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One of the biggest annual events on Phuket is the Vegetarian Festival.  From the official website:

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.  It is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite.  During this time, local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making.  Sacred rituals are performed at various Chinese shrines and temples and aesthetic displays such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs are performed by entranced devotees known as "Ma Song".
Indeed, the biggest attraction for observers — Thai and farang alike — are the prossessions featuring people in trances, often with swords and other sharp objects protruding through their cheeks.

Tim and I, and several friends of ours, attended the grand parade on Monday which celebrated HM the King's 60th anniversary of his reign and marked the official beginning of this year's festival.  The prossession travelled from Queen Sirikit Park on Thalang Road down to Saphan Hin at the bottom of Phuket Town.  It ended with a mass prayer for the King (featuring kneeling in silence for 60 minutes!) and a large fireworks display (which we missed due to a desire to return home before it began to rain).  We were somewhat disappointed by the absence of trance-devotees but plan to attend a demonstration of the facial spearing tomorrow morning and fire-walking tomorrow night.

Here are a few photos from this past Monday's kickoff event: