The Hungry Ghost (Pohr Thor) Festival was a discovery this month while travelling in Malaysia. Viewing the Hungry Ghost Festival wasn’t on the itinerary but as it happened, we were in Penang passing Lim Jetty, Weld Quay on the last night of celebrations for that area. The month long Hungry Ghost festivities are held in the 7th lunar month. In the George Town area, celebrations are usually held over a period of between three and seven nights. And this year, the Lim Jetty residents celebrated the Hungry Ghost Festival over five nights.
Unlike some other areas of Malaysia, Chinese represent that largest ethnic mix in the population of Penang. I’m told that traditionally at this time the Chinese believe that the realms of Heaven and Hell are opened and the Hungry Ghosts wander the Earth. The residents of Lim Jetty gave offerings of food and beer, and burnt paper money and incense, as well as providing big boots for the unearthly while roaming the earth. Preparations began just before dusk and continued on into the night ending with a Chinese Opera. (Fascinating: because none of the locals watched the Opera – which was provided for the entertainment – and appeasement – of the Ghosts.)
Perhaps the most interesting of the ceremonies was watching the local representative – who was especially selected for this year – enter a trance to communicate directly (I’m not sure if it was with the Gods or the Ghosts.)
Now that’s what travelling is all about. An adventure. A voyage of discovery. Learning new things. Mingling with the locals.
Rebecca Varidel was a guest in Malaysia of Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines.