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The Vegetarian Festival

Phuket’s biggest annual festival is fast coming up: The Vegetarian Festival, which this year takes place from October 15 to 23. This week, let’s look at some of the traditions and purposes of some of the events in the festival.

By Alasdair Forbes

Monday 5 November 2012, 04:27PM

Monday: The beginning of the ceremonies takes place at the 15 Chinese temples, or San Jao, around Phuket. The most famous, and probably the largest, is the Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town. The first event will be the raising of the lantern pole. This notifies the Chinese gods that the festival is about to start. The pole is about 10 meters long. Celebrants belive that the gods descend down the pole to bring spiritual powers to the event.


Tuesday: Over the course of the first few days of the festival, you may see Thai and Chinese devotees bringing in the idols into the shirnes. This is done because of the belief that the energy will pass into their gods and will bring them luck. They also bring along offerings of drinks and food – but no meat, of course.


Wednesday: From the 17-23 of October, there will be street processions staged by the Shrines. The biggest of these spectacularly noisy processions take place in Phuket Town. Spirit mediums, possessed by the gods and with their faces and other parts of the body pierced with a variety of objects, join white-garbed believers with drums and humungous amounts of fire crackers to keep evil spirits away. This is something you absolutely must experience once in your life.


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Thursday: At the shrines themselves, astonishing feats are performed by the mediums – walking on fire, climbing ladders made of sharp blades and bathing in hot oil – with remarkably few injuries because, adherents believe, they are protected by the gods. Spectacular stuff!


Friday: A very important part of the Vegetarian Festival is, of course, vegetarian food. Some of the vegetarian dishes are not easily distinguished from regular dishes - soybean and protein-substitute products are used to replace the meat. It’s all delicious. To find vegetarian food stalls look for the yellow flags with red Chinese or Thai characters. 


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