Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday 14 October 2010 - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Spectators In Front of a 7-11 Store
After a good night's sleep, we were up at 5:00 A.M. to get to Jui Tui Shrine for the morning's preparations for the downtown procession.  I checked outside and was pleased to see that there was no wind.  It also appeared to be no longer raining.  We were dressed and prepared to head out 30 minutes later.

As we exited the hotel, we discovered that although there was no wind, it was raining - not a torrential downpour but enough to dissuade me from risking damage to my photography gear.  We turned around and returned to our room.  The hotel breakfast buffet commences at 6 A. M. so we were able to experience the start of the service as opposed to the close of service the day before.  The buffet had also been switched from the ground floor to the 19th floor of the hotel.

The 19th floor location was a surprise.  Three sides of the 19th floor were just about floor to ceiling glass with views of the city, harbor, Andaman Sea, islands, and surrounding hill sides - provided rain and low clouds did not obscure the visibility.  There was also two doors that lead to an outdoor observation deck.  During our breakfast, I kept an eye on the outside weather.  Since the wet market (so called because seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetables are sold there and having nothing to do with the current weather conditions) was not far from the hotel I harbored the hopes of getting down there for some morning photos.  As we continued our breakfast, the rain only intensified.  We returned to our room to watch some television with one eye on the TV and one eye out the window for the weather.  Around 8:00 the weather seemed to stabilize - somewhat.  The sounds of firecrackers exploding along the procession route and the immediate lack of precipitation were too much for me to resist.  I set up the new camera with the lens that I figured on using the most, I strapped the flash case to my hip, placed a couple of CF cards and a spare battery into my pants pocket, stuck the umbrella into my pants (carefully) like a sword, put on my Goretex rain jacket and headed out.  Duang still not feeling 100% elected to remain in the room.

Firecrackers Explode At the Feet of a Mar Song
I knew that what little gear that I brought with me would be safe and protected under my jacket if the rain returned.  The secret was to get past the two blocks from the hotel to the procession without any rain.  Once at my vantage point, it would all be manageable.  It was the impediment of setting off in the rain that I feared and would have to overcome.  With this being the tropics, local architecture, in general, takes into account the torrential rains.  The buildings have balconies or canopies from the second story that extend almost all the way across the sidewalk.  This sheltered space provides protection from the sun as well as rain.  This sheltered space is also sometimes used as displaying merchandise for some of the businesses.

A Female Devotee Marches in Procession With A Steel Rod Piercing Both Her Cheeks

A Jui Tui Shrine Ma Song and His Attendants March

A Ma Song Causes His Tongue to Bleed With a Sword

Something Different - A Ma Song Eats Burning Wood
My gamble with the weather paid off.  At the three locations where I stopped to take photographs of the morning procession, it only rained twice for short periods of time.  I but more importantly my camera gear were protected by either an extended balcony or canopy.

A Resident Making An Offering to Ma Song
Around 10:00 A.M. I was tired and had 421 new photographs.  I was also once again soaking wet - not from the rain but from perspiration and the increased humidity of wearing a rain jacket while bending, along with squatting to shoot more interesting perspectives of the event.  I decided to head back to the hotel.  Just as I turned the corner to return, I ran into a smiling face - Duang.  She had been looking for me for 1-1/2 hours carrying the remainder of my camera gear.  She had felt guilty about not accompanying me and was concerned that I would need to change my camera or lens so she had set out to find me.  We returned to the hotel together with Duang carrying all the gear.  Fortunately Duang's efforts were not entirely wasted, she got to enjoy the procession just as I was able to do.

Morning Procession Spectator

I spent the remainder of the day writing in my journal, reviewing photos, drying off my gear, and watching both TV and the deteriorating weather.  Duang -  "relaxed" as in napped.

As I wrote earlier, one of the "rules" to be followed was "Pregnant or menstruating women should not attend the ceremonies"  Two hours before we left our home in Udon Thani to go to the airport for the flight to Phuket, Duang's "Friend came to visit" (an expression that I picked up from some Southern good ole boys back in 1971).  On our previous trip for the Festival the weather, other than being hot and blinding sunlight had not been an issue at all.  This trip was completely opposite.  I mentioned to her that I thought that it was because of her that the weather was so terrible.  I was only joking because the rains had actually started days before our arrival.  I suspect that must have been a pregnant woman or two and several other women who had their "friends visiting" attending the ceremonies who had angered the gods.  Is it "Climate Change"?  Or were we just lucky two years ago?

The bad weather forced us to adapt to the situation that we were faced with.  It was a condition that we had no influence or control over.  It did present us with different opportunities than we had expected or hoped for.  Just as in life, we had to make the most of what we were given.  Just as in life we had to make the best of what we had when we had it.  Waiting and hoping for something better to come along or just plain procrastinating were too great a risk on this trip - just as in life.  Every day is to be lived fully, joyfully, and as best you can.

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