Category Archives: Phuket

Pictures of a Baba Style Wedding in Phuket

The 3rd Baba Wedding 2011 ceremony in the ‘Baba Peranakan’ tradition will be held in Phuket City from Friday 10th – Saturday 11th June 2011. Packages for couples to marry during the festival cost 50,000 Baht, including a one-night stay at the Phuket Merlin Hotel on the 10th; the wedding ceremony; wedding attire; and a “honeymoon stay” on the 11th at a beach resort. About 10 to 15 couples are expected to participate.

The Baba term is used for descendants of the earliest Hokkien Chinese immigrants in Phuket. The traditional Baba Wedding ceremony is rare to see nowadays. Phuket adapted this culture from Penang and Malaysia and combined it into Thai traditions. The two-day event sees couples dressed in the style and manner of 19th century Chinese traders and well-to-do local Thai maidens.

The ceremony begins from the groom’s family. In the morning, the groom’s family perform a ceremony to pay respect to God and sacred items, indicating that the auspicious ceremony is about to take place. The groom makes a journey to see the bride at an auspicious time. The grand procession is warmly accompanied by family and friends of the groom. The bride anxiously waits at her bridal chamber.

The groom must go through the silver and gold barrier before he is allowed to meet his bride. After that the couple perform a tea ceremony or Phang Teh, offering tea to parents and senior relatives. The senior family members then give wishes and give out gifts for the couple to build up their own family.

The Phuket Chinese Baba couple are in their glamorous costumes. The groom puts on a western suit influenced through Chinese migrants. The Baba Chinese bride Nyonya costume consists of a beautiful embroidered blouse with standing collar, worn with Pateh sarong. The calflength gown is worn on top. The brides hair is styled in a high bun and decorated with handmade flower. Turtle shaped chest brooch is put on. The bride also wears several necklaces.

According to Phuket custom, the new couple go to pay respect and seek blessings from Chinese shrines such as the Pud Jo shrine. The couple then return to the grooms residence to perform a ceremony to worship god, spirit & ancestors to inform that they have married. In the evening, celebrations, mostly in western style, take place.

For more information contact: Thai Peranakan Association President, Dr Kosol Tang-Uthai, Tel: +66 (0) 8 1892 7014.

Information source: TAT

Splash Jungle Water Park in Phuket

The first and only water theme park in Phuket is Splash Jungle Water Park. It is found in the north of Phuket close to the airport and very near Mai Khao Beach. The water park has been designed to international standards and has attractions for all members of the family.

The highlight for the younger children is the Aqua Play Pool seen in this picture. The water here is not deep and so is therefore ideal for younger children. There are slides, water cannons and other water based toys. Nearby is the Lazy River where you can ride on tubes around the 335 meter long flowing river.

The star attractions are the Boomerango and Super Bowl where you can choose between a series of different flume rides. On one of them you sit on inner-tubes and go down a sharp drop. Coming out the other end you race up an almost vertical wall. Close to the top there is a reverse free fall.

Other attractions include hot springs, a sauna, wave pool, sun loungers, bar pool and several restaurants. While you are in the water park you don’t need to worry about your money. You can keep all your stuff safely in a free locker. Each person has a wristband which has a unique number. You use this to buy things and then you pay at the end of the day.

I read about Splash Jungle while it was still being built the other year. I had the impression that is was going to be a big place. Although it does indeed have a good variety of water attractions, it is very small compared to say Siam Park in Bangkok. I know it is still new, but it is also too much like a concrete jungle rather than a real jungle. Very little shade.

Splash Jungle is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The prices seem to be very expensive to me at 1,495 baht for adults and 750 baht for children aged 5-12 years. In comparison, the much bigger Siam Park in Bangkok is only 300 baht and you get a lot more. I am not sure how many people would pay that much considering Phuket is an island with beautiful beaches!

At the moment, Splash Jungle has some special packages for families. Two adults are 2,400 baht, 2 adults and one child is 3,000 baht and 2 adults and 2 children is 3,600 baht. Splash Jungle is also part of the West Sands Resort. If you stay with them then you can purchase special packages.I guess the prices might be alright for people here on short holidays, but what about the many expat families? I am sure the water park cannot survive on tourists alone.

