Phuket Vegetarian Festival

WARNING: This article contains some disturbing images.

Vegetarian Festival Phuket

Food display at the Phuket vegetarian festival

Every year towards the end of September or early October you can experience the rather bizarre Phuket vegetarian festival. This festival contains a number of events held around Phuket although mainly in Phuket Town itself. Be prepared though. This festival is not for the faint-hearted with some very weird and disgusting behaviour including "possessed chanting" and unreal piercings. If you are in anyway squeamish then this is a festival to avoid!

History

The Vegetarian festival is thought to have originated from a visit of a Chinese opera troupe. So the story goes the Chinese troupe developed malaria whilst performing around the island. In response they decided to stick to a strict vegan diet together with worshipping of the Nine Emperor Gods (Kow Wong Yeh) - a common festival at this time of year for those with Chinese origins. By the end of their period of abstinence the troupe found that they had been cured of their diseases.

Rules

The flag indicating vegan food at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

During the festival those celebrating it choose to abide by strict rules of diet and conduct. These include no meat or dairy products, no seafood or poultry, no alcohol, no smoking, no sex, no lying or violence. Those who adhere strictly to the rules can be identified by dressing only in white clothes throughout the entire festival. Vegan food in Thai is known as "Je" and the stalls/restaurants selling this type of food can be identified by a yellow flag with "Je" written in Thai (เจ) in red letters. These stalls can be found all around the island throughout the festival.

Self-Mutilation

Piercing at Phuket vegetarian festival

Many persons perform acts of self-mutilation throughout the festival, from slashing skin to some extremely bizarre piercings. Over the years we have seen piercings ranging from a small stick to the complete frame of a bicycle! Undoubtedly the worst self-mutilation we saw was a guy continually hitting him self with the sharp blade of an ask on his face. That image that particular memory invokes ensures immediate loss of appetite at any given moment in time!

All acts are carried out without any anaesthetic and whilst in a trance-like state, and all in the name of worshipping the gods! These acts will generally start to be performed on the first day of the festival , continuing throughout, and culminating with piercings removal on the final day. If you fancy a trip to Phuket Town early morning on the last day to watch the piercings being removed then we strongly recommend foregoing your breakfast that morning. It really is a gut-wrenching sight to behold and if yo do precede it with breakfast then you may end up involuntarily foregoing breakfast anyway!

Ceremonies and Processions

Procession at the Phuket vegetarian festival

A number of ceremonies are carried out throughout the festival at various Chinese temples around Phuket. There are also a number of street processions where you can watch followers walking around (piercings and all) in a trance. It is also very common for Chinese firecrackers to be let off continuously throughout these processions. We therefore recommend a good set of ear plugs and some safety glasses too as it is quite common for parts of the firecrackers to fly off in different directions!

Phuket 2014

The festival in 2014 runs from 24th September to 4th October. For more details of planned events and locations check out the following website: Phuket Vegetarian Festival.





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