Photo posted on Jamie's Phuket Blog.
For nine days on the Thai island of Phuket, while tourists tan on beaches and get massaged, locals are busy walking on hot coals and piercing their cheeks with unlikely objects.
Legend has it that in 1825, members of a Chinese opera troop on tour in Phuket mysteriously fell ill. They recovered after a nine-day period of penitence, during which they fasted and pierced their bodies with sharp objects.
Since then, every year, on the first nine days days of the Chinese lunar calendar, local residents of Taoist faith have organised the "Phuket vegetarian festival", intended to cleanse their bodies and minds.
"The ritual piercing has become a kind of competition"
Jamie is a British expatriate who has lived in Phuket since 1999. He attended several Taoist festivals and posted the photos and this comment on his blog, Jamie's Phuket.
This is clearly one of the craziest times of year in Phuket. Come to think of it, certainly THE craziest. Some people hardly notice the festival, as it really only affects Phuket Town and small communities with a Chinese-Thai background like Kathu, Sapam or Tha Reua. If you sit on the beach at Kata for the duration of the festival, you won't see anything. Some people hate it or are bored by it, or just moan that the street processions disrupt traffic around Phuket Town.
"Some of it is quite gruesome, some is more spiritual"
Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.