Getting to the park might also be a problem as it is in the middle of no-where. From Patong Beach the journey is more than an hour. From Cape Panwa it is 80 minutes. The park has shuttle buses but it will cost you 350 baht per person for a one-way ride. Obviously for a family it is going to be an expensive day out. Even with the package deal, it will cost a family of four about $212 just for transport and admission. That doesn’t include food.

Map showing the location of Splash Jungle:

[cetsEmbedGmap src=,98.307939&spn=0.027828,0.038581&z=15 width=450 height=425 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]

Road Trip from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket via Krabi

“Are you sure you could drive all the way from KL to Phuket?” Many friends thought I was insane to ever think of taking such a long overland trip. “It’s the journey and not only the destination that counts. If you take a flight, you will miss out a lot of scenery and the fun. It’s like life, you don’t want to reach your END destination too soon” I retorted.

I have been planning to visit Phuket during the Vegetarian festival for years but the trip never materialize due to work commitment. With another week or 2 to go before I start another 2-year contract with a Bank, I manage to convince my wife and a friend, Kenny’s and his wife to drive to Phuket from KL during the long Idul Fitri holdays. Kenny and I have driven from Phuket to Ranong before and we are comfortable with driving in Thailand.

1 October, Kuala Lumpur – Krabi
We left KL on at an ungodly hour of 2:15 AM hoping to arrive at the Sadao immigration at 9:00 AM before the crowd built up. Our Malaysian-made 1.6 Proton Gen2 sedan did quite well despite of unrelenting rains along the PLUS highway.

Surprisingly, the border was not crowded despite of the holiday season. The Thai Immigration officers in Sadao have the notorious reputation of asking for “overtime charges” of 10 bahts or 1 Malaysian Ringgit from each visitors entering and leaving the Kingdom. My usual response is to use my thumb and point to the back. Not that I don’t believe in Dana, but paying a bribe is a totally different matter. There are runners for Immigration officers to help some impatient tourist to stamp their passport at 100 bahts.

The rain stopped chasing us after crossing the Thai border and with day beak driving became a breeze. Our plan was to stop at Krabi for a night before moving on to Phuket. Although I have been to Krabi, the rest have not. It was no mistake to drive to Krabi. We stopped at Tesco-Lotus just before Krabi town for MK suki lunch. Met a friend from Malaysia with his elder brother who is a Thai national for more than 30 years and he owns and operates a factory.

In my previous trip, the Minivan took me straight to AoNang beach bypassing the town. With a car, I can drive to other beaches and the town and market. My previous impression on Krabi was entirely formed in AoNang beach and I had ill-advised my friends before about Krabi. That reminds me of The Blind Men and the Elephant by American poet John Godfrey Saxe. Kenny could not stop laughing at me for telling him that Krabi is just a small beach town with a few streets before the journey.

Krabi Town & MarketWe stayed in Ao Nang beach Resort The small bill board says that the rate is 700 Bahts. It is just another scam to get tourists in first and the boss will talk you into going for a deluxe and more expensive room. And if you insist, then she will show you a small room. We settled at 800 bahts per night for a deluxe room with breakfast for 2 thrown in.

The hotel is quite convenient as it along the beach. The air conditioner and breakfast were letdowns though. After dinner, we took a stroll before going for a foot reflexology massage. Met a chatty Malaysian by the first name of Michael from the Northern state of Kedah who told me about how Malaysia lost millions of foreign exchange to Thailand as the border states male will head for the border town of Sadao or Haadyai every weekends to spend their hard-earned money. I guess he is speaking the truth based on his own experience.

2 October, Krabi – Phuket
I am an early riser, perhaps due to age. In the morning while sauntering along the main road facing the beach, I found 2 Malaysian tour buses parked in one of the hotel. Chatted with the driver and got some contacts for information.

Back to Hotel and had breakfast with my travel mates. The buffet breakfast is just OK. Chatted with 2 Indonesian tourists who stayed in the same hotel. My Indonesian language is getting bad since my sojourn in Jakarta in 1996. Tanned on all the exposed parts of their body, these 2 gentlemen and heading for island snorkeling after breakfast.

The drive to Phuket was as uneventful as the drive to Krabi. On the way, there are temples having vegetarian festival celebration. I took some photos of the festivity in one of our stops.

