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Vegetarian Festival
Written by Administrator    Thursday, 25 March 2010 16:35    PDF Print E-mail

Phuket's Amazing Vegetarian Festival

Noise, Colour and Strange Doings...

Phuket's Vegerarian Festival is one of the strangest, and most amazing festivals in this festive country

Tourists lying on the beach bathe hot bodies with cool suntan oil. In the streets, Chinese celebrants bathe cool bodies in hot oil. The former is, of course, commonplace, but the latter is bizarre, one of a number of fearsome feats of self-mortification performed by devotees during Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival.



Vegetarian Festival

For nine days in October the air of tropical torpor is shaken off and Phuket explodes into noisy scenes that are thrilling, astonishing, colourful, crowded - anything but relaxing. The celebration of the biggest event in the island’s festive calendar gives a whole new perspective on this particular island paradise.


Vegetarian Festival


By far the largest of Phuket’s ethnic minorities are the Chinese, who migrated from neighbouring Malaysia as well as China itself in the 19th century. Adept in trade and attracted by a revitalized tin mining industry, they had enormous impact and have dominated much of Phuket’s development.

Most dramatic of these enduring Chinese influences on the cultural fabric is the annual Vegetarian Festival, celebrated in a style unseen elsewhere in Thailand. Held in the ninth lunar month (usually in October), this amazing affair blends religious devotion, ritual, merry-making and awesome displays of supernatural powers. It is essentially Chinese in origin and practice but has drawn on various other cultural influences - not least the Thai passion for any festival — to become a distinctively Phuket pageant.


Vegetarian Festival

Today the nine-day Vegetarian Festival is honoured at the island’s five main Chinese temples with the biggest celebrations seen at Jui Tui Temple, Bang Neow Temple (both in Phuket Town) and at the original site of Kathu Temple.


Vegetarian Festival

Images of the Nine Emperor Gods are given offerings of vegetarian food and paraded through the town with noisy fanfare, while devotees show the power of the spirit over the flesh by piecing their cheeks and tongues with sharp skewers, and performing other daring feats of self-mortification. Such astonishing displays subjecting the body to torment similarly mark other event over the nine days. The festival ends with a gala night of fireworks as the entire town turns out to give an incredible raucous farewell to the towns guardian spirit idols.

A large percentage of restaurants also turn vegetarian for ten days, and indicate this with yellow flags. Phuket is then awash in yellow flags and the white of abstinence.