Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Date: Ninth Chinese lunar month (around late Sept to early Oct)
Venue: Phuket town

Phuket is recognized worldwide for its spectacular beaches and islands. But if you come to Phuket during September to October, you will be witnessing one of the most unusual and bizarre festivals in Thailand-the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.

The period traditionally falls on the 9th Chinese lunar month. The celebration lasts for nine days from the first to the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. During that time, devout Buddhist Chinese descendants undertake a strict vegetarian diet, wear white clothes and observe ten rules in order to purify their minds and bodies. The event also attracts Chinese Buddhists from different parts of Thailand and from nearby countries.

The most impressive and perhaps shocking part of this event is the ritual procession of devotees performing remarkable acts of asceticism along the route. Those devotees, called 'the soldiers of the god,' perform unbelievable and often quite gruesome feats.

In preparing themselves for the event, it's a must for devotees to fast for several days beforehand. Besides, they must abstain from sexual intercourse, killing, quarrelling, telling lies and residing in hotels during the previous three weeks.

The most astonishing feats include walking barefoot across hot coals, climbing ladders with rungs made of knives, a ritual of bridge-crossing and a street procession in which the mediums, in a state of trance, have their cheeks pierced and bodies spiked with hooks, skewers and various other sharp objects.

The processions are accompanied by the long parade of the lion dance while on-lookers throw fire-crackers, making the entire atmosphere one of religious frenzy.

During the celebrations, the townspeople can find food at various shrines.
Besides, various rituals based on mythical beliefs are performed at Chinese temples.

You will never see such an incredible event in Phuket at any other time of the year. If you happened to be on the island in late September, don't miss this truly amazing event.

It's unclear how the vegetarian festival originated but it may have come from south-eastern China, near Fujian province.

Some say it was celebrated in Phuket for the first time in 1825. A troupe of actors enacted the rites as an offering to the gods and celestial beings to protect Phuket and its people. People also took this opportunity to make merit and save animals from being killed for food.