As I had been to Phuket about 2 weeks just after the Tsunami devastation, I gave some first-hand account to my mates of devastation and where the bodies are kept near the Wat.

The Chinese restaurant in town that I used to patronize was closed for vegetarian festivals so we headed for Patong beaches for lunch and accommodation. Stayed in Sand Inn at 700 Bahts sans breakfast. The place is convenient but the noise and pollution can be quite bad. Sand Inn is just next to the complex that houses Carrefour and Robinson. The ladies had endless fun looking for bargains. A bar nearby in the opposite soi was serving all brands of small bottle beers at 60 Bahts. With beer bottles in their hands, most customers are sitting and watching endless herd of tourists passing by. There were some VIP visiting with TV coverage and some of us were caught shaking hands with the VIP.

3 October, Phuket – Trang
As breakfast was NOT included in Sand Inn stay, we headed for Karon beach and hope to grab something to eat along the beach. In one of the hotel, we had Buffet breakfast at 200 Bahts per head. The quiet Karon beach was quite an experience and a welcome change.

While we were in Krabi, I was told that Trang has second largest vegetarian festival after Phuket (Those in ChiangMai will dispute), so we took a slight detour to visit Trang. Although I have been to Trang 2 times, I did not visit Rachada Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong memorial park in Trang. Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong, the governor of Trang, was the son of Khaw Soo Cheang Na Ranong who was the founder and governor of Ranong. You can read my blog on Ranong and Khaw Soo Cheang in

Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong was responsible for bringing in rubber from British Penang into Trang. I have a friend in Trang whose family owned many rubber estates. The family were from Perak in Malaya and they were not allowed to own land due to race-based restriction, so they moved to Thailand and made it good in Trang. By the way, there is a small road in Penang known as “Khaw Sim Bee Road”. You can read more about him at

4-5 October, Haadyai – Kuala Lumpur
There were NOT much to see in Haadyai although the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has put in a lot of effort to revive the tourism industry. I was told by my Tour agency friends that TAT has spent 4 Million bahts to spice up the Vegetarian festival for the tourist. The procession is held twice a day when I was there. Once in the morning and one in the evening.

The evidence that this festival has Hindu influenceEat-shop-Massage-eat-drink-sleep is about all you will do in Haadyai.

Expecting a huge crowd at the border crossing, we left immediately after breakfast for the border. The drive back to KL was intermittently slowed down by accidents along the PLUS highway. After stopping at Kenny’s home town for a Chinese dinner, we arrived safely at around 7:00PM in KL.

The Vegetarian Festival

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ ๕ วัน Tesagarn Gin Jae 9 Wan) is the island’s largest religious celebration. For nine days of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, the San Jao Chui Tui at Ranong Road becomes the centre of a myriad of religious activities. There are various prayer offerings, a parade of mediums and astrologers, loud firecrackers and generally, a wonderful celebration of colours.

But few farang tourists are aware that the Phuket Vegetarian Festival or the Kiu Ong Tai Yeah is the highlight of every Chinese community in Southeast Asia. It does not matter whether you are in Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Semarang; for every nine days of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, the Chinese community gathers to pay homage to the Nine Sons of Queen of Heaven (Chao Meh Thien Hou).

Sedan Chairs for the Nine Emperor Gods

The Nine Sons or The Nine Emperor Gods are believed to preside over blessings, life and death, and peace and harmony on Earth. With a syncretism of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, the focus of rituals acts as a channel between the celestial and terrestrial beings for the salvation and protection of mankind.

Although my family members are fervently Buddhist, we still pay homage to the Nine Emperor God. Perhaps this is a mark of respect of our Chinese ancestry, and according to Chinese beliefs, it is a thanksgiving prayer for a safe journey from China to the South Seas of Nanyang.

Every year, we would make our prayer offerings to Kiu Ong Yeah at either the Penang’s Burma Road Temple or Kuala Lumpur’s Nan Thien Kwang temple in Ampang. For my family, It has become somewhat of a yearly pilgrimage

This year is no different, we made our offerings, and I did my Fong Wong Sang or Releasing of Life at the temple. Maybe, I believe in combining my Buddhist beliefs into this traditional Chinese prayer.

