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Local Guide

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

17 October 2017

Thailand is a country rich in spectacle and festivity, ranging from the wild water fights during Songkran to the tradition-laden Loy Krathong.

Phuket itself is home to several interesting festivals, one of which is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. It takes place on the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar ever year – this year’s festivities will be held from October 20th to 28th.

The precise story of how the festival came to be is shrouded in mystery but the most widely held belief is that a Chinese opera group fell ill while performing in Phuket. They adopted a vegetarian diet to combat malaria and to everyone’s surprise, they recovered quickly. From then on, the festival has been held every year to pay respects to the gods and continues to draw in thousands of curious attendants from all over the world.

Respect to the Late King

If you’re in Phuket in the weeks and days leading up to the festival, you’ll notice that devotees will be dressed in white or yellow. The festival itself is a magnificent sight to behold, with hundreds of stalls set up all around the island. The primary offering at these vendors will be vegetarian food.

The spectacles range from the serene to the downright gruesome. Because the festival falls precisely on the mourning period for Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the festivities will be significantly toned down this year. Most of the ceremonies will be confined to the Chinese temples scattered around the island.

Gruesome Rituals

The awe-invoking aspect of the festival is undoubtedly the self-mortification rituals that devotees undergo as part of paying their respects to the gods. Body piercing is the most common rite that you’ll see with participants puncturing their cheeks with everything from knives to household items. Witnessing these rituals is definitely not for the faint of heart. For participants, their ideation lies in the belief that they are mediums between Earth and the gods. They believe that the gods will protect them after the rituals and ceremonies are complete. You’ll also see fire walking, often across burning hot coals or shards of glass – this is also designed as a way for mediums to offer their bodies to the gods.

The Raising of the Lantern Pole

The festival officially begins with the raising of The Lantern Pole, which stands at a towering ten meters tall and is erect In Phuket Town. This is where the main festivities take place, with hundreds of devotees flocking to the temple over the next week with food and drink offerings. It’s common to see thousands of candles and joss sticks lit around the various shrines around Phuket – it is believed that this practice will bring good fortune to each household.

When the festival is in full flight, the sight of thousands in a trance parading the streets is quite remarkable.

The Food

It’s straightforward to ascertain what kind of food you can expect at Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Bringing a camera is always recommended because you’ll encounter a variety of street fare, from Chinese vegetarian dishes to traditional Thai desserts. You’ll still find plenty of standard Thai dishes like Phad Thai but instead of meat, there will be protein-substitutes such as soya.

Despite the relative quiet of the festival this year, guests can still experience the rituals by visiting the Chinese shrines and temples that are scattered all around Phuket. The most visited shrines are Kathu Shrine, Jui Tui Shrine and Cherng Talay. If you’d like to experience one of Thailand’s oldest and most intriguing occasions, Phuket Vegetarian Festival is definitely worth a visit.

For more information about the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket and other Thai Trivia, feel free to contact our local staffs.

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52 Thaweewong Road
Patong, Kathu,
Phuket 83150

+66 (0) 76 370 200

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