Written by Administrator
Thursday, 25 March 2010 16:35
Phuket's Amazing Vegetarian
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
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
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
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.
Today the nine-day Vegetarian Festival is honoured at the island’s five main
Chinese temples with the biggest celebrations seen at JuiTuiTemple,
BangNeowTemple (both in PhuketTown) and at the original site of KathuTemple.
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.