news agency reported.

However, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) expects this year’s festival not to be as lively as before due to economic strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says. of the NNT.

“UTCC’s Center for Economic and Business Forecasting has just released the results of its survey of consumer spending behavior for this year’s vegetarian festival, during which more economic activity can be expected. weak, ”he said.

The survey, conducted among 1,208 participants across the country, showed that only 39.1% of those surveyed would observe the festival this year, with 62.9% of those surveyed intending to observe the vegetarian diet. for the entire festival, which officials say is held Oct.6-14. The effective closing of the festival will take place on October 15, when participating shrines lower the Go Teng poles.

“Most people responded that they would spend the same amount on their groceries, while some intended to take advantage of government aid campaigns, especially the 50 co-payment campaign. : 50 where up to half of their individual purchases could be subsidized, ”NNT reported.

Only 10.1% of those polled said they intended to visit places of worship this year, mostly in Bangkok and neighboring provinces.

UTCC President Thanawat Polvichai said total spending for this year’s vegetarian festival across the country is expected to be around 41.15 billion baht, some 14.5 percent lower than the figure from last year to 46.98 billion baht.

The spending cut would be the first in 14 years since 2008, Mr Thanawat said.

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