Streets Of Fire

Well, I was wrong about the demon-dudes all being bonfired on the 24th. In point of fact, they’re being sent up in a handful of locations every night between now and the 24th. Here’s how it all went the other night at the Lebuh Aceh basketball court.

The Operas are, I think, all finished (though there may still be some Puppet Theatre happening), in lieu of the Pop-singing entertainment detailed previously – apparently the latter are a fairly recent addition to  the Hungry Ghost tradition, instituted because the Operas’ attendance numbers were judged to be inadequate. The locations all have banners with lurid pictures of the performers for each site’s three-day run. I had guessed, with so many performers, that they must have been flown in from China. But, nope, apparently they’re all local. Have also learnt that the Hungry Ghost celebrations in China itself were all stamped out during the Cultural Revolution, so these days they’re a peculiarly Southeast Asian phenomenon.

By about 11:15 in the PM the divas had finished shaking their dimpled asses all over the stage, and the locals turned straight away to some ritual incense activity (which, gotta say: whereas Thai incense smells just heavenly, Malaysian is fucking stank).

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This fine gentleman took me under his wing and bade me participate as well; kept referring to me as “American Friend”. So utter is my disdain for religion that I always decline to participate in these types of activities (not that I don’t love to observe them, of course). But this guy was so excited for me to join in, how could I refuse? Everybody, including yours truly, got a big kick out of his enthusiasm — but then I wandered off taking pictures, and in the ensuing hubbub never reconnected with him.

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Here is some footage. This includes a bit of the preliminary activities, skips the procession to the jetty – this lasted about fifteen minutes — and picks back up again upon arrival to our destination.

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And here are the pics. Yeah, this is probably overkill. But, c’mon: it’s a frickin’ bonfire, dude! I guess this is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing Burning Man. I’m sure the latter is (give or take) two hundred times more spectacular than this – but on the other hand, the Hungry Ghost bonfires play out multiple times over multiple nights all over the city. I personally….well, let’s just say that I’ve been here nigh upon two months, and this place just keeps blowing my mind anew with each passing day. (The problem is that as GTF is still in full swing as well, I’m rather underslept these days…)

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I was pretty shocked at how rapidly everybody absconded the scene. Seriously, they were out of there in about five minutes’ time. What was the big rush? No clue. You can see how massive the fire still is at this point – but the only people remaining on the scene were myself, these two fire-stirrers here, and another guy directing traffic. Sheesh!

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Occasionally, the stirrers’ stirrings riled up these minute-long whirlpools. Looks very cool in the footage.

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2014-08-18 - 002820Less than thirty minutes after the match had been lit, this temple back along the parade route was already closing up shop. When I arrived back to the basketball court, no human person was in evidence. That’s strange, right? They successfully ushered the Ghosts back to Hell, but they don’t want to party long into the night to celebrate their achievement? I dunno, I call that strange.

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