Date: October 18-28, 2018
Venue: Phuket Town
One of the most talked about and gruesome Thailand festivals is undoubtedly the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Taking place for a 10-day period in October 2018, this annual event merges colorful street parades with a darker take on the world of spirits and the supernatural. If you have ever seen the photos of Thai men with all manner of objects such as machine guns, knives and even metal poles sticking through their mouths in the most painful looking way, you already know a bit about the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
The festival harks back to the island’s unique Chinese roots, which is still very evident in Phuket Town. The festival is all about celebrating the Chinese community’s beliefs and abstaining from meat and other stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and many more. This happens during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is geared to obtaining good health and a solid peace of mind.
The roots of the festival date back to the 19th century in Phuket when a Chinese opera troupe fell ill with malaria. This made the local residents go on a strict vegan diet to not only pray to the Nine Emperor Gods, but also to purge and purify their bodies. This was the basis for the first Vegetarian Festival which has grown ever since into the popular festival you see today.
During the festivities, there are massive processions in Phuket Town and at the capital’s Chinese Temple. Many of the roads in Phuket Town are closed down in the evening, making way for a walking street and a vast cacophony of market and food stalls.
One of the main days of the festival (not sure which date at this moment in time) there is a large street procession for those who can channel dark spirits. When you see those guys with all manner of items penetrating their skin, they can do so because they are in a hypnotic trance and have been possessed by spirits from the afterworld. This is one of the most photographed ceremonies in Thailand and has made international magazines such as Maxim and FHM.
You do not have to be possessed by evil spirits, or even nice ones, to enjoy the spectacular that is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The only advice we have to offer is to bring your camera along because you will get some unbelievable photos.