Being Chinese, the worship of Taoist Deities is not uncommon But I also see this in a Buddhist’ light. I believe that the Nine Emperor Gods are Bodhisattvas manifesting themselves in the form of the planets in our solar system. Perhaps, that is the beauty of Buddhism — being a Buddhist does not exclude me from being a Taoist or a Confucianist concurrently.

Nonetheless, for the uninitiated, the Vegetarian Festival can be very gruesome and at times rather frightening. I remember, as a small kid, I was traumatized by the festival in Penang’s Burmah Rd. The fire walking, the lashing of the whips, and the self-mortification was something that I just couldn’t accept. Perhaps the idea of hurting’s one own body is so foreign in the Buddhist belief.

Only later, I realized all this is about the power of the Nine Emperor Gods. For the uninitiated these Chao Jeen (Chinese Gods) are reputedly very high deities, and the worship of these Gods come with their own pantang-larang……. Just make sure you follow all the guidelines, or your sembahyang hajat will not come true…….

Cleanliness of the body during the festival
Wear white during the festival
Behave physically and mentally
Avoid eating meat
Avoid sex
Avoid alcohol
People in mourning should not participate
Pregnant women and menstruating women should not attend ceremonies

It will be another year before I make my pilgrimage to the Ampang’s Nan Thien Kwang. Perhaps by then, my sembahyang hajat/ adistharn / wishful prayer would be answer……….………

Thai Vegetarian Festival: an inside look

The real thing
Today is a special day; the last day of the Vegetarian Festival, a celebraton lasting nine days. To the majority of people, the name is synonymous with the gruesome acts of self-mutilation going down there in Phuket. It became a regular tourist attraction; Richard already wrote a blog about that, complete with pictures.

What few people know is that the Phuket show is just the tip of the iceberg that we call the Vegetarian Festival here in Thailand. I would like to tell you the real story behind the surface.

If you are in Thailand during the festival, you may notice small signs cropping up at eating places all over the country. The signs say “เจ”, which means vegetarian. In the simplest terms, the occasion is marked by eating vegetarian food for nine days.

Apples and Oranges
The concept of vegetarianism is different here than what you may have seen in the West. It’s closer to vegan than regular vegetarian (no eggs, milk, or any other animal product). je food However, the largest difference between Western and Thai vegetarianism is the purpose. Over here, it’s not just a health fad, or a way to lose calories. The focus is on animal lives. For this reason, some Thai practitioners consider the Western way selfish.

So, to be vegetarian, a Thai would also have to abstain from killing animals, and have to consider a whole lot of other things: abstinence from impure thoughts, words and actions, including sexual abstinence. You see, it really affects their whole lives; it’s more than some nutrient mumbo-jumbo. Interestingly, they also cannot eat smelly veggies, like onions, spring onions etc.

This is considered the normal vegetarian practice here. However, there are further variations on the theme; the more strict devotees dress in all-white for the whole nine days, for instance. เจ shopkeepers don’t allow any meat on the premises, and will likely boot you out if you carry some. Beware.

Phuket vs. Thailand
Now a little bit more about the crazy folks who mutilate themselves to the amusment of onlookers on Phuket’s streets. What they are doing is really a sacrifice to นาจา , an angel. Such a heavely being cannot show his powers on earth, so he does so through his chosen devotees. So the ones you see doing it are not just everyday folks. They live in various Chinese temples, and observe several strict rules similar to the Five Precepts. If they live their lives in absolute purity, นาจา will impart his power into them, making them sort of invulnerable. The display of this power is what you see on the streets. Devotees who deviated from the rules will feel pain like an ordinary person.

And when the lights go down…
Does that hurt?So what will happen after the festival? The devotees will return to their temples. True believers will be lucky: the angel’s power will heal their wounds fast, while deviants will be left with their suffering and doubts. Normal Chinese-Thais will sigh with relief on the day they can finally sink their teeth into meat again.

I can tell you: this nine-day practice may sound short, but it’s no cakewalk. You’ll always feel hungry and weak. Some of the stuff tastes just horrible. Everything is mushy, nothing to chew. So… can you guess what will be on our menu tomorrow? A big fat German bratwurst. Yummy. And I leave the veggies to this guy and his friends, who just can’t seem to have enough.