• The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket

The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket

The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket

Unique in its kind, the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket will be held from 15-24 October this year. It is easily one of the most popular and remarkable festivals in Phuket.

Based on Chinese Taoism beliefs, this annual 9-day festival on the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar involves not only abstaining from eating meat but also some quite bizarre self harming rituals by devotees, which are meant as a display of their devotion to the Nine Emperor Gods.

How did the Vegetarian Festival come about?

It is said that the reason the Vegetarian Festival came to Phuket was due to a nomadic Chinese opera group that fell ill with a malaria epidemic in the 19th century. At that time, malaria was a deadly disease. One of the group was sent back to China to invite the Nine Emperor Gods to follow him to Phuket. In the meantime, the Chinese group followed the tradition of abstaining from meat, alcohol, sex, quarrels, or telling lies, in order to purify their bodies and minds and praying for the arrival of the gods. Miraculously, the entire opera group made a full recovery and the people of Phuket have celebrated this event ever since.

The Nine Emperor Gods are believed to arrive via waterways; hence processions are held from the Chinese temples and shrines to water, seashore or rivers to invite them. The processions are not for the faint-hearted and involve anything from worshippers piercing their tongues and cheeks with sharp objects to running over a bed of burning coals. Also, be very careful of the firecrackers surrounding the processions; it can be pretty loud and dangerous. On the 9th and last day of the festival (24 October), a send-off procession sends the gods home. This is a remarkable event and is definitely worth a visit.

Where to go and what to eat at the Vegetarian Festival?

There are more than 40 Chinese shrines in Phuket, with the oldest of the shrines being the colourful Jui Tui, Bang Neaw and the Kathu Shrine. While all of the Chinese shrines parade through Phuket Town, the two biggest processions come from Jui Tui and Bang Neaw.

In the immediate area around the shrines, you will find all kinds of food stalls that offer a wide variety of vegetarian food; mostly fried noodles, deep-fried items, and tofu shaped like meat. Many of the restaurants in Phuket Town and other parts of Phuket change their menus during the festival and serve only vegetarian food. Look for the restaurants with yellow and red flags. Traditionally, people are dressed in white attire for the duration of the festival.

When you are in Phuket you really should not miss this festival. Contact the Rockstar team to organise your transport to and from the event